The University of Arizona

Academic Structural Changes Improve Student-Athlete Retention

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University of Communications | June 8, 2011

The NCAA's annual report on eligibility and retention rates shows steady improvement for several UA teams.

C.A.T.S Academics services provides student-athletes with the tools and skills necessary to achieve academic success through utilization of diverse academic programming, including advising, tutoring, course selection and individualized study planning., The UA football team is among the programs showing improvement in an NCAA report on student-athlete eligibility and retention rates.
C.A.T.S Academics services provides student-athletes with the tools and skills necessary to achieve academic success through utilization of diverse academic programming, including advising, tutoring, course selection and individualized study planning., The UA football team is among the programs showing improvement in an NCAA report on student-athlete eligibility and retention rates.
C.A.T.S Academics services provides student-athletes with the tools and skills necessary to achieve academic success through utilization of diverse academic programming, including advising, tutoring, course selection and individualized study planning., The UA football team is among the programs showing improvement in an NCAA report on student-athlete eligibility and retention rates.
C.A.T.S Academics services provides student-athletes with the tools and skills necessary to achieve academic success through utilization of diverse academic programming, including advising, tutoring, course selection and individualized study planning., The UA football team is among the programs showing improvement in an NCAA report on student-athlete eligibility and retention rates.

A new report issued by the NCAA shows significant improvement in the eligiblity and retention rates of University of Arizona student-athletes – an accomplishment credited to organizational and structural changes in the delivery of academic services. 

The NCAA's Division I Academic Progress Rate report, issued on May 24, tracks the eligibility and retention of scholarship student-athletes based on scores from the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

Teams scoring below certain thresholds can face penalties, such as scholarship losses and restrictions on practice and competition. Academic Progress Rates, or APRs, are based on the past four years' performance and includes annual and multi-year rates. Division I teams aim for a perfect academic progress rate of 1,000.

All 19 UA sport programs earned a multi-year APR score above 925 for the 2009-10 academic year, and 16 of the 19 teams at the UA earned a multi-year APR score of 950 or above.

Leading the way, five UA teams – men's golf, women's gymnastics, men's swimming and diving, men's tennis and women's volleyball – received a perfect 1,000 annual APR score.

Teams that showed improvement include the UA football program. The Wildcat football team's 2010 multi-year APR was 951, which is 11 points higher than the 2009 score of 940 and 27 points higher than in 2008, which was 924.

The team has showed marked improvement since 2005, scoring an APR of 884 in 2005; 890 in 2006; 902 in 2007; 924 in 2008; 940 in 2009 and 951 in 2010.

The football team's 2010 multi-year score of 951 beat the national average of 949.

Other good news in the report showed improvement in the UA men's basketball team. The team's multi-year score of 950 was higher than the national average of 949.

Though still working to reach the national average APR score of 966, the Wildcat baseball team's multi-year rate in 2010 was 929, an improvement of two points from the 2009 rate of 927.

The improvements, said Mike Meade, director of the UA's C.A.T.S Academics program, are a direct result of changes in the student-athlete academic structure made at the UA in 2007.

The Commitment to an Athlete's Total Success, or C.A.T.S Academics program, was moved to the UA's Student Affairs division from Arizona Athletics. The new reporting structure was intended to improve services to student-athletes by placing the accountability for academic success together with the UA's other student advocacy and learning support programs.

C.A.T.S. Academics now collaborates with other units in the recently established Student Learning Services area within Student Affairs. Staff housed within the Think Tank, SALT Center and the UA Testing Office have been a valuable resource for sharing best practices to build upon the foundation of student-athlete academic support.

The UA's student-athlete support services recently gained national certification, and the review showed that changes to the UA structure resulted in services meeting or exceeding national standards.

The improvements also are a direct result, Meade said, of the greater involvement of coaches in the academic success of their student-athletes.

UA coaches are evaluated on the academic progress of their student-athletes and are evaluated on the overall semester and cumulative GPAs of the athletes as well as the team's APR score. In addition, the coaches' multi-year contracts include an academic bonus structure for meeting or exceeding academic expectations. 

Other student-athlete support services that have been added to the C.A.T.S. program include:

  • An overview of academic services with prospective student-athletes visiting campus;
  • An early academic assessment used by staff who develop an individualized academic plan used during the student-athlete's first year;
  • A high school to college summer bridge program for incoming students;
  • The monthly recognition of student-athletes' effort and performance in the classroom.