The NCAA needs to throw out a few numbers every once in a while to make it look like it's serious about the "student" half of the free labor it loves to describe as "student-athletes." For a while, the NCAA would publish graduation rates in accordance with financial aid-related legislation. Then the NCAA developed its own metric: the APR, or Academic Progress Rate, which the NCAA defines as "a term-by-term measure of eligibility and retention" that is supposed to function as "an early indicator of eventual graduation rates." In other words, instead of churning out press releases that explicitly say how few student-athletes graduate, the NCAA can shake its head disapprovingly and say a particular program "fell below the APR threshold." Because the NCAA is serious about this, you see.
Which brings us to UConn basketball, which yesterday was declared ineligible for postseason tournaments next year because it failed to reach a score of 900 on its APR. (Over the next three years, the NCAA intends to raise that benchmark to 930—a number that more or less corresponds to a 50 percent graduation rate.) Cue the Cassandras, such as this one quoted by The New York Times:
"It is kind of surprising we've come this far with the A.P.R. and we still have a big-time school that's fallen below that number," said Jason Lanter, an assistant professor of psychology at Kutztown University and the president of the Drake Group, an N.C.A.A. watchdog. "What I'd be interested to see is what's going to happen in the academic support unit at UConn. Who's going to be held accountable for the UConn men's basketball team?"
Who, indeed? Remember, the NCAA's interest here is in being fair to other programs that do have their academic house in order. But the NCAA also has no use for an athlete as an actual student once his or her four years of eligibility has expired. Lanter is asking the right question, but he's looking for the answer in the wrong place.