Building on APR gains a must for UH programs


POSTED: Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hawaii hit a buzzer-beater, turned it around in the fourth quarter, won it in extra innings.

A glowing news release from UH gushed about “;across the board”; improvement in its Academic Progress Report.

There's room for more improvement, but the achievement is indeed significant, and timely.

UH needed to improve, or it could have faced some big penalties — not just losing scholarships, but also risking postseason eligibility.

It's not time to make Seis de Mayo a state holiday quite yet. UH remains below the national median with 11 teams under the 50th percentile for Division I schools in their sports. The baseball team's APR is vastly improved, but was penalized again — this time for just 0.26 of a scholarship.

But the positives outweigh the negatives. Women's volleyball was cited for three consecutive years of perfect scores of 1,000. Football, which lost five scholarships three years ago, has also improved. Men's basketball was facing possible sanctions, but also improved dramatically to stave off problems.

AS ARE MANY of the programs it watches over, the APR system itself is a work in progress. How fair is it to penalize schools for athletes in good standing who transfer? And is five years a realistic window for expected graduation when even many non-athletes don't complete a bachelor's degree in that amount of time but eventually do?

It was feared the UH football program would take a hit for two juniors leaving early to turn pro, Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins. Football coach Greg McMackin countered that with diligence in making sure players who wanted to transfer did so in good academic standing.

Similar situation with basketball, as Bob Nash turned things around in the classroom the way he hopes to on the court. The one can help the other, as the improvement in APR gave him the flexibility needed to make some Rainbows into former Rainbows and create room for better basketball players. Hopefully they are also good students.

UH, more than most other colleges, will always attract some people who don't fit in. This includes student-athletes. It takes a certain kind of personality to acclimate to the islands, and this makes recruiting tricky. In the pre-APR days, coaches could take more chances on superior athletes who might not adapt to our unique culture. If things didn't work out, they would just transfer, no real penalty. Coaches would even help them find another school.

Hawaii was rocked with the loss of five football scholarships the first year the NCAA levied penalties using the APR as a barometer. A big reason the Warriors were hit so hard was June Jones' penchant for finding new schools for players he knew would never play for Hawaii, places where they could play. If you know Jones' history, you know he did this out of empathy; he transferred from Hawaii himself as a player, to stardom at Portland State.

The APR in its original form made that troublesome, with unfairly severe penalties for even “;clean”; transfers.

Now, if you move on with a 2.6 and meet other academic requirements, it's no damage. Good to know the NCAA can adapt its policies and do what makes sense once in awhile.

As for UH's improvement, good job. But as the coaches and administration say they realize, this is one game they must keep playing at hard, even after a big win.