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The Tim Brewster Era - Off the Field Issues...Academics are the key

Part 3 in a series of posts on the Tim Brewster Era.

Off the Field - few issues, academics are mixed

    We touched on the EJ Jones case in part 2 and I'm not going to spend more time on it here.  This occurred within months of Brewster taking over and I'm not sure you can fault him for the actions of someone else's players who acted out.  Other than that there really have not been any off the field issues to speak of yet.  Brewster's teams have been rather clean so far and it should be noted.  I am quickly glossing over this largely because there is very little to speak of but for whatever reason (Brewster's leadership, recruiting good kids or nobody has been caught yet) the negative headlines have been non-existent in the Brewster era and he should be commended for that.

    But there are two areas worth discussing.  Academics and player attrition have become not only relevant but also connected because the two have combined to cost us scholarships.

    I'll start with player attrition because that will directly tie into the academic side of this coin.  When a coach takes over a program player attrition is expected.  New coach didn't recruit current players and current players were not recruited by new coach, so there is often a disconnect between the two that is un-reconcilable.  This happened when Brewster took over and I'm not too concerned about it.  What is more concerning has been the seemingly high percentage of transfers from players he recruits.  Here is a list of Brewster's initial recruiting class and where they are today...

Clint Brewster QB gone
Curtis Thomas DB gone
Damien White WR gone
Tray Herndon WR gone
Kyle Theret DB still here
Ralph Spry
WR gone
Harold Howell ATH gone

    That is 7 players recruited by Brewster, six are no longer with the program, 14.3%.  In all fairness, Brewster had precious little time to get anybody to sign with the Gophers in just a couple months after being hired.  To his credit the ones who stayed have been valuable.  Theret has been starting since his freshman year and has been very valuable. And his second recruiting class (his first class with a full year to recruit) has seen 82.8% retained so far. Vincent Hill never made it to campus, WR's Broderick Smith & Xavian Brandon have transferred, John Nance is rumored to be transferring and Tramaine Brock is currently not enrolled because of academic issues.

    Players transferring is part of the game and I understand the uniqueness surrounding Brewster's first class but all of this hurts the precious NCAA APR score.  

    The APR is calculated by allocating points for eligibility and retention -- the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team's APR is the total points of a team's roster at a given time divided by the total points possible.

    Players transferring out hurt the APR and enough years below the mandated 925 minimum can result in loss of scholarships and/or post season bans.  The multitude of transfers, at least 12 over the last two seasons plus years of graduation rates ranking at or near the bottom of the Big Ten equaled negative three scholarships for the most recent recruiting class.  

    While I believe the tide of transfers is stemming, the next step is graduating the players currently on the roster.  And this is an area where Gopher football that has been rather disappointing.  According to NCAA's graduation success rate (GSR) which includes transfer data in it's calculation (data found here) the Gophers have been one of just two Big Ten teams that consistently graduate less than 50% of their players.

2008 2007 2006 2005 4 Yr Avg
Northwestern 92 94 91 92 92.3
Penn St 78 76 80 84 79.5
Illinois 70 73 67 73 70.8
Indiana 68 67 71 77 70.8
Michigan 70 73 71 68 70.5
Iowa 75 73 65 58 67.8
Purdue 63 70 68 70 67.8
Wisconsin 63 61 62 67 63.3
Ohio St 52 53 55 54 53.5
Minnesota 51 49 44 41 46.3
Michigan St 51 43 45 41 45.0

    This data takes the freshman classes over a four year span and I believe gives them six years to graduate.  So the 2008 data takes the freshmen classes from the years 1998 - 2001.  Any player who began their first season during that span on the Gopher roster must graduate within six years although it does allow institutions to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.  2009 data is not yet available.

    The GSR and APR are not the same thing and are used for different purposes.  The APR is what the NCAA looks at to determine if schools/programs need a slap on the wrist before things get really bad, we are talking about student-athletes here.  This is the reason we lost three scholarships this past signing period.  The GSR gives us a number, factoring in the mobility of student-athletes today, so we have an idea how well or how poorly programs are graduating their players.  As you can see by the data, the football program (particulary those recruited by and coached by the Mason regime) has not been very successful at getting it's players to earn their diplomas.  

    The intention of this post is to take a look at the two-year Brewster era and how he has fared in off the field issues, not to harp on the football program for having such poor grad numbers over the last decade or so.  I am hoping to touch more on this issue to get a better understanding of resources are available to the athletes and what is being done to improve this grad rate.  But that will be a longer post all on it's own.

    Brewster has had very little opportunity to impact the GSR.  The graduating class of 2007 was factored into the 2008 GSR so he has had minimal impact.  Graduating the current roster is his responsibility but we will get a much clearer picture down the road when we see him bring in a class of recruits and see what percentage of his recruits leave the U of M with a dimploma.  I believe things are looking up as this past fall more Gophers (29) earned Academic All-Big Ten than any other school in the conference.  To be eligible you must be in their second year at the school, be a letter winner and carry at least a 3.0 GPA.  Three of those 29 were Brewster recruits from that first class (Collado, Theret and Small).  Clearly a step in the right direction for the program.

    As far as grading Brewster?  Overall he has kept his teams out of the police blotter, hopefully the transfer exodus is over and players will begin to earn their diplomas under Brewster.   Off the field has been a moderate success.  No news is good news when it comes to D1 football.  The programs track record of poor GSRs has to change but it is impossible to know how Brewster will affect that for a few years.