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How Penn State football scored in the most recent NCAA academic rating

FILE - Beaver Stadium (Georgianna Sutherland/For Spotlight PA)
Georgianna Sutherland / For Spotlight PA
Beaver Stadium

This story was produced by the State College regional bureau of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to investigative and public-service journalism for Pennsylvania. Sign up for our north-central Pa. newsletter, Talk of the Town, at

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s football team improved its academic rating in the 2022-23 academic year, after earning its worst score in a decade the year before.

The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) measures a collegiate team’s scholastic performance. A player who receives “athletically related financial aid” can earn up to two points — one for being enrolled and the other for being academically eligible in the next semester, according to the NCAA. A team’s score is calculated by dividing points earned by total possible points and multiplying that figure by 1,000.

A team’s four-year average must be above 930 to avoid NCAA discipline, which can include limiting practice time or being barred from postseason competition.

Penn State football scored 959 for the 2022-23 academic year, a significant improvement from the prior year. It ranked 12th of 14 Big Ten teams.

“Each annual APR report consists of a different cohort, and each year the APR cohort could be impacted for various reasons (transfers, delayed graduation, etc.),” a Penn State Athletics spokesperson wrote in an email to Spotlight PA. “[Intercollegiate Athletics] has always, and under Pat Kraft’s leadership will continue to invest heavily in academics.”

During the 2021-22 academic year, Penn State football earned 914 — its lowest rating in more than 10 years and the lowest score in the Big Ten that year.

Spotlight PA first reported on the football team’s low score last summer. In response, Coach James Franklin promised to “spend a lot of energy and resources” on improving the team’s academic performance, according to AllPennState.

However, reference to the score sparked pushback from some Penn State football fans, who pointed to the football team’s NCAA graduation success rate. That score tracks the percentage of student athletes who enrolled at Penn State, did not transfer elsewhere, and graduated within six years. According to the most recent available data, 93% of football players who enrolled at Penn State between 2013 and 2016 graduated.

In August, Brandon Short, an alumni-elected university trustee who played football at Penn State in the late-1990s, told Blue White Illustrated that Spotlight PA’s story on football academics was written to “to create a negative narrative” and “intentionally undermine football.”

The trustee said the university was appealing the team’s score and could recoup 13 points lost because players transferred or were otherwise ineligible.

In September and October, university leaders declined multiple requests from Spotlight PA to confirm whether it was appealing the score. The football team’s score for the 2021-22 school year remains unchanged, according to the NCAA.

This week, a Penn State Athletics spokesperson said the university’s appeals were denied.

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Wyatt Massey investigates how Penn State University operates, including its influence in the region and state.