For the second consecutive year, Samford University athletics teams have exceeded national averages in the latest Academic Progress Ratings (APR) released March 1 by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).
The two-year APR compilations, first made public in 2005, are based on academic eligibility, retention and graduation rates for student-athletes at all 334 NCAA Division 1 member institutions. Samford competes in eight men's and nine women's varsity sports at the Division 1 level. In the inaugural overall ratings in 2005, Samford tied for seventh nationally. The NCAA has not yet released composite national ratings for 2006.
Eight Samford teams were in the top 10 percent nationally, including football, men's and women's basketball, women's cross country, men's and women's tennis, women's golf, and softball. Six Samford teams achieved a perfect score of 1000.
Schools falling below the minimum score of 925 risked losing scholarships. No Samford team fell below the minimum score. The NCAA used "squad-size adjustments" to help some schools avoid penalties, but no Samford teams needed the statistical adjustment to achieve a high APR, according to Bob Roller, Samford's director of athletics.
"The APRs demonstrate the strong commitment that Samford has to high academic standards and to the role our coaches and athletics department staff plays in ensuring that our student-athletes achieve those high standards," Roller said.
When compared with three peer groups--the Ohio Valley Conference, NCAA Division 1 member institutions in Alabama and NCAA D-1 member institutions with historic Baptist ties--Samford had the highest scores in what are considered the three major sports: football and men's and women's basketball. The Samford women's basketball team tied Wake Forest University with a perfect score of 1000 but outranked all other peer institutions, including defending national champion Baylor.
All but two of Samford's 17 teams scored above the national average for the sport. Samford's volleyball team scored 965, three points below the national average for 311 schools that compete in Division I. The men's golf team scored 958, just below the national average of 961. Both teams have taken appropriate steps to upgrade their scores, Roller explained.
Samford led the Ohio Valley Conference in 13 of the 17 varsity sports in which it competes. Two Samford teams placed second.
Other than volleyball and men's golf, men's cross country and baseball were the only sports where Samford failed to outrank other OVC institutions. The men's cross country team rated 985, above the national average of 958, and was exceeded only by Southeast Missouri State University's perfect score. The Samford baseball team, with an APR of 964, also rated well above the national average of 931. Volleyball, golf and baseball have had head coaching changes in the last two years, Roller noted.
Peter Neuberger, senior associate athletics director, said the APRs are a better measure of academic progress than graduation rates because they track students as they progress, not just at the end of their academic careers. He also noted that Samford's success in the classroom has translated to success in the Ohio Valley Conference. In three years of OVC membership, Samford has won team championships in soccer, women's tennis, men's golf and women's cross country and have participated in postseason play in soccer, men's and women's basketball, softball, baseball and tennis.
"We always can do better, but at Samford we want the challenge of raising the bar as high as possible," said Neuberger, who oversees academics for the athletics department. "We pride ourselves on being an academic institution and doing well both in the classroom and in competition."