MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - I should never be confused with an expert on the ins and outs of academics and how they relate to NCAA athletics.
I usually concern myself with sticks and balls and the like, and how fast a college student can run or how high he can jump or how far he can throw.
Academically, I know he has to do enough to remain eligible, primarily in terms of making both sufficient grades and progress toward a degree. That second element didn't used to be a part of the equation. Now it is, which is good.
I also know the general principles regarding admission to school and the acceptance of a scholarship, namely that there is a sliding scale balancing high school grades and college admissions tests. The higher your grades, the lower the test scores need to be, and vice versa.
There. Those, in a nutshell, are the basics. They're probably the ones you know, too.
And then there's the APR.
No, it's not the annual percentage rate on your car loan. In this case it's the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, which that group has been measuring now for a decade. And I'm still not sure what to make of it.
Oh, again, I understand the basics, the formula. Every athlete in a particular sport at a particular school earns points for remaining eligible and in school. Those who fail to do one or the other fail to earn certain of those points. Divide this and multiply that and in a perfect world a school's score - or a sport's score - is 1,000. The NCAA then sets minimum standards and if a sport at a school fails to reach it, it is penalized through a variety of means including - but not limited to - reduced practice time, scholarship reductions and postseason bans.
The truth is, after 10 years I've learned the system pretty well for someone who isn't involved in it - a spectator, as it were. And in the past I've tended to criticize it.
Now I'm not so sure.
Yes, the APR still deserves some criticism. My main beef with it is the same as it's always been, namely that the best way to avoid penalties is not so much to better educate athletes, but to buy into the system. And for the most part, after 10 years everyone has learned to work the system.
Consider that, over the years, the number of schools being docked scholarships because of poor APR scores has dwindled to nothing, literally. For instance, the numbers that were released in 2010 - for the 2008-09 school year - showed somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 athletic teams at Division I schools that were forced to reduce scholarships by varying degrees. The next year the number dropped to about 60, then last year to just two.
The NCAA released its 2011-12 figures this week and the number is now at zero.