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Wildcats Basketball: UK Delivers a Perfect APR with a Side of Sour Grapes

The backlash of the news that UK Basketball has a perfect APR over the last four years resulted in comical response, and a much-needed dose of reality.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats Basketball team has again posted a 1.000 score on the APR for the NCAA.  The APR (Academic Progress Rate) is a measure of how a programs student athletes are progressing toward graduation.  Put very simply; as long as a program's players do not leave school, and remain academically eligible, they do not hurt their school's APR rating.

So, how is the APR even calculated:

Teams with a .930 APR have the equivalent of a 50% graduation rate and teams that drop below that .930 are subject to penalties.  These penalties include, but are not limited to: a public letter of warning, scholarship and practice time restrictions, post-season bans, and ultimately the entire athletic department being removed from NCAA Division 1 status.

The narrative used against Kentucky is that they recruit hired guns to come and play basketball for one semester, then they ditch the university for the greener pastures of the NBA.  This is a lazy, short-sighted, and a sour grapes position to take... yet many cozy up to it, no matter how blatantly false it may be.

"There's a situation in college basketball that really bothers me beyond anything that's ever bothered me in my career," Knight began. "Kentucky, year before last, started five players in the NCAA tournament games that had not been to class that semester. And that's that one-and-done philosophy that we have now."  - Bobby Knight.

John Calipari has made no secret of his mission as UK basketball coach.  If you come to Kentucky, you are either going to be in the NBA soon after, or you are going to graduate.

Virtually anyone outside of Big Blue Nation (and even some inside) rail on Calipari for making it his goal is to get kids to the next level, to change their family tree.  They want to point to the bastions of academia that honor the 'student-athlete' by supposedly stressing school over sport.  However misguided and deluded that may be, let's assume for a moment they have a point.

Humor me in pondering these two scenarios.

Player A is a highly touted prospect who has been catered to since he was a pre-teen.  Player A's goal is to get to the NBA and be the next Kobe, MJ, LeBron, or Steph Curry.  Player A cannot enter the NBA draft for 1 year after high school before that dream can come true. This is not a choice, the rules dictate one year of non-high school must pass before eligible for the draft.

Now we move on to Player B. Player B is a great basketball player, but the NBA is something that they know is highly unlikely in their future.  Player B is still striving to go to one of the Power 6 conference schools on a scholarship while earning a college degree.  Player B has a choice, he can go to college, get a degree and set himself up for a better future, or take door #2 and find a career out of high school.

Player B can take the non-college route, but a 2011 study shows that the average high school graduate will make about $1.3 MILLION over their lifetime.  The average college graduate will make about $2.3 MILLION over their lifetime. The cost of not getting that degree is 1 MILLION DOLLARS.  That number will only grow too; in 2004 it was about a $900,000 difference.

Knowing the above, you would imagine it would be much harder to get Player A to stay in school, and keep his grades up for an entire year vs. Player B staying for the duration to set his life up for success.  Player A does not have to attend class in the 2nd semester, as soon as they are eligible for the 2nd semester, it is simply a matter of finishing the season and preparing for the draft.

Yet, somehow John Calipari is not only able to keep Player A engaged and progressing toward a degree.  He is actually doing that better than other coaches are with keeping Player B along the graduation path.  Not to mention, the majority of Coach Cal's players are NOT one-and-done players so Cal is doing it better on BOTH fronts.

Rational people will see the excellence in that performance...

Of course, you then have some outstanding citizens who do not even understand what the topic is actually about, and/or just put their head in sand with their fingers in their ears, eyes closed and metaphorically yelling like a petulant child.

However, let's not get ahead of ourselves, I mean surely all those other teams have at least the same APR success a Kentucky, right?

Only a handful of schools recruit the one and done player as fervently and transparently as UK, so they should all be just as good as Kentucky at keeping their players moving along toward graduation, right?

False; in fact, Kentucky is only 1 of 10 schools in the Power 6 (75 schools) to post a 1.000 APR. The other nine schools:

  • Louisville
  • West Virginia
  • Clemson
  • Texas
  • Seton Hall
  • Michigan State
  • Stanford
  • Utah
  • Florida
That means that Kentucky and John Calipari handle their players academics better than 87% of the Power 6 schools.  Add to that, the only school above that is a serious player for the one-and-done player is Michigan State.  Even then, they have only had 4 players picked in the first round in the last 10 years.

By contrast, John Calipari had 4 players picked in the top 13 in last spring's draft.  The point being, Kentucky has had so many more 'chances', if you will, for the APR to be affected by players leaving early...yet they have a perfect APR.

Here are the schools that are not performing up to the same APR standard as Kentucky and John Calipari:
  • Duke (.995)
  • North Carolina (.974)
  • Virginia (.979)
  • Kansas (.990)
  • Villanova (.994)
  • Indiana (.985)
  • Wisconsin (.976)
  • Arizona (.979)
  • UCLA (.962)
  • Vanderbilt (.977)
The plain and simple truth is that anytime a positive piece of information comes out about UK and Calipari, the haters come out of the wood work and try to spin it into a negative.  The sentiment used to be that the APR would eventually crush Calipari for his nefarious recruiting of the one and done player.  With Cal crushing the APR, the new sentiment is that the whole ranking is suspect and should be investigated.

This is certainly no different than past instances (CAL CAN'T WIN WITH ONE AND DONES!!) and things have actually evolved to a point where Calipari continues to crush narratives and give people more opportunities to make themselves look foolish...all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Below is the full APR rankings of the Power 6 schools for your entertainment.