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March Madness for Academics

March 12, 2012

Don't think that Harvard University's entry into the 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament makes this year's bracket winner a lock.

For the Academic Performance Tournament bracket, we mean, in which Inside Higher Ed -- for the seventh consecutive year -- determines the tournament winner based on each team's scores in the classroom rather than on the court. And Harvard -- which for many might be the dictionary definition of academic performance, and gave the world Jeremy Lin -- isn't the only surprise. But more on that later.

In our academic bracket, winners are determined based on each team's multiyear Academic Progress Rate, which the NCAA uses to measure classroom performance. In the event of a tie, we turn to the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate,  which measures the proportion of athletes who graduate within six years. Last year, Butler University took the title.

While their APR is probably the last thing on these athletes' mind at the moment, it shouldn't be. That's because in October,  the NCAA Division I Board of Directors passed rules that by the 2015-16 season will require teams to have at least a score of 930 to participate in any sport's postseason competition. The rule will be phased in over 24 months beginning next year, when teams that don't make the 930 cutoff can still be eligible with a 940 average for the most recent two years. A dozen teams -- included top-seeded Syracuse University -- scored below 930 this year. The University of Connecticut scored so poorly on its 2009-10 academic rate (not the 2010-11 rate used to decide this bracket) that it has already proposed alternative penalties to disqualification from next year's tournament.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Click here to see this year's Academic Performance Tournament results -- but don't blame us if they don't translate to a big payday at the sports book.

 

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