APR! ANNUAL PIPSQUEAK REAMING, IN NCAA-SPEAK.

It's one of the most magical times of the year: you wake up, and there's just a hint of summer in the air. The bees buzz, the birds warble...perhaps you hack up a thick ball of pollen-encrusted mucus, if you're fortunate enough to live in an allergen hell like Atlanta.

And then, the children run down the street, clutching white papers with baby blue print on the letterhead: THE APR'S OUT! THE APR's OUT!!!


Jump for joy, piglet! The APR's out!

The NCAA's attempt to quantify the reconciliation of athletics and academics did indeed come out yesterday, and it lives up to its reputation again as being one of the sternest, least forgiving gauges of academic performance in small schools never hoping to even play in a bowl game or sell a single piece of NCAA merchandise. The letters stand for Academic Progress Rate, but we can substitute any number of better source words for the acronym APR:

Abstruse Pedantic Ruse

Auburn? Pretty Ridiculous.

Athletes Placed in Remedials

Annual Pipsqueak Reaming

The last one is particularly apt. The schools receiving the most serious scholarship penalties and Myles Brand finger-wagging all come from college sport's Christmas Islands: Northern Arizona University, Texas Southern, Tennessee-Chattanooga, San Jose State...and most snidely, HBCUs and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina. (Myles Brand doesn't care about black people! ) Oh, and FIU and Georgia Southern. Those puppies got kicked, too.

The only big school of note in anything resembling trouble is the University of Arizona, which will lose four scholarships
next year following a dismal APR score. Everyone else skates, and will likely continue to. Why? Let Myles "the Hammer" Brand answer that query:

"It is important ... to understand that the faculty of each college or university, rather than the NCAA, determines courses that will be taught, the standards for instruction and the requirements for degrees. They are also responsible for monitoring against academic abuse or fraud, and they take these responsibilities seriously. It is unlikely that any intrusion by the NCAA into this realm would be either practical, successful or welcome."

Hello, prized linebacker. That D is being changed to a "C", and as long as the University's not looking or caring, no one else is going to sniff around no matter how rank the smell gets. The NCAA pads the natural loophole in the policy with yet another loophole cannily spotted by the vigilant attorneys over at Miami HawkTalk: the NCAA takes away the "squad size adjustment" next year, which makes next year's APR look like a potential killing floor for dumbish teams, right?

You get nothing! You lose! Good day sir! The teams in question have to have a workable plan in place to improve--a plan and nothing more, really, creating a garage-door sized hole in the policy for schools to run whole convoys through. In truth, all a school needs to invest in to keep athletics free and clear of suspicion is a robust compliance office capable of running interference.

This post is therefore sponsored by the burgeoning field of NCAA compliance and the American Union of NCAA Compliance Officers. Through an increasingly incoherent and flexible policy, the NCAA's done little more than subsidize the growth of an industry devoted solely to countering its own policies, and one that will likely require the services of that most pricey and ornery of professionals: the attorney. Schools unable to afford representation will gradually be razed out of sport, since the market will clip the weaker competition (HBCUs and San Jose States of the world) out of business.

In the future, the best defense in college football won't be wearing a mouth guard and eyeblack. They'll be carrying a valise and a J.D. from a top 25 law school, and their playbook will be much, much more complicated than that of its opposition for one very good reason: the other team faxed them the game plan before kickoff.

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