NCAA APR report could mean trouble for FAMU in 2023

Florida A&M football could face penalties in 2023, according to data released by the NCAA. APR has hurt FAMU football before.

Florida A&M, who as recently as May of 2019, went under NCAA restrictions for seven sports not maintaining sufficient Academic Progress Rate (APR) numbers could possibly again be facing penalties in 2023.  The NCAA’s release of APR evaluations, which are self-reported, was released June 14, after a two-year grace period where they were relaxed due to the chaos caused by the covid-19 pandemic.  Calculating APR is not based on a single year, but a four-year average.

Most notably, FAMU’s football program will be affected by subpar numbers.  When head coach Willie Simmons arrived at Florida A&M in 2018, he was met with impending sanctions.  The sanctions stemmed from a turbulent time in the history of FAMU ending with the Joe Taylor era and encompassing the Earl Holmes era.  Ironically, the tenure of head coach Alex Wood did not result in many wins on the field, but attracted FAMU’s highest APR numbers to date which were above 930.

FAMU as a university has thrived academically

What is surprising is that a university with the acclaimed academic reputation of Florida A&M hasn’t figured out how to translate that to its athletics programs.  Littered with accolades that include the top Public HBCU in the nation, as declared by U.S. News and World Report, the carousel of academic deficiencies in FAMU Athletics is quite mind-boggling.

In general, the APR scores at the FCS level slid for all schools, back to a level equivalent to average grades back in 2018.  The influence of the pandemic played its factor in these numbers as during the pandemic numbers were high, but on the other side of 2020 and 2021, overall APR numbers fell.  HBCUs averaged 955 in 2021-2021, its lowest grade since 2014-2015.

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The effects of the transfer portal are starting to show

Another trend that is universally dropping at all schools is retention.  Directly in line with the advent of the transfer portal, retention in every single sport has experienced decline.  Contributing to lower overall APR rates, limited-resource institutions fell to its lowest (968) since 2014-2015 where all limited resource institutions averaged out at 960.

The NCAA website lists FAMU football with an average APR score of 901.  According to the NCAA’s notation, this falls below the conditions of a conditionally approved APR penalty waiver from last academic year.  No penalties were listed for FAMU as a waiver is expected to be filed for the institution.

An article posted on the FAMU Athletics Website from the limitations put on the program in 2019 in the form of a Q&A release does not provide much clarity.  In the document FAMU notes “FAMU’s president, senior leadership, trustees and other stakeholders have worked closely with Athletics to address these issues. Campus personnel has been educated about the shared responsibility for NCAA compliance and have codified and strengthened policies and procedures. Upon his arrival in 2017, Athletic Director John Eason, Ph.D., worked to restructure the areas of compliance and student academic support to ensure that these individuals have extensive experience and are familiar with best practices for the athletics eligibility certification process for student-athletes. In addition, the Office of Compliance and Ethics, FAMU’s NCAA Athletic Representative and the Office of the Registrar are all heavily involved in this process. This follows NCAA best practices.”

FAMU men’s basketball is continuing to thrive

One of the bright spots for FAMU is its men’s basketball program.  Head coach Robert McCullum has been a stickler for education since arriving at FAMU.  His squad earned a perfect 1,000 score in 2020-2021 as he has graduated every single athlete that he has recruited to play for Florida A&M.  It’s a model situation and a testament to his tenacity when it comes to the academic advancement of his players, even through a tumultuous early part of the season where the team is constantly on the road.

NCAA APR report could mean trouble for FAMU in 2023
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