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Bama Publishes Football/Academics Advertisement… Mizzou And A&M Left Off SEC List

The University of Alabama is wisely promoting the fact that the school boasts the #1 football program in the country as well as the #1 APR score for a football team in the SEC (11th best in the nation).  There’s just one problem.  The poster shows Bama on top of a 12-program SEC.

 

alabama sec

 

No Missouri.  No Texas A&M.

And Missouri — for the record — actually had the highest football APR in the league at 982.  Texas A&M came in at 954.

Now, we’ll just chalk this up to some creative spin inside the Tide’s marketing office.  APR scores are a four-year rolling average and the last round of scores ended with the 2011-12 school year.  Missouri and Texas A&M weren’t in the SEC at that point.

In other words, comparing apples to apples, Alabama was on top of its 11 conference chums from 2008-09 through 2011-12.  It’s just that those numbers were released in 2013 and Mizzou and A&M are most definitely in the league now.  And one of those schools had a better score than the Tide over the last four-year span.

I think it’s safe to say Alabama fans will see this one way while Missouri fans will see it the other.

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O-Lineman Jones Dismissed From UK; Stoops Continues House-Cleaning

running-for-exit-signWhen a new coach takes over a program, you can usually count on one thing.

It’s not an increase in wins or better recruiting.  You hope for those, but they’re certainly not guaranteed.

What is guaranteed is attrition.  Roster turnover.  (And often a dip in a program’s APR scores as a result).

Right now, Kentucky is experiencing some serious roster churn under new coach Mark Stoops.  The latest player to be given the heave-ho is offensive lineman TJ Jones who was dismissed from the team yesterday due to an unspecified violation of team rules.  The redshirt freshman was arrested in December for carrying a gun on the property of his former high school.

Jones is the third Wildcat to be dismissed by Stoops for violating team rules.  Six other players — apparently told by Stoops that they were surplus to requirements — have announced that they will be transferring.

In terms of the issues Stoops and crew will have to overcome this fall, it appears “lack of depth” can now be listed alongside “lack of high-end talent.”

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APR Results A Reflection Of Academics… And Coaching Stability

mortar-board-on-footballWant to know what a football program must do to score highly on the NCAA’s academic progress reports?  First, get kids to class.  That’s obvious.  Second, make sure those football players get consistent leadership from someone they respect.

The NCAA released the latest round of football APR numbers yesterday — the scores are a four-year rolling average from 2008-09 through 2011-12 — and here’s how the SEC’s schools fared:

 

1.  Missouri 982 — The league’s newest member lived up to its AAU reputation in Year One.  Gary Pinkel has been at Mizzou for more than a decade.

2.  Alabama 978 — Not bad for a BCS champ, no?  Nick Saban has been coaching (and winning) in Tuscaloosa since 2007.

3.  Vanderbilt 973 — Would you expect anything less from Vandy?  The Commodores had three coaches between 2008 and 2012, but, again, it’s Vanderbilt.

4t.  Florida 968 — Another AAU school.  Very good numbers despite one coaching transition.

4t.  Georgia 968 — Not an AAU member but certainly one of the SEC’s more respected academic institutions.  Also, Mark Richt has been running the UGA program for more than a decade.

6.  Mississippi State 967 — Dan Mullen has been at State since 2009.

7.  South Carolina 966 — Steve Spurrier is entering his ninth season in Columbia.

8.  Texas A&M 954 — One coaching change, outside this window.

9.  Auburn 950 — Another school with a coaching change this past season.

10t.  LSU 944 — Les Miles has been in Baton Rouge for nearly a decade, so this number is a bit surprising.  However, the Tigers have had a large number of NFL early-entrants in recent years.

10t.  Ole Miss 944 — Houston Nutt entered in 2008 and exited after 2011.  That’s basically two coaching changes within this APR window.

12.  Kentucky 943 — Two coaching changes overall including this past offseason.

13.  Arkansas 938 — Bobby Petrino gave way to John L. Smith who’s given way to Bret Bielema his offseason.

14.  Tennessee 924 — Since 2008, UT has been coached by Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and now Butch Jones.  The Volunteers are below the 925 penalty-line, but Jones and the school are already working to improve the program’s academic scores.

 

Bottom line?  Stability at the top of the program leads to stability throughout the program.  Coaching changes lead to transfers and that impacts APR scores.  It’s no surprise that — for the most part — the programs with the SEC’s highest APR results have had the least amount of coaching turnover.  That works in reverse as well.

On a sidenote, many coaches and athletic directors have APR- or other academic-related bonuses built into their contracts.  Carolina’s Spurrier will get an extra $100,000 for his program’s score.  LSU’s Miles missed out on a $200,000 bonus because of the Tigers’ low number, but he can still earn extra scratch if a good percentage of his players reach a specific GPA level or graduate on time.

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Carolina’s Martin Not Worried About Transfers

Readers of this site know that this particular writer believes one reason college basketball is falling farther and farther behind college football in terms of popularity is the game’s transient nature.  Whether it’s schools like Kentucky who bring in a fresh batch of one-and-doners every year — how long before every NBA roster is made up of just UK kids, by the way? — or the growing number of transfers from one school to another, it’s becoming harder and harder for fans to connect with the players on Hometown U’s roster.

Yesterday, the fact that nearly 450 Division I players have transferred in the past year was clearly an issue for most of the basketball coaches taking part in the SEC’s teleconference.

Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings laid the blame on society’s need — and therefore players’ need — for “instant gratification.”  Florida’s Billy Donovan blamed NCAA restrictions that kept coaches and players from getting to know each other better before signing day.

Auburn’s Tony Barbee added, “It’s obvious there’s too many (transfers).  I think all of the coaches would agree.”

But according to Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun, new South Carolina coach Frank Martin does not agree:

 

“Too many people are making too big of a deal on transfers at the Division I level.  Kids are transferring three or four times in high school, it’s not like they are going to get to college and all of the sudden have an epiphany and decide to do things differently…

Transferring doesn’t make anyone a failure.  It doesn’t mean the program is a failure, it doesn’t mean the young man is a failure.

If something is not right, if the young man is not happy, it’s going to be hard for everyone to coexist and it’s going to be healthy for the young man and the program to part ways. There is nothing more important in this business than the success of the young people, and if they are not having success they should have the right to transfer. As long as things are being done the right way, they should be allowed to transfer.”

 

From the looks of him, I wouldn’t expect Martin to be much of a softie, but I have to congratulate him on his view.  While discussing 10 ways to improve college football back in May, I made it clear that as long as a player is in good academic standing and protecting his current school’s APR score, then he should be allowed to transfer without penalty or delay.  It’s about doing what’s right for the athlete.

But what’s best for the athlete might not be what’s best for the sport of college basketball as a whole.  I tend to side with the teenager over the millionaire coach, the multi-million dollar program, and multi-multi-million dollar industry whenever such a case arises.  In this case, however, doing what’s right by the player only makes the game even more transient.  And that is an issue the NCAA and the powers-that-be in college basketball will eventually have to tackle if they don’t want to become a tournament-only sport… which we’re fast approaching already.

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SEC Headlines – 6/21/12

1.  It looks like it’s bye-bye computers for college football.  (There’s a switch… people replacing machines.)

2.  This writer is no fan of a selection committee being used to pick the playoff teams.

3.  The odds at one online site have Alabama and LSU as co-favorites to win the SEC.

4.  Harvey Updyke’s trial has been put on hold due to a tainted jury pool and the fact that a fair trial is not possible…

5.  So what the heck’s next in this bizarro case?

6.  Good news, Hog fans… Arkansas basketball won’t suffer any APR-related sanctions.

7.  LSU made the hiring of assistant hoops coach David Patrick official yesterday.

8.  Ole Miss and Mississippi State avoided APR penalties…

9.  But the Rebels will be challenged in the future when it comes to football.

10.  Ah, but MSU has had to report a possible NCAA violation for using the words “Play With the Best” on a billboard the school briefly placed in Oxford.

11.  Bulldog hoopster Wendell Lewis says, “… it’s my time to shine and have a breakout year.”

12.  Texas A&M is A-OK on APR issues, too.

13.  Kevin Sumlin says ex-Colts GM Bill Polian is giving him free advice.

14.  The Florida athletic department has clinched second place in this year’s Directors’ Cup standings for all-sports success.

15.  Good APR results were all around in Gainesville.

16.  Billy Donovan’s U18 Team USA squad whipped Brazil to capture the 2012 FIBA Americas title.

17.  Georgia’s football team visited a camp for children with cancer yesterday.  Good stuff.

18.  Good APRs at UGA as well.

19.  With ticket prices on the rise for Kentucky basketball, this writer says our priorities — athletics versus academics — are out of whack.

20.  There will be no APR penalties for Tennessee, but the Vol football team’s score was the worst in the SEC and only two BCS schools score lower.  (Congrats to Louisville and Oklahoma State!)

21.  UT hoops player Jarnell Stokes scored 11 points for Donovan’s champsionship-winning U18 side yesterday.

22.  Vol basketballer Quenton Chievous — son of Missouri hoopster Derrick Chievous — says a redshirt year helped him last year.

23.  Missouri’s football team had the highest APR score in the Big 12 and only Vanderbilt in the SEC would top rank ahead of the Tigers in their new home.

24.  New Mizzou hoops assistant Ryan Miller has some impressive connections.

15.  This ESPN.com writer says Arkansas’ BJ Young and Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer could be breakout players this basketball season.

Bonus — Legendary sports artist LeRoy Neiman has died.  Loved his stuff.

Free Tip – When it comes to a great in-and-out quickie trip, there’s no beating this place.  Not even my beloved Boston can top it (which for me is akin to blasphemy).

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MSU’s Ray Keeping An Eye On His School’s APR

In a Q&A session with The Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s Brandon Marcello, new Mississippi State hoops coach Rick Ray admits that the wave of defections experienced by State since Rick Stansbury’s “retirement” have him paying close attention to the program’s APR scores:


“I think it’s very important, especially with the stiffer penalties the NCAA has instituted because of the APR.  But I think (athletic director) Scott (Stricklin) is right on with the fact that we probably are going to have a hit this year.  But, once again, as far as the attrition, it’s guys that already made the decision before I even got here — like Renardo Sidney and (Arnett) Moultrie.  Those guys I had nothing to do with.

All we can do is ask those guys like Arnett and Dee (Bost) is to try to help out the university by doing what they’re supposed to do academically before they leave here.  Most of those guys have been receptive and good about it.  To me, at the end of the day, getting an education at Mississippi State helps those guys more than it helps me.”


Maybe so, but there’s no question that if all those people departing leave in good academic standing, it will help MSU avoid taking a double hit in the Academic Progress Reports.  Schools are hurt by early defections.  They’re hurt more by early defectors who don’t go to class.

As for the man he’s replacing, Ray says he’s not yet met with Stansbury.  “I haven’t had the chance to.  I’ve reached out to him a couple of times and, obviously, with my schedule I haven’t had the opportunity, but I look forward to that.”

Uh-huh. 

All coaches say that.  Hardly any of them ever mean it.

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NCAA On The Verge Of Going To Far With APR Scores

Mark Emmert and the NCAA presidents who gathered for a retreat this week are clearly of a mind to make some changes.  They want to cut down on cheating and step up on academics and there’s nothing wrong with either goal.  But one nugget has caught our eyes here at MrSEC.com.

The current Academic Progress Rate has a cutoff line at 925.  Emmert is in favor of jumping that number to at least 930.  But here’s the problem:


“Failure to meet the cut line, Emmert said, should result in postseason bans in all sports.”


Say what?

If the NCAA gets that tough with its APR standards, it had better give schools a lot more leeway and loopholes when it comes to coaching changes.  Coaching changes bring attrition.  There’s no way around it.  Some players will leave when a new coach comes in (and some will be run off by the new guy, too).  So should an entire athletic department be banned from postseason activities because a football coach takes a job at another school and his roster disintegrates?

If the NCAA goes that far with its APR plans, it might cost its own self some money, too.  Good luck to them in finding enough teams to take part in their postseason tournaments and playoffs.

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Dooley At The Podium

Here’s a rundown of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley’s comments:

* Dooley was scheduled to begin his talk at 1pm ET.  Instead, he started at 1:40pm.  Such a delay is ridiculous.  If the SEC has invited so many people to Media Days that it can’t even keep players and coaches close to being on schedule, then it’s time to boot some of the fans who now attend the event while masquerading as journalists.

* Dooley said that about 70% of his team is made up of underclassmen.  “We’re not gonna allow youth to be an excuse for failure.  We’re not gonna do that.  I feel very good about the talent level of our young players and how quickly they become every-down, dependable players in the SEC will determine what our success is on the field.”

* “Because of our youth they’re not gonna show up the first game and be all-conference players, but if they have the right mindset of coming in everyday with a relentless pursuit of improvement then we’ll get Tennessee back to what the standard is.”

* “I do believe we lost our way a little bit in understanding what it means to play for Tennessee and what the Power T represents.  And so we have spent an inordinate amount of time educating our team, talking to our young people, our young players about what Tennessee stands for and what the standard is.”

* Dooley chalked up the West’s recent advantage over the East to natural cycles.

* Asked how he’ll coach quarterback Tyler Bray — a player who likes to improvise — Dooley said: “It’s a little like parenting.  They don’t always do it the way you want, but then they do it, you go, ‘Well that wasn’t too bad after all.’  And that’s what Tyler was.”  Bray showed a “level of confidence that was rare for a freshman” and he would “aggressively” push the ball down the field.

* Asked about Mike Slive’s suggestion to up academic standards, Dooley said: “We’ve set some good base line standards (via APR scores) and we’ve met those standards in college football for the most part.  But now, I guess there’s criticism because we’re the lowest of the sports in APR and to me it raises the question, ‘When is the lowest good enough?’  We’ve set the standards — the minimum standards — we meet the minimum standards and now we’re not happy.”  Dooley admitted that he didn’t know the specifics of Slive’s plan.  That plan was not just a football-only plan.

* Of Will Muschamp Dooley said, “Will and I are good friends.  Of course we talked a lot — I know he told you guys that — prior to him getting the job at Florida.  We still stay in touch, not as much obviously.  We don’t talk about the same things we did before.”

* Dooley had big praise for interim athletic director Joan Cronan.

* Asked about Bray’s poor showing the Tennessee’s spring game, Dooley said: “I would rather him have played good, but I don’t lose sleep over what he did in the spring game given how we minimize it, how we divide the team, it’s just a very different dynamic. … We feel very comfortable with the progress he’s making.”  He added: “Does it concern me that the teams he played against (as a starter) didn’t have winning records?  Hey, I was happy that we went out there and were able to get four victories.  I don’t care what their record was because there was a point in the season where it didn’t look like we were ever going to win another game.  Now, he’s gonna have to go prove that he can do it against every team in the league.  So we’ll see if he can do that.”

* Asked for his feelings when Muschamp landed the job at Florida, Dooley said he had mixed feelings.  He said he was proud of him but he’d “rather him been at Texas ’cause he’s a friend of mine.  That’s just how it is.”  He doesn’t think their friendship will have any impact on Tennessee-Florida games.

* Losing Herman Lathers was “a real blow.”  Dooley said he doesn’t think the linebacker will be back “anytime soon,” which means UT will have only one returnee in its defensive front seven.

* Dooley said he is not involved in the AD hiring process.  “Nor should I be because he’s gonna be my boss.”

* “I do appreciate the way the Tennessee fans supported us all season (last year).  It’s the most unconditionally loyal group of fans I’ve ever been a part of.  And when we were sitting there at 2-6 on our heels a little bit, there was nothing more meaningful to me than getting off that bus on the Vol Walk with 30,000 fans going crazy and a 100,000 in the stadium.”

* “We’re doing our best to meet (fans’) expectations.  They’re high and they should be high.  You have every resource to succeed at Tennessee.  We’re gonna get there.  How quickly?  I can’t predict.”

* Dooley said a scholarship is a contract “and both parties have obligations to do things to continue the contract.”  Obviously, he’s not in favor of Slive’s suggestion that it might be time to give out multi-year scholarships.  “If a coach is just taking away scholarships and kicking people off the team, the market is gonna take care of it in recruiting.  Who’s gonna wanna go play for the guy?”

* Dooley — the ex-lawyer — is an engaging speaker.  He seems more comfortable this year than last, but that’s understandable as last year was his first taste of Media Days.  On occasion, Dooley can be a bit sarcastic if he’s uncomfortable.  Not today.

* Asked about the endings of the LSU and North Carolina games last year, Dooley said: “I told everybody I was 8-7 in postgame handshakes last year.  It was a remarkable feat.  (Laughs from the crowd.) … I told our team, once I was able to gather my emotions, if things don’t go your way — in life, in football — before you start pointing fingers, you better look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Is there anything we could have done better to change the outcome, is there anything I could have?’”

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SEC 4th In APR Among Major Conferences

When it comes to the NCAA’s academic progress reports, the SEC does pretty well.  Not as well as the two leagues expected to rank on top, but pretty well overall.

According to recently released APR numbers, the SEC trails the ACC, Big Ten and the Mountain West in terms of average APR per football team.

Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com has more on the topic here, including a look at the 10 best and 10 worst coaches according to APR numbers (none are from the SEC).

Below is the average APR number for football programs broken down by conference:


Rank
Conference
Avg. APR # of Programs
1
ACC
961.7
2
Big Ten
959.4
3
Mountain West
954.0
4
SEC
947.1
5
Big East
942.9
6
MAC
940.0
7
WAC
939.3
8
Pac-12
938.8
9
Big 12
937.6
10
Sun Belt
937.4
11
Conference USA
932.5



For all the heat the SEC takes over academics and roster turnover, this year’s numbers are a pleasant surprise.  So take that, Pac-12.  You too, Texas.  For an Ivy League wannabe the Longhorns sure seem to be slummin’ it in the Big 12.  (And, yes, we realize this is an over-the-top reaction to one year’s worth of data… just having some fun, folks.)

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No Shock Here: Pelphrey Didn’t Agree With His Firing… And Neither Did We

When John Pelphrey met with the media Monday, he made it clear how he felt about his dismissal.

“I do not agree with the decision yesterday to make a change.  I do not.  I absolutely do not.”  Pelphrey requested the opportunity to take part in the press conference so he could look “Arkansas in the eye.” 

“Obviously, I would’ve liked more time,” Pelphrey said.  “It takes time to build stability in a program.  Every situation is different.  This situation was different.  I know we were really close to reaping some of the rewards of all of our hard work.”

“I know where the program started and it was a program that needed a lot of work.  I know where we are today — making progress.  I absolutely, without question, know where it is going to be tomorrow and that is having repeat success of the past.”

“We are better today from a discipline standpoint because we all believed in the Razorback way — hard work all together, all the time.  If you had a problem with that, then we would never make an apology for disciplining a student-athlete because I still to this day believe the greatest form of love is to discipline someone.”

That’s an interesting view of love.  One that brings to mind dog collars and a garage door opener — no wait — that’s “9 to 5.”  But Pelphrey’s decision to suspend multiple players throughout his tenure certainly frustrated fans and created the impression that things inside his program were worse than they might have actually been.

The coach also discussed UA’s academic numbers which are on the climb.

“GPAs are up.  We had a 955 APR score a year ago and people said we could not hit that mark.  We have four young men that are all set to graduate here in the spring and a possibility of another young man graduating in December.  I don’t know another time when that has happened.  That’s pretty special and I look forward to being there in the spring to see those guys walk ‘cross the stage.  Two of the young men are getting ready to go in the Masters’ program.”

Pelphrey also addressed the attendance issues that plagued Bud Walton Arena this season.

“Everybody here me.  It is time for the fans, who say you love that logo with every fiber that is in you — I know how you care about that logo — it is time for you to show up and support this program, and get behind these players because there is a basketball season coming.  It is time for everybody to spread the good word, to buy your tickets and to show up.”

Pelphrey even referred to UA as his dream job.

“Four years ago when I came here I said that this was a dream job.  I meant that then and I still do.  My love and affection for this state, the people, this university and that logo, it has stolen my heart.  I will always be a part of Razorback Nation.”

But that wasn’t it for Pelphrey’s graceful exit.  He said he’s also tried to convince his top 10 recruiting class to stick with Arkansas.

“I spent basically my who existence here recruiting those guys.  I have spoken to them.  I’ve told them for whatever time it was that the University of Arkansas is the best place for them.  I still believe that.”


As we’ve said for a while now, Pelphrey deserved one more season in Fayetteville.  His program might not have been growing fast enough for the fans who decided to stay home and not buy their tickets — for the boosters who decided to stay home and not fill their luxury suites — but the program was not moving backwards.

For that reason, there was little risk in giving Pelphrey one more season to show what he could do with the recruiting class he’s put together.

Instead, Pelphrey’s out and he’s wisely chosen to exit with class.  Now a new coach will take over the UA program and he’ll find a roster in better shape moving forward than the senior-heavy squad Pelphrey inherited — and won with — in his first season.  That new coach won’t have to deal with APR restrictions that Pelphrey was faced with, either.

Arkansas might find a great new coach who can win right away in the downtrodden SEC West.  But their old coach deserved one more year on the job.

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