The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Terps football posts program-best APR score

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During the 2009-10 school year, the last under former coach Ralph Friedgen, the Maryland football team posted a 922 multiyear Academic Progress Rate (APR), an NCAA measurement of eligibility and retention rates. That mark fell below the year’s cut line of 925, so when Coach Randy Edsall arrived from Connecticut for his inaugural season, the Terrapins were penalized three scholarships for the low score. “I think that’s the benchmark to show where we’ve grown,” Chris Uchacz, the athletic department’s director of academic services, said recently.

Since then, Maryland has improved its rolling, four-year rates, culminating in a 950 score for 2012-13, according to data released Wednesday, despite the initial surge of attrition that followed Edsall’s hire. Last season, the Terps posted a single-year score of 977, the program’s highest ever since the APR began in 2003.

“The culture has changed immensely,” said Uchacz, who was hired in Jan. 2011, the same month as Edsall, and has worked at TCU and the University of Texas-Pan American. Uchacz added that Edsall is “the only football coach I’ve ever worked with” who also serves as the liaison to his academic support staff.

“Some other schools, the head coach will appoint somebody on staff to be the academic liaison, report to that coach and then be the head coach,” Uchacz said. “He doesn’t want us reporting to the other coaches. We report to him, the academic performances or any issues, then he reports it to his coaches.”

For 2012-13, all Maryland teams posted scores higher than the new cut line of 930, meaning no one will be penalized with postseason ineligibility or lost scholarships. Women’s golf and field hockey earned multiyear rates of a perfect 1,000, calculated based on retention rates and academic eligibility of the team’s athletes.

Men’s basketball, which last offseason saw point guard Pe’Shon Howard transfer to Southern California and center Alex Len enter the NBA draft, posted a perfect single-year score of 1,000 after earning waivers for Howard, who moved home to be near his ailing grandmother, and Len. The Terps also increased their multiyear score by five points (953, up from 948), while women’s basketball increased their multiyear to 959 (from 950) and had a single-year score of 1,000.

Football, though, made the biggest year-to-year leap, moving to 977 from 948 in 2011-12, Edsall’s first season. According to several players, Edsall has been receptive to giving players extra time to complete assignments, regardless of whether it means making up a workout later.

“When I first got here, I was hovering around maybe a 2.0” grade point average, defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson said. “I always did my classwork, but one thing that always killed me was taking big exams. I really didn’t know how to study. I’m about to read something, but I didn’t know how to make notes, make notecards, make a study sheet to actually sit there and go over stuff, see what I do know and don’t know. Maybe I’d read the book, but I wasn’t comprehending any of this.

“The culture has changed when Coach Edsall came in, because he really stresses academics. He doesn’t want us to be one-dimensional. He wants us to be well-rounded individuals, because one day this game will come to an end.”