Oklahoma State's win in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl was the cherry on top of the greatest football season in school history.
The Cowboys won the Big 12 championship for the first time and were fractions of a percentage point from playing for the national title.
Those accomplishments make Wednesday's release of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, which tracks classroom achievements of every Division I athletic program, all the more sobering.
OSU's football team was one of 42 — and one of seven in the Football Bowl Subdivision — with four-year APR scores below 930, which in two years will be the lowest a program can go before being banned from postseason competition.
The Cowboy football team's four-year APR two years ago was 945, dropped to 942 last year and stands at 928 for 2010-11.
Tulsa was another FBS school with an APR below 930.
The NCAA calculates the rate as a rolling, four-year figure. The OSU football team's APR score for the 2010-11 term alone was 903.
OSU associate athletic director Kevin Fite, who leads the school's athletic compliance office, released a statement explaining the score.
“Over the last two years, football has had student-athletes that have chosen to transfer, or pursue professional football careers, despite remaining eligibility,” Fite said. “Those factors have contributed to a loss of APR retention points. Nevertheless, we are well above the minimal scores at this point and have implemented strategies that will improve our rolling four-year score.”
The average APR score for all Division I football programs is 948.
A 930 APR score, according to the NCAA, predicts a roughly 50 percent Graduation Success Rate.
That new APR floor for postseason participation — voted on last August by the NCAA board of directors — will be effective beginning with the 2014-15 postseason. The policy will be phased in over the next two years.
For the 2012-13 postseason, a program can qualify for the postseason with a four-year average of 900 or an average 930 score over the most recent two years.
For 2013-14, the required scores increase to a 930 four-year score or an average of 940 in the most recent two years.
Two other OSU programs failed to meet the future benchmark — the Cowboys' men's basketball program also earned a 928 four-year APR score, and the men's tennis team's was 909.
Player defections have plagued Travis Ford's basketball program since he took it over in 2008. The Cowboys have had several players leave the program, including Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley last December.
Meanwhile, all of Oklahoma's athletic programs scored solid APR numbers.
Two Sooner programs — women's cross country and women's basketball — earned four-year APR scores of 1000, the highest possible.
The Sooners' football team came in with a 970 score. The OU men's program with the highest four-year APR was gymnastics at 992.
OU's men's tennis team, with an APR at 935, was the Sooner program with the lowest score.
One notable program that won't be eligible for the postseason next year is the Connecticut men's basketball team. Although the Huskies scored a near-perfect 978 score for the 2010-11 school year, it wasn't good enough to improve their two-year average to a 930 or their four-year average to a 900.
UConn's men's basketball team scored an extremely low 826 for 2009-10.
How a team's APR is calculated
The Academic Progress Rate is a metric developed by the NCAA to track Division I athletic programs' academic achievements.
Each student-athlete receiving sports-related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team's total points are divided by possible points, then multiplied by 1,000 to compute the program's APR score.
NCAA.org provides the following example:
“A Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team awards the full complement of 85 grants-in-aid. If 80 student-athletes remain in school and academically eligible, three remain in school but are academically ineligible and two drop out academically ineligible, the team earns 163 of 170 possible points for that term. Divide 163 by 170 and multiply by 1,000 to determine that the team's Academic Progress Rate for that term is 959.”
The NCAA board of directors voted last August to ban Division I athletic teams from postseason competition if four-year APRs failed to meet a score of 930 beginning with the 2014-15 postseason.
The new policy will be phased in over the next two years before being fully implemented in 2014.
For the 2012-13 postseason, a program can qualify for the postseason with a four-year average of 900 or a 930 score over the most recent two years.
For 2013-14, the required scores increase to a 930 four-year average or a 940 score in the most recent two years.
BY JASON KERSEY