John Brady has been the basketball coach at Arkansas State for two seasons, and he's facing a predicament. Although the Red Wolves are improving on the court, their academic progress rate is well below the NCAA's benchmark, so the team was recently docked a scholarship and hit with a practice-time restriction.
And now, the NCAA is about to publish a database of APR figures for individual coaches -- a very public black eye for those with poor numbers. To Brady, it seems a bit harsh.
"Every program I have inherited, it's been a mess, to just be honest. I've had to clean it up. The only way I know to clean it up is to change personnel, and when you do that, you get yourself sometimes behind the eight-ball," Brady said. "I think that APR number is misleading when a coach inherits a situation that's not very good, and he has to stabilize it. ... Sometimes you've got to go backward before you go forward."
Brady isn't the only coach expressing concern over the APR formula, which is billed as a real-time academic measure of college teams and can lead to penalties for under-performing programs. The new database is being met with a mixture of acceptance and skepticism.
"Coaches should be held accountable, but we're not the only one responsible," North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams said. "Kids have to do the work. Your academic support system has to help them as much as it possibly can. I'm very proud of the fact that our APR has been in that top 10 percent I guess since they started doing that, and I have no idea if it'll drop out of that because of three transfers in the last four years."
For APR purposes, an athlete receives one point per semester for remaining academically eligible and another point each semester for remaining at that school or graduating. A mathematical formula is then used to calculate a final team score, with 1,000 points being perfect.
Teams falling below 925 can face conditional scholarship losses, and teams consistently falling below 900 can be penalized more harshly.
Until now, those numbers have been released as part of a school-by-school report with coaches' names left out. Last year, however, the NCAA said it was planning an Internet database with figures for individual coaches.
The initial data rollout is expected this summer in six sports -- football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and men's and women's track and field.
"It makes it easier to connect with the coach," said Walt Harrison, chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance. "Basically, in the interest of transparency and accountability, we should be making this information available to anybody who's interested."
The coaches' APRs will be available for informational purposes, without any accompanying penalties that might have been imposed on their program.
Still, weak scores will carry an obvious stigma.
At Colorado, which was recently penalized one scholarship in men's basketball and five in football, athletic director Mike Bohn said the statistics can be deceiving.
"The coach has the most significant ability to influence APR through discipline, through recruiting and through the way they run their daily operation," Bohn said. "I think it should be reflected with them.
"However, the downside for that is, for example, at the University of Colorado we had an APR challenge as you all know. But many of that was tied to classes that [football coach] Dan [Hawkins] didn't have the ability to impact. Some of it is unfair to coaches in that way. You really have to have a keen understanding of the sliding scale and how different coaches' recruiting and different coaches' players impact that."
Harrison said the database will highlight "transition years" when a new staff takes over and a school might be susceptible to an APR plunge. He also said a school isn't penalized for an early departure if the player was eligible -- or if a student transfers with at least a 2.6 grade-point average.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski still believes the formula may expect too much from coaches when it comes to players leaving early for the NBA.
"What control do you have over them if they go early? So then you should go back to the semester preceding, I think, when you did have control. Was he in good academic standing?" Krzyzewski said. "I mean, you have no control. Are you going to make them come back and go to class?"
Harrison said he understands that argument, but right now the NCAA's position is clear: Coaches should expect to be held responsible.
Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said coaches should make sure schools are equipped to help athletes academically.
"I think wisdom would suggest to our guys as they look at jobs, that they study and find out what kind of academic support there is at the institution at which they're interested in a job," Haney said. "If the academic support's not there, despite the fact that they may be winning basketball games, their future's also going to be impacted potentially by this coaches' APR."