As of late, members of the media, myself included, have had a propensity to often sensationalize much of what they report on. Even more troublesome, sports journalists now often ‘make up’ subjectively based content in order to have something to write about. When I say this, I don’t mean that journalists are falsifying information or sources, but rather that they are using their credibility to arbitrarily rank individuals or teams in order to create a point of topic or appease their readers and fans of the teams. Almost all of these rankings are largely a matter of opinion and all but impossible to truly measure. After all, journalism is far from a science.
It has become increasingly more difficult to justifiably rank a coach or player against the other without having some direct, quantifiable evidence to back up one’s data. Often, we point to wins and losses as a good barometer. In college sports, as we all know, wins and losses do not come equal. Teams play in different conferences, against different opponents, with different budgets and different injuries and a million other extraneous variables. One can readily admit that ranking a coach on the court or field, no matter how much data they use and evidence they point to, will always have its flaws.
But what if there was some way that we could measure a coach’s success off the court? What if we could some how quantify how well a coach does in that other part of his job that the media so often forgets about, the one that involves his players graduating with their degrees?
The NCAA’s recent release of Academic Progress Rates (APR) for Division I head coaches has allowed us to do just that. In an effort to hold coaches to a higher level of accountability in regards to their players academic careers, the NCAA has created a database that follows, and makes public, a coaches track record on graduating players and making sure they stay in good academic standing with their respective universities.
“Unlike graduation rates that have a multi-year lag time, APR is a real-time score that shows a coach's commitment to the academic integrity of a program,” says Bob Beaudine, CEO of Eastman & Beaudine, a top executive recruiting firm in college sports who has placed 38 head coaches and 37 athletic directors. “It highlights the vital role a coach plays in the academic success of a student-athlete and is definitely something our clients take seriously when hiring a new coach. The release of individual APR scores by the NCAA will give athletic directors and search firms the ability to evaluate the credibility of potential coaches on an individual basis,” Beaudine adds.
According to the data released by the NCAA, it has become apparent that many coaches do a great (and even perfect job) at making sure each of their players stays on course and graduates. By the same token, there are dozens of coaches who do an equally poor job at this, which leads to the NCAA putting sanctions on that coach and his program.
In line with the NCAA’s efforts to create transparency, we have compiled a ranking of coaches who have shown, at least in the last few seasons, a progressive commitment to improving their player’s academics and making sure they graduate on time. The ranking is not a cut and dry list of coaches with top APR scores, but rather the coaches are ranked by their overall improvement in APR score over the least 3 academic years (2006-2009) made available. Furthermore, these rankings were not created to differentiate the haves from the have nots, but strictly to bring (positive) attention to those coaches who have made a truly quantifiable difference in their respective programs. Athletic Directors searching for a coach that can help turn around a team academically, as well as competitively, would be well advised to reference this list.
Since the NCAA has yet to release data on the 2009-10 academic year, in order to make the rankings as statistically significant as possible, we implemented certain guidelines in compiling the data. In order to make the list, a coach had to have coached during the 2007-08 season and still must be employed by the same school today. Overall improvement was measured by subtracting the 2006-07 APR total from the 2008-09 total, even if the 2006-07 APR score was inherited from the coaches predecessor. This insures that we can track which coaches have been able to pull their programs out of the academic gutter and gives us at least 3 data points for each coach.
Here is the list of the top 25 coaches, ranked by total increase in APR Score:
|1. Tom Moore||Quinnipiac||219|
|2. Doug Davalos||Texas State||191|
|3. Heath Schroyer||Wyoming||167|
|4. Matt Painter||Purdue||154|
|5. Bob Williams||UC Santa Barbara||150|
|6. Duggar Baucom||Virginia Military Institute||148|
|7. Donnie Tyndall||Morehead State||139|
|8. Bobby Cremins||College of Charleston||138|
|9. Monte Ross||Delaware||132|
|10. Keith Brown||Cal State - Bakersfield||131|
|11. Joe Mihalich||Niagara||130|
|12a. Anthony Evans||Norfolk State||129|
|12b. Perry Clark||Texas A&M -Corpus Christi||129|
|13. Mark Schmidt||St. Bonaventure||126|
|14. Johnny Jones||North Texas||122|
|15. Jim Yarbrough||Southeastern Louisiana||121|
|16. Gary Waters||Cleveland State||119|
|17. Ricardo Patton||Northern Illinois||115|
|18a Scott Sutton||Oral Roberts||109|
|18b. Dick Hunsaker||Utah Valley||109|
|19. Howie Dickenman||Central Connecticut State||108|
|20. Steve Roccaforte||Lamar||101|
|21a. Rick Stansbury||Mississippi State||99|
|21b. Ron Hunter||IUPUI||99|
|22. Leonard Hamilton||Florida State||98|
|23. Barclay Radebaugh||Charleston Southern||95|
|24. Steve Cleveland||Fresno State||93|
|25. Cliff Warren||Jacksonville||83|
Remember, the rankings above do not show a coaches overall APR score ranking, but rather the positive change in his ranking over the last few seasons. That being said, many of the coaches listed in this ranking can be found in the top quarter overall of coaches and almost all of them in the top half.
Some interesting information can be pulled from these rankings. Of the 28 coaches listed above, only 3 (Matt Painter, Rick Stansbury, Leonard Hamilton) coach in a BCS school. Secondly, almost half (12) of the coaches have losing records, suggesting that a good number of schools value academic progress more than just straight wins and losses. Thirdly, special accolades must go out to Ricardo Patton, Mark Schmidt, Perry Clarck and Heath Schroyer for taking over programs with dismal APRs and turning them around. In fact, Schroyer’s 167 point increase (771 to 938) over 2 years is positively amazing considering he inherited the worst APR team, male or female, in the history of the Mountain West Conference.
As an aside, during the year’s this data spanned, six Division I coaches had perfect 1000 APR scores for each of those years: Brad Stevens – Butler, Bill Carmody – Northwestern, Dave Bike – Sacred Heart, Bill Self – Kansas, Rick Barnes – Texas, and James Jones – Yale.