How do you put a value on college education? Within the world of major college sports, you could look at the millions of dollars in bonus money available to coaches and athletics directors based on their teams’ academic performance.
Tuesday, the NCAA released its new Academic Performance Rate (APR) figures — one of several metrics schools use to create academic incentive provisions for athletics personnel.
APR-related provisions are bringing bonuses of $150,000 to Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain and $100,000 to South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, but a USA TODAY Sports analysis of various employment contracts found many smaller amounts going to AD’s and to coaches in virtually every sport.
For instance, Murray State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm is in line for $500; North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell $30,000; Arizona women’s gymnastics coach Bill Ryden $7,500.
Alabama-Birmingham AD Brian Mackin qualified for $35,000 based on the scores of each of his school’s teams.
Conversely, LSU football coach Les Miles missed out on one of the three ways he can get a $200,000 academic bonus because his team’s APR fell below 960 (it was 944, after four consecutive years of being at least 960); Miles still could get the bonus based on the team’s graduation rate or grade-point average.
LSU AD Joe Alleva will not get the $50,000 bonus he would have received if all of LSU’s teams had attained APRs of at least 925; the men’s cross country team’s was 913, the men’s basketball team’s 909.
“In a sense (APR bonuses) are a good thing because the coaches have to be concerned with athletes making progress like a normal student, but why do you have to incentivize coaches to do that?” said Michael Bowen, a professor in South Florida’s College of Busienss who chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates at Bowl Subdivision schools.
While APR and other academically related bonuses usually are less lucrative than the amounts offered for athletic achievement, Bowen said even the academic bonus amounts are “a lot of money to a mere faculty member. It would pay for my new roof a few times.”
The APR measures the degree to which the athletes on a team are remaining eligible and staying in school. It annually is calculated for each of a school’s teams, and the NCAA makes public each team’s rolling, four-year average score. A perfect score is 1,000. Teams that fail to meet certain benchmarks risk penalties, including practice-time and scholarship reductions and ineligibility for postseason play.
Every fall, each school provides data from the previous school year that the NCAA needs to calculate the figures made public each spring. So, this past fall, the schools provided data for 2011-12.
Bonus provisions attached to APR scores generally are based on the rolling, four-year averages, but in some cases they are based on the most recent year.
Spurrier is scheduled to get $100,000 because his team’s latest four-year average APR is 966. That’s well beyond the 950 his contract requires for him to receive his maximum APR bonus. He would have gotten $50,000 for an APR of 925 (the minimum that teams must reach to avoid risk of NCAA penalties) to 934. He would have gotten $75,000 for an APR of 935 to 949.
Spurrier’s deal also says that in any year the team’s APR is at least 925, he can recommend to the athletics director that his assistant coaches receive a total of $50,000 in bonuses; the AD, now Ray Tanner, has final approval.
Colorado State’s McElwain qualified for his $150,000 payment based on his program’s APR score and compliance with NCAA rules. The team’s 947 APR exceeded the 925 benchmark his contract requires for the bonus, but McElwain wouldn’t have gotten the money unless the program also had “no findings or formal allegations of a major NCAA violation” against it during the 2012 calendar year.
Some schools require that certain APR scores be achieved in order for coaches to receive performance bonuses of any kind. No member of San Diego State’s head or assistant coaching staff can get a bonus unless their respective team has an APR of at least 925. In the scores released Tuesday, all Aztecs teams met that benchmark.
Other schools, including Wisconsin, provide no academic incentives. But Badgers men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan’s contract does include a separate section titled “Academic Support.” It states: “Coach understands that the University is very concerned about the well-being of every student-athlete, and agrees that Coach and each member of Coach’s staff will take an active interest with every athlete to expedite ... progress toward a degree.”
Athletics department spokesman Justin Doherty said teams’ academic performances, including APR scores, are addressed in a section of annual performance evaluations that are used to determine whether coaches receive contract extensions and/or raises.
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