Last week’s exit of three players from the LSU program raises questions of what impact might on and off the floor.
Already, sophomore guard Malik Morgan has landed at Tulane, while Anthony Hickey and Shane Hammink are still shopping for new homes. Earlier in April, junior forward Johnny O’Bryant III declared for the NBA Draft, and all total the program has watched four members depart the roster since bowing out of the NIT to SMU.
Aside from needing to fill two scholarships, the roster turnover also has the potential to hamper the program’s academic progress rate. The data for the most recent year was released last week, and the Tigers appear safe, landing a perfect score of 1,000 for the 2012-2013 academic years and a 955 for the past four years. Under NCAA regulations, schools must earn a multi-year APR of at least 930 to be eligible for the postseason.
So the question arises as to how LSU might be affected with four departures this season, and the possibility of losing rising sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA ranks.
To clear up the picture, I chatted with Miriam Segar, an associate athletic director at LSU who oversees the school’s APR efforts. First, a quick primer. The NCAA awards APR points on a semester basis, doling out one point for a player remaining eligible and another if he remains enrolled in school. Theoretically, each player under scholarship is worth up to four points each year. A team’s point total is added up and divided by the maximum amount of points available and multiplied by 1,000.
For example, a basketball team with 13 scholarship players has 52 APR points available. If they receive 49 of them, it would translate to an APR score of 942.31.
With that, here’s the chat I had with Segar.
Q: On first glance, it would seem difficult for LSU to maintain a perfect score for 2012-2013 after losing guard Corban Collins and forward Jalen Courtney to transfers. How do the mechanics work to allow that to happen?
A: I’m going to talk more globally, because each of them have academic privacy and we can’t talk about specific kids. The NCAA has exceptions where APR points can be waived. For instance, if a student transfers and their overall GPA is a 2.6 or higher, the legislation says that they’re academically eligible at your school and if they transfer to another school — and you can document that — then you waive the point for retention. So, in that case, you’re a 3-for-3, instead of a 3-for-4. Similarly, if you have a kid that leaves for professional athletics, and they’re eligible to return, instead of having for four possible points, you only have three possible points. There are cases where kids, for an academic year, can be a three-point value (in calculating the APR) instead of a four-point value. So it does change.
Q: So, in the case of the the academic year that just finished, it would seem that if forward Johnny O’Bryant III left for the NBA but finished in good standing, then LSU will not take a hit. Correct? Does he need to finish with a 2.6 GPA?
A: Professionally, you don’t need a certain GPA. If you complete the academic term and satisfy requirements to return to the school and you sign a professional contract, then you can waive the retention point. Instead of losing the point and counting as a 3-for-4 that year, you count as a 3-for-3.
Q: So O’Bryant would need to sign a contract? What documentation would the NCAA need to see?
A: He would just need to be on a roster. He would need to be picked up. For example, a football player signs a contract, but sometimes when they get picked up they may not. They may just be on a professional roster, so we’re able to use those as well.
Q: Is there a particular cut-off date when a player has to be on a roster in order for him not impact LSU’s APR score?
A: We will file next year’s numbers in October. It has to be before the filing deadline that it would need to be done.
Q: Three players — Shane Hammink, Malik Morgan and Anthony Hickey — left the program, too. We reported Anthony’s scholarship was not renewed. I know you can’t comment specifically on his case, but, generally speaking, is a nonrenewal of a scholarship treated the same as a transfer? Or is it different?
A: It’s the same rule. If they leave, are academically, and can qualify for a waiver to play at their next school, then the waiver we get for a retention point can still be executed.
Q: So there’s no distinction?
A: The school is accountable for any student that is enrolled and receives an athletic scholarship. Any athlete that doesn’t receive a scholarship isn’t counted?
Q: Can you all appeal the ruling of those waivers for retention points, or are the bylaws pretty cut and dry?
A: They’re pretty cut and dry.
Q: How is the advising process, and how involved do you all get, with players considering a move to the professional level about the impact their decision might have on the program’s APR?
A: We’re very proactive. We look at their schedule, explain what they need to accomplish by the end of the term in order to help the university maintain that Academic Progress Rate, and that’s it’s very important to the program.
Q: How is that initiated?
A: It’s really a collaborative effort. We see the kids every day. Academics is very involved as well. Administratively, we have an idea, too. We try to educate the kids every year about APR. We talk to them in the fall and in the spring. They all understand, I think, the responsibility that comes with carrying an academic scholarships in terms of team GPA and success for the program. We are actively seeking kids to come back school (after turning pro) to graduate in order to get bonus points, because it helps our APR and our graduation rate.
Q: These numbers can be fairly abstract for an average fan, and so can the process for who they’re calculated. But it’s safe to say you all can project into the future what they might be.
A: We have no choice but to project. They’re can be substantial penalties, and it influences decisions our coaches make on potential players and academic risk. How many points can we lose this year? What does that mean for next year? It’s a four-year rolling average, and the number this year stays with us. That’s a concept where there’s a lot of accountability for the coaches and the university. If there’s one bad year, it lingers. But if there’s one good year, too, eventually it’s also going to roll off, and you could be left with a bad year and just a couple OK years.
Q: This may be a way of life, though, given that JohnnyJones has two players next year that may look to turn pro and transfers are a way of life now.
A: Just look at Kentucky and what they go through every year. As long as players leave eligible and sign that contract, you’re fine. But you’ve got have kids that understand. If you had kids that didn’t understand the serious impact that can have on the program, then it can be a difficult thing to do. There’s a certain amount of trust our coaches have to put in these kids.
In football, it’s easier: You finish a semester and have a bowl game. If you’re not going to come back and turn professional, you’re not dealing with kids not completing a term. Even in baseball, kids finish a term, and then finish they’re sport and leave. Basketball is the one that’s difficult, because they’re getting drafted before the semester ends — even our women’s basketball players. Making sure those kids understand and can complete the hours they need is a lot to ask, but we have kids doing it. We’ll just have to continue being proactive.
Q: So how confident are you all about next year’s score for the men’s program and where it might land?
A: We feel pretty confident. Obviously, the goal every year is to get as high as you can, but minimally a 930, which is the mandate. This is a great year, but it could be down a little bit. You just need to keep that four-year average high. I feel very confident that we’ll be dealing with an average APR that is above the minimum level we need.