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Pirates show improvement after APR woes

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East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley, left, talks with then-senior Isaac Fleming during a game against Wichita State on Feb. 6 in Minges Coliseum. Seniors Fleming, Addison Hill and Justice Obasohan all graduated this spring, along with junior Seth LeDay.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, May 20, 2019

East Carolina announced program-record grade point averages in football and men’s basketball for the spring semester, one week after those teams were close to the cut line for NCAA administered penalties because of their multi-year academic progress rate scores released by the NCAA from 2017-18.

ECU football’s APR score of 937 for 2017-18, which was based on data submitted by East Carolina from the 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, was second-lowest among Football Bowl Subdivision teams not facing penalties. Florida State’s score was 936.

The NCAA requires teams in all sports to achieve a 930 or better score to compete in the postseason and avoid other consequences.

This spring was the Pirates’ first semester with football coach Mike Houston, formerly of James Madison, in charge, and ECU produced its best semester GPA in program history with a 2.74.

In basketball, where the Pirates had a multi-year APR score of 931 for 2017-18, signs of improvement came with the program posting its best-ever spring cumulative GPA with a 3.10 mark. The team also graduated all three of its seniors from last season’s roster — Isaac Fleming, Addison Hill and Justice Obasohan — along with junior Seth LeDay, which should help with the next multi-year APR release.

Players leaving an institution in poor academic standing can hurt a team’s APR score, which happened with the Pirates in basketball in recent years and specifically while experiencing roster turnover and coaching transitions in 2017-18 from Jeff Lebo to interim coach Michael Perry before Joe Dooley was hired in April of 2018 from Florida Gulf Coast.

Dooley and Houston both inherited situations in which the Pirates were seeking more wins but also needed to place a higher priority on improving their team’s APR score.

Other academic highlights for the Pirates included women’s golf leading all ECU teams with a 3.77 GPA for the year, four baseball players achieving 4.0 to help the Pirates record their best in-season spring GPA (3.48) in program history and women's swimming setting a new program best with a 3.49 cumulative GPA.

“To say 2018-19 was a great academic year for our student-athletes would be an understatement,” said Pirate athletics director Jon Gilbert, who was hired from Southern Miss in December, in his last “from the helm” installment on ecupirates.com on Wednesday. “It's important to recognize our student-athletes for their work, but also our academic advisers, support staff and coaches. It takes everybody committing to the importance of academics to have consistent success in the classroom.”

The NCAA website, which has an APR database dating back to 2004, states that APR scores “hold institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.”

Prior to the most recent release of East Carolina football’s 937 score, the Pirates’ previous three APR multi-year scores were 949 (2016-17), 947 (15-16) and 943 (14-15). The team’s best mark was 952 in 2010-11, when Ruffin McNeill was head coach.

ECU men’s basketball faced scholarship and practice reductions from 2004-07 when its APR score ranged from 843 to 861 during coach Bill Herrion’s final season and the two that followed with Ricky Stokes at the helm. The team’s best score was 965 in 2010-11, which was Lebo’s first season in Greenville and after coach Mack McCarthy also helped the team return to solid academic marks.

The Pirates were led in 2017-18 multi-year APR by women’s lacrosse and women’s golf, both with 1,000 scores. Softball was 996.

East Carolina’s baseball team is thriving again in the classroom and on the field, including having already won the American Athletic Conference regular season championship with ease, and next week the team is slated to begin NCAA play in Greenville in hopes for a big tourney run.

The players who achieved 4.0 GPAs during the spring were Jake Kuchmaner, Evan Voliva, Alec Burleson and Evan Odum.

“You have to manage your time really well, especially when we are on the road all the time, and this year during the middle of the season we had a bunch of road trips in a row,” said Kuchmaner, a sophomore pitcher who is a business management major. “You really have to be on top of your stuff, making time not just for baseball but also for school and prioritizing that. ... You may not be the smartest guy in the classroom or might not be the best player on the field, but as long as you prepare yourself in the right way and in all the aspects of your life, then eventually everything comes together.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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