Minnesota Men’s Basketball APR Remains a Concern

Just prior to the start of the 2016-17 basketball season last November, we stated that Richard Pitino was not on the hot seat. There were three reasons for this: the team’s outlook, his large buyout, and the program’s APR.

Our claims that most people were underestimating the team and that they projected to be set for a strong 2017-18 were proven to be true. From here, things could continue to go well (e.g., a strong 2017-18 season, great success on the recruiting trail), or they could become more challenging.

However, due to the other two issues, the seat still probably won’t get hot soon even if team performance and recruiting go south.

In Pitino’s recent contract amendment, the buyout issue from the U’s perspective was not addressed. The APR issue, however, was.

According to data released today, the APR situation has gotten worse. We calculate that the Minnesota men’s basketball team earned a 49 on 52 possible points in 2015-16, resulting in a single-year score of 942.

This brings their multi-year score down to 950. However, it’s important to remember that in 2014-15, Minnesota scored just 860 (we calculate 43 out of 50). The 950 is achieved because in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Gophers posted 1,000 single-year APR scores. A multi-year score under 930 comes with penalties, including a postseason ban.

Over the next two years, the two 1,000 scores will fall out of the calculation and be replaced with scores for 2016-17 and 2017-18.

That means in 2019, the public will know whether or not the Gophers will be eligible to participate in NCAA championship games in 2019-20.

The odd nature of the APR calculations results in a few programs being in Minnesota’s position – they’ll probably figure out a way to make sure they don’t fall below the cutline, but ultimately a couple of student-athletes can change everything. It’s a risk that exists today, but the final outcome won’t be known for a while.

Put another way, if in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Minnesota’s APR is the same as 2015-16 (942), they will be banned from postseason play in 2020. Although only one of four years in the APR calculation would be under the 930 cutline, the 2020 ban would result primarily from the poor 2014-15 score.

The NCAA’s RPI is awful and worse than the APR, but it’s not alone in NCAA metrics that make you wonder, “what the heck?”. When your kids in 2020 get banned because of kids in 2014-15, it raises questions about the APR penalty structure. Nonetheless, it’s reality.

Pitino’s recent extension isn’t very relevant in retaining him long term – it doesn’t “lock him up”. It just increases his pay (and if he’s still around by the end of the current term, you’ll see multiple more amendments before then). In fact, the penalty structure for him leaving early today is less than it was a year ago. The stay bonuses are nice… but they come with some new fine print.

Per Section 2.6: “In order to earn any payment under this paragraph, Coach must be employed by the University as its head coach for men’s basketball on the dates set forth above, and the men’s basketball team must be fully APR compliant (compliant APR score with no penalties) on the dates set forth above.”

Contracts at the U have improved in the past year, although there are still some things we’d do differently. Nonetheless, it’s clear the administration is cognizant of the somewhat uncomfortable APR situation the men’s basketball program finds itself in.

By the way, Pitino receives a performance bonus for the team’s score of 942 this year.  He’d also earned bonuses in each of the next two years if the team scores 942 in them… en route to a postseason ban. Like we said, there are still some things we’d do differently.

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