Morning Five: 04.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2012

  1. Last week, Wisconsin’s Jarrod Uthoff became perhaps the most well-known non-contributor in college basketball, as the redshirt freshman’s public fracas with head coach Bo Ryan over his transfer made headlines and sparked debate throughout the college basketball world. If you were vacationing in Bali last week, the long and short of it is that Uthoff ‘s request to transfer was met with a list of 26 schools (including the entire Big Ten and ACC) to which he was restricted. Bo Ryan’s version of events, as told to Seth Davis, suggests that he was merely minimizing the chance that Uthoff would play against Wisconsin in a future game and that he was doing nothing different than any other head coach would do in a similar situation (the list was later trimmed to include just the other 11 Big Ten schools). To that last point, ESPN Radio interviewed three prominent coaches on Friday about this — John Calipari, Mark Few, and Jim Boeheim — and if you can believe their hypotheticals, the trio generally think that they would have handled Uthoff’s transfer differently.
  2. As for Uthoff’s specific situation, Fox Sports Wisconsin reported over the weekend that the player disputes Bo Ryan’s contention that the head coach had offered to return early from vacation to meet with him about his transfer options. He also publicly wondered why Ryan had not reached out to him after his scheduled return from vacation on April 14, even going to so far as to offer up his phone records as proof that Ryan had never made an effort to talk to him. One thing is for sure — it’s clear that the relationship between coach and player is beyond repair at this point. Uthoff has visits to Creighton and Iowa State (one of the originally restricted schools) scheduled in the next few weeks, so let’s hope that things calm down and everyone ultimately gets what they want from this crazy situation.
  3. Transitioning to a transfer candidate that fans had actually heard of prior to last week, Connecticut’s Roscoe Smith announced on Saturday that he would become the fifth Husky to leave Jim Calhoun’s suddenly-sinking program in the last month. Recall that on the heels of the announcement that UConn would not be eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of a low APR rolling average, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb announced they were going to the NBA while teammates Alex Oriakhi and Michael Bradley let everyone know they were transferring. This leaves the Huskies extremely thin up front next year, with only marginal contributors Tyler Olander (4/4 in 18 MPG), Niels Giffey (3/2 in 12 MPG) and DeAndre Daniels (3/2 in 12 MPG) returning on the front line. Call him overly optimistic, but head coach Jim Calhoun believes that his program will be just fine next season regardless of all the defections. As he put it, UConn has had 25 years without a losing season and he expects it to go to 26. He also notes that Bradley may be wavering on his decision to transfer now that Smith appears to be gone.
  4. Sticking to transfer-mania, Xavier’s Mark Lyons is being forced out of the program, according to a weekend report from CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman. Lyons is a fourth-year junior who is scheduled to graduate this year, so he could transfer without penalty to another program for his senior season, or he could opt to enter his name into the NBA Draft by next Sunday evening. Combined with the losses of Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease from a group that won three Atlantic 10 regular season titles and made three Sweet Sixteens in the last four years, Chris Mack will have some substantial rebuilding to do next season. The trio including Lyons averaged 42 PPG and 13 RPG last season, but if there’s any non-power conference program that makes replacing star players look easy, it’s Xavier.
  5. It’s the offseason so clearly it’s time for schools to haphazardly jump around again. And you thought this M5 would only focus on player transfers? A report by the New York Post’s Lenn Robbins on Friday afternoon claimed for the second time in a month that CAA stalwarts George Mason and VCU were preparing to move to the Atlantic 10 as soon as early May, and that Horizon League and national power Butler is also ready to join a new and improved A-10. At this point, all interested parties are publicly denying everything, but if we’ve learned anything in the past two years of conference realignment madness, such denials are virtually meaningless. Assuming that Xavier and St. Louis aren’t headed anywhere, the top of the Atlantic 10 could be poised to become one heck of a basketball league for years to come.
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NCAA Sticks to Its Guns: UConn Appeal Denied

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2012

In news today that was only surprising to those who believe the NCAA has no spine, the organization denied Connecticut‘s final appeal over its eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. NCAA legislation enacted last October requires a four-year average APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 in order to become eligible for next year’s Tournament — UConn’s APRs of 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11 average out to a two-year score of 902 (well below the 930 cutoff), and its four-year average of 893 also comes up shy of the eligibility threshold (900). The Husky program argued that its proposed remedial measures, which included the possible forfeiture of NCAA Tournament revenue, greater academic support mechanisms and the existing loss of two scholarships, should be sufficient punishment for the school’s past academic failings. But that appeal was rejected, presumably on the grounds that the NCAA cannot afford to lose further credibility by backtracking on this mandate.

How Will the NCAA's Decision Impact Calhoun?

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy got involved on Thursday, telling the Hartford Courant:

It’s almost as if they’ve decided to get UConn one way or the other. [The NCAA] can’t get out of their own way. I think I have the same reaction a lot of people have when they understand what’s going on. For the first time in its history, the NCAA is making a retroactive application of a new rule. They modified a rule without modifying the time in which he comes into effect. … They changed the rule and didn’t give people time to adjust to it. … They are breaking their own precedents to bring this about. UConn has cleaned up its act, and now the NCAA is punishing a bunch of kids who have absolutely nothing or very little … to do with the failures of the past.

NCAA spokesperson Eric Christiansen responded to this criticism by saying that “schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions.” Of course, he’s right. UConn and other schools have known about the 900 threshold for a long time — they only started to take it seriously, though, when the NCAA gave it the necessary teeth to impact postseason eligibility through last year’s added legislation. And about the argument that the players from the 2009-10 team that caused so much of the APR problem are no longer around? No disrespect intended toward those former or current Huskies, but how is this different from other rules violations where a school is placed on probation for the actions of a former coach and/or players? The list is long of such situations on the other side of the rule-breaking fence — why should academic issues be treated any differently?

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Trick or Treat: RTC Hands Out Halloween Goodies

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2011

It’s Halloween night across college basketball nation and all the ghouls, goblins and ghosts are out trolling for sugary goodness. Whether Gary Williams shows up on your doorstep requesting a chicken wing or it’s an exasperated Jay Bilas wearing VCU garb from head to toe, Halloween is the only night of the year where everyone can act how they really want to act if there were no social mores, norms or YouTube. With the start of the season only one week away, RTC has put together a list of five tricks and treats for some of college basketball’s most notable people, places and things. Here’s our list of Halloween night goodies for all of college basketball’s kiddies, but don’t blame us if the bullies from over at Chapel Hill Street or Lexington Avenue jump out from behind a bush and steal all of your candy.

  • Treats to Purdue’s Robbie Hummel & Arizona’s Kevin Parrom— in the form of  confident minds and an even more explosive sets of wheels. The good-guy Hummel returns for his senior season after rehabilitating his knee from a second ACL injury last October. He’s taking it slowly, wearing a massive knee brace and practicing only on second days, but the obvious fear is that he’s one of those hard-luck cases who simply can’t get healthy (he has also experienced back issues in the past).  Parrom, on the other hand, found himself a victim of a shooting in September as he was home visiting his mother with terminal cancer (who has since passed). The versatile wing is projected to be back in the Arizona lineup in about a month, but despite his positive attitude and diligent rehabilitation of a leg pierced by a bullet, both he and Hummel will have to overcome the mental hurdles necessary to compete at the highest level of college basketball.  Let’s hope both players find all kinds of treats as two of the biggest success stories of the season.
  • Tricks to Connecticut Basketball – for using a wink-and-a-nod to find a scholarship at the last minute for superstar freshman Andre Drummond, while former orphan Michael Bradley volunteered to give his up for the good of the team.  No matter what the courageous Bradley says publicly, we still find the whole thing rather smelly. The NCAA may have stepped in and already provided a nasty little trick for the Huskies, though, in the form of an APR ban from participation in the 2013 NCAA Tournament — which, incidentally, is likely to impact Bradley rather than the one-and-done Drummond. Oy.

Treats to These Two For Finding Their Confidence in 11-12

  • Treats to Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — this kid more than any other deserves a breakout 2011-12 campaign. After a nightmarish year in Robinson’s personal life where he lost both of his maternal grandparents and his 37-year old mother in a span of a mere month, the talented big man is on the credit side of karma in a huge way and hopefully ready to cash it in. We’d like nothing more than to see Robinson become an All-American this year by leading Bill Self’s team to its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, before heading off to the NBA Lottery as a superstar in the making. 
  • Tricks to the NCAA’s $2,000 Optional Stipend –– although we agree that football and basketball student-athletes are vastly underpaid relative to their value to the schools, making the stipend optional at the leisure of the conference only opens the door for even more of an inequitable distribution of talent than already exists. The power conferences can easily weather the extra couple million bucks such a measure will require, but as for the mid-majors… they’d best keep scouring those patches for the Great Pumpkin of Mid-Major hope to find their future stars.
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Are Graduation Rates and the APR Good Metrics?

Posted by mpatton on October 26th, 2011

As you probably know, the Academic Progress Rating (APR) has made the news a lot lately largely because of a new NCAA rule that would exact postseason bans for teams not up to snuff academically (in the form of a 930 threshold score). Defending national champion Connecticut wouldn’t have made last year’s tournament with the stricter guideline and there was some speculation that the Huskies might not be allowed to defend their title as a result (this has since been resolved; the new threshold and punishments will go into effect next season).

Basketball writer Joe Giglio started tweeting North Carolina schools’ relative graduation rates Tuesday afternoon, sparking quite a conversation on the merit of graduation rate as an acceptable method for evaluating a school’s worth. Duke led the ACC in both general population graduation (94%) and overall athlete graduation (81%), which are phenomenal numbers. However, Giglio’s alma mater NC State only graduated 72% of its general population and 54% of its athletes (worst in the ACC in both categories). All percentages were calculated using a six-year window.

Are NC State's Low Graduation Rates Cause For Concern?

On a national scale, these numbers actually aren’t low. According to a USA Today study from 2009, the national average for four-year colleges is to graduate 53% of its students in six years — which is roughly on par with NC State’s average for athletes and much lower than its overall student body. That number is shockingly low. Even compared with fellow BCS schools, NC State compares favorably (#35 out of 67 schools) and the Wolfpack would be ranked third and fourth in the Big 12 and SEC, respectively.

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RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Southern & Grambling APR Victims.  When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report in May, the SWAC contained two of the five basketball programs facing a postseason ban in 2011-12 as a result of consistently poor scores over several years.  While this news shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the APR since it was implemented several years ago, the teeth of the rule is finally taking hold on individual institutions.  Southern and Grambling probably were not going to be in a competitive position to make the NCAA Tournament this season anyway, but this is something that each school must take seriously in order to secure their D-I existence.  The two institutions submitted APR improvement plans to the NCAA over the summer, and with good reason — without a considerable short-term jump in scores,  the next penalty is restricted membership in Division I.
  • Will the APR Eliminate HBCUs in Division I?  Southern and Grambling’s APR predicament highlights a harrowing situation among the two Division I basketball leagues comprising historically black colleges and universities.  With the APR cut line increasing from 925 to 930 as of next year, and a corresponding postseason penalty for programs failing to make that cut in the future, the SWAC  and MEAC could face an untenable situation where every one of its members is ineligible for postseason play, and ultimately on restricted status.  If the 930 threshold had been in effect last year, for example, only one school — the SWAC’s Alcorn State, with its 4-24 overall record and 944 APR score — would have been eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  The APR has been shown to correlate strongly with African-American enrollment, and at the low-budget HBCUs that comprise the SWAC and the MEAC, this development presents tremendous cause for concern.  Whether this is purposeful or not, we’ll leave for you to decide.
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Morning Five: 09.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 8th, 2011

  1. This Texas A&M to the SEC thing has certainly gotten interesting.  Despite previous assurances from the Big 12 that none of its ten institutions would create a legal barrier to TAMU leaving the conference, Baylor, perhaps seeing the CUSA or WAC writing on the wall, has other thoughts in mind.  Mike DeCourcy is correct in writing that Big 12 schools (and really, all of the schools around the country) are being extremely shortsighted in their our-time, right-now mentality, but the SEC has been clear in that it will only take a school into its league if it is free and clear of any legal liabilities.  Texas A&M was all set to join the SEC on Wednesday, but Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe stated in an email to the SEC on Tuesday night that previous conversations in fact only referred to conference obligations, and that individual schools would still need to waive their rights in order for A&M to move to the new league. Apparently eight of the nine remaining conference members, with Oklahoma as the lone exception, are currently unwilling to waive their rights. “We are being held hostage right now,” TAMU president R. Bowen Loftin said on Wednesday.  So what next?  Our best guess is that Texas A&M will negotiate some kind of settlement agreement with Baylor that will ultimately destroy the Big 12, but the truth is that nobody really knows at that point.
  2. Washington announced that its junior point guard and former McDonald’s All-American, Abdul Gaddy, has been cleared by his doctors to go 100% back on the court in practices.  The much-maligned player tore his ACL on January 4 last season during a Husky practice, and after 13 games at 21 MPG, he appeared to be slowly adjusting to his role as a pass-first point guard on a deep and athletic Washington team.  His 3.1 assist to one turnover ratio was very promising, though, on the heels of a freshman season where it was much closer to even (1.3 to 1).  Lorenzo Romar’s team lost a huge amount of its production from last season’s NCAA Third Round squad, but big things are expected from sophomores CJ Wilcox and Terrence Ross so the Huskies will need Gaddy at full strength to get them the ball on the wings in the right spots.  Most every analyst believes that the 19-year old Gaddy has some talent, his problem has been simply a matter of harnessing it.
  3. Yesterday Luke Winn brought us a list of the top ten most efficient guards of the so-called ‘efficiency era.’  Today he moves on to the wings.  If you are in the business of guessing who the top players are in the last decade from an efficiency standpoint, you probably won’t do a lot better than JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy in 2005-06 season.  These three players in that single year represent three of the top five seasons from the wing in the last ten years — perhaps you’re not surprised by Redick and Morrison as a college hoops fan, but Roy’s 2006-07 NBA ROY season perhaps was a clue to just how good he was in college too.
  4. Unfortunate news from the WCC, but Santa Clara senior star Marc Trasolini will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL in an exhibition game in his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday night.  He came down awkwardly just a mere two minutes into the game and doctors diagnosed his injury soon thereafter.  Trasolini was the second leading returning scorer for the Broncos at 13/6 and his absence in 2011-12 definitely puts a crimp in plans for Kerry Keating’s team to make a run at Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the league next season.
  5. There’s been a lot of discussion about how schools might try to game the APR/930 system now that they can actually lose scholarships, and eventually, postseason opportunities, as a result.  This article from the off-the-beaten-path of the Dakotas suggests that even at that level, schools might use their last few scholarships to load up on high GPA students in order to make sure they reach the written threshold.  As South Dakota head coach Dave Boots states, “all three of the [international] kids that we signed are really good students.”   Mid-major games but big-time grades — is that what we’re heading toward?  Rest assured that if a marginal couple of D-I schools like South Dakota and South Dakota State are already doing this, the power conference schools have institutionalized it.  As we wrote several weeks ago, this is not a good thing.
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930 And You: The 2011 Tournament Under The New APR Rule

Posted by jstevrtc on August 17th, 2011

The new APR rule is a fact. 930 Or Bust is happening. So let’s talk about it.

On the ESPN blog last week, Diamond Leung, a gentleman we’re happy to file under Official Friend Of RTC, posted an article in which he listed the 12 teams that would not have been eligible to compete if the new APR standard had been applied to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. #1-seed Ohio State? Watching from home. Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State? Sorry, they’d have been studying for finals and not playing basketball. Leung also noted how eventual champion Connecticut would not be invited to the 2012 edition to defend its title since, according to the latest numbers, over the 2006-07 to 2009-10 academic periods the Huskies managed an APR of just 893. They could go undefeated throughout the entire 2011-12 season and it wouldn’t matter. In that scenario they’d win as many NCAA Tournament games as Centenary.

Bill Carmody and Northwestern (18-13) May Have Been Dancing Last Year, Had the New APR Rule Been In Play

Mr. Leung’s article got us thinking: if there would have been 12 fewer teams in the Dance last March, who would have replaced them? Among the unlucky 12, seven were automatic qualifiers through conference tournament titles and five were at-large entries. A quick examination of who would have replaced the disqualified teams shows how putting a binary, all-or-nothing, you’re-in-or-you’re out emphasis on a specific number would have affected the Tournament; as you’ll see, the reverberations go deeper than just the aforementioned 12 teams.

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NCAA Releases Coaches’ Academic Progress Rating Database

Posted by jstevrtc on August 6th, 2010

The NCAA unleashed the database for academic progress ratings (APRs) for coaches in six different sports on Thursday.  While it’s fun to plug in coaches from a few other sports — anyone surprised by Pete Carroll’s 971, 24 points higher than the college football average in 2008-09, and six-for-six over 925? — the most fun for us comes from plugging in the names of college basketball coaches and seeing how they did each year.

First, though, just a little background.  The NCAA uses this little metric to determine how a team’s athletes are moving toward the ultimate goal of graduating, and the formula they employ to come up with the number is pretty simple.  Each semester, every athlete gets a point for being academically eligible, and another for sticking with the school.  You add those up for your team, then divide by the number of points possible.  For some reason, they decided to multiply those  numbers by 1,000 to get rid of the resulting decimal point (otherwise, it would have been as confusing as, say, a batting average), so if you get a score of .970, that means you got 97% of the points possible, and your APR score is 970. If you fall below the NCAA’s mandated level of 925, you get a warning, and then penalties if you don’t improve.  Keep in mind, though, that if a coach changes schools, he shares his APR with the coach he replaced.  And, the database only goes through 2008-09 right now.  That’s why if you search for John Calipari, you’ll notice he has two APRs — a 980 that he received at Memphis which he shares with Josh Pastner, and a 922 for the same season at Kentucky which he shares with Billy Gillispie even though Calipari technically didn’t coach a game at Kentucky during that season.  Because he was hired in 2009, he shares the APR with the preceding coach.  You get the picture.

Why is this man smiling? How about two straight perfect APRs?

A couple of the numbers that people have been talking about the most since the database was released are the two perfect 1,000s put up by Bob Huggins‘ last two West Virginia teams.  Most college basketball fans like to point the dirty end of the stick at Huggins when it comes to academics, and he’s been a lightning rod since his days at Cincinnati; rightly so, since his last three years as Bearcat boss saw APRs of 917, 826, and a eyebrow-raising 782.  But his scores in Morgantown have been excellent, so he’d appreciate it if we all found a new poster boy for academic underachievement.

An AP report today specifically mentioned Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, who, in the six years the database covers, has had teams better than the national average — and over the 925 cutoff — only three times.  In fact, the APRs of his last three teams have steadily declined, posting scores of 981, 909, and (ouch) 844 from 2006-2009.  The same AP report fingered Kelvin Sampson as having even more harrowing results, having only two years in which he topped 900 (his 2004-05 Oklahoma squad scored exactly 900) — his 2003-04 Oklahoma team posted a 917, and his final roster at Indiana in 2007-08 turned in a downright hurtful 811.

With a new toy like this, there was no way we could keep from checking all of the APRs of the Ivy League schools.  The most impressive tally was by Columbia’s Joe Jones, who posted six straight perfect scores of 1,000 but will now evidently become an assistant on fellow Ivy man Steve Donahue’s Boston College team next season.  Only two teams in the league didn’t score a perfect score for the 2008-09 season.  The two bad boys of the league were Glen Miller, whose Penn team from that season put up — gasp! — a 950 (he had two straight perfect scores before that), and Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad from that year, which posted a 985.

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Prepare Yourselves, Duke Fans

Posted by jstevrtc on May 13th, 2010

This should make for some interesting in-game chants next season for opponents of the Duke Blue Devils, especially if Butler, Michigan State, or West Virginia is the opponent.

Of the squads taking part in the Final Four in Indianapolis this past March, three of them — Butler, Michigan State, and West Virginia — achieved Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores good enough to put them in the top 10% of all men’s college basketball teams, and therefore earn themselves an NCAA Public Recognition Award.  Yes, you read that right.  The only Final Four team not earning the award this time around:  Duke.

Da'Sean and his 'Eer teammates are in the Top 10% of the NCAA's APR scores, which should silence some of Huggins' detractors. (K. Binder/

At this moment, if you’re a Duke fan, you are probably positioning yourself at your computer, ready to fire off to us what’s sure to be a nasty e-mail or comment, indeed.  Well, sheathe your keyboards.  The APR is one of the tools used by the NCAA to monitor academic progress of each individual student-athlete, but keep in mind that it’s not perfect.  According to the linked AP article above from, each student-athlete earns a point for his program by simply staying at the school, and another point for doing well enough academically to stay eligible.  Each graduating player also earns a point.  The team loses a point for each player who transfers, and another for each player who leaves for the NBA, though we’re not sure what those things have to do with academic performance.  If a player isn’t in good academic standing when they leave/transfer, that’s another point lost.  All these points are then thrown into some mathematical formula, and every team in every sport is given a score.  A score of 1,000 is perfect, and 925 is considered the “minimum level of academic success.”  Fall below 925 for a semester or two, and you could be facing a slap from the NCAA’s pimp hand of sanctions.

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Tough Day in College Hoopdom…

Posted by rtmsf on September 16th, 2009

A series of unfortunate events came down the pike to ruin what had previously been an exciting day when ESPN released it’s 24 Hours of Hoops schedule for November 17.  Let’s briefly cover each so that we can move on to more pleasant things (hopefully tomorrow).

  • We woke up to the news that Pitt’s best returning player, Jermaine Dixon, broke his right foot for the second time this summer while playing in a pickup game.  Given that it’s already mid-September and the doctors are telling him that it’ll take at least eight weeks to heal, this news clearly puts Jamie Dixon’s squad behind the 8-ball going into October practice and the first few games of the season.  We would be completely shocked if Pitt fell off the map this year because Dixon is such an excellent coach, but on paper the 09-10 team already appears to be the weakest of his seven-year tenure.  Losing their only returning starter for a while near the start of the season cannot help.  And what’s up with that right foot – is this mere coincidence or does he have a problem there?
  • From the crime blotter, Wisconsin freshman guards Jeremy Glover and Diamond Taylor are now off the team (Glover was dismissed; Taylor withdrew) after their arrest for allegedly stealing ipods, a cell phone and $400 in cash last week from a UW dorm.  The two players were expected to provide backcourt depth this season for Bo Ryan’s team, but he’ll need to lean more heavily on returnees Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon than anticipated.
  • Finally, as you’ve probably heard by now, NCAA President-cum-Reformer Myles Brand died today from pancreatic cancer.  As the head honcho of the NCAA over the last six years, we’ve certainly had our fair share of criticism directed at his leadership, mostly with respect to investigations of alleged violations and selective enforcement of the rules.  But there can be no question that we completely respect and admire the work that Brand did in terms tying academic performance of athletes at the sport-level (and soon, coach-level) to key athletic assets such as scholarships and postseason appearances.  The Academic Progress Report (APR) that Brand initiated to achieve this end definitely contains some loopholes, but at the very least, he has schools, ADs and coaches thinking about performance of their players in the classroom, which is a far, far cry from where it was ten years ago.  RTC lauds Myles Brand for this impressive and hopefully lasting achievement, and we hope that to honor his legacy, his replacement will continue to tweak the APR, giving it teeth, so that schools will take it seriously.  RIP, Mr. Brand.
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