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Walker says UL’s on the right APR track

Joshua Parrott • jparrott@theadvertiser.com • May 10, 2008  

After the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report earlier this week, UL director of athletics David Walker admitted even the most intellectual person could struggle to understand the results.

"It’s a confusing issue," Walker said.

The NCAA uses an APR scale of 1 to 1,000 to rate whether student-athletes are making adequate progress toward graduation. The point-system is based on student-athletes’ academic eligibility and retention during both an individual academic year and over rolling four-year intervals.

Teams are expected to score at least 925 – about a 60 percent graduation rate. If a program falls below 925 it is subject to a series of penalties.

The UL men’s basketball team posted an average score of 839 over a four-year period starting in the 2003-04 academic year to 2006-07, ranking 330th out of 337 schools. It marked the second straight time the team did not meet the minimum 900 average for a four-year period and was penalized two hours of countable activity per week.

A third consecutive sub-900 average would ban the team from postseason competition.

But that news is somewhat misleading.

The men’s basketball program was the lone UL athletic team to score a perfect 1,000 in 2006-07. The fact the recently released average APR was below standards was mostly because the team scored in the 800s a few years ago, Walker said. The departure of academically ineligible players also played a role, as did Hurricane Katrina in 2005-06.

UL’s men’s basketball team, which lost one scholarship for being below standards on the previous four-year APR study, appealed the NCAA’s scholarship penalty and won. It will get the scholarship back for the 2008-09 season.

But the Cajuns will still be one scholarship short of the maximum 15 for next season. (The program lost one scholarship for two years due to NCAA penalties handed out in April 2007. Those sanctions expire after the 2008-09 academic year.)

Walker said head men’s basketball coach Robert Lee was recently offered a two-year contract extension because of his hard work to improve the program’s academic standards.

Last season, Lee’s fourth as the program’s head coach, the Cajuns earned a share of the Sun Belt Conference West Division championship. With all but three seniors expected back next season the Cajuns will likely be the preseason favorite to win the conference.

Lee declined to comment on the updated APR numbers, asking that all questions be directed to Walker.

"We’re confident we’ll continue to have improvement," Walker said. "We feel like we’re on the right track. We’re making the improvements we need to make."

The NCAA was so impressed with the academic improvement made by the Cajun men’s basketball team that it requested the university make a presentation at the NCAA regional rules seminar later this month in Boston.

Two other UL athletic teams received penalties. The men’s indoor track team will fall to 11.71 total scholarships after a multi-year APR score of 906. The women’s tennis team will be limited to seven scholarship renewals after scoring a 921.

The other Cajun teams logged a multi-year APR of at least 900. Women’s cross country was the highest at 992. It was followed by volleyball (974), softball (968) and baseball (947).