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Penn State football’s academics rank at the bottom of Big Ten after worst score in a decade

by Wyatt Massey of Spotlight PA State College |

Beaver Stadium
Georgianna Sutherland / For Spotlight PA

This story first appeared in Talk of the Town, a weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau featuring the most important news and happenings in north-central Pennsylvania. Sign up for free here.

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s football team’s academic rating plummeted to its lowest point in more than a decade, placing the Nittany Lions in last place among Big Ten gridiron teams.

For two decades, the NCAA has used its academic progress rate to measure a collegiate team’s scholastic success. A team earns a maximum of two points — one for being enrolled and the other for being eligible academically for the next semester — per player that receives “athletically related financial aid,” according to the NCAA’s website. A team’s score is calculated by dividing points earned by total possible points, and multiplying that figure by 1,000.

Penn State football’s academic progress rate of 914 in the 2021-22 school year was its lowest in more than 10 years and continued a decline from its perfect mark of 1,000 in 2018-19.

The university, in an email to Spotlight PA, said team academic progress rates for 2022-23 will be released in October. Penn State did not respond to a request for further comment on the football team’s recent academic performance or on how it compared to its Big Ten peers.

Penn State’s football team had the lowest single-year score of its Big Ten peers in 2021-22 and now has the second-lowest score averaged across the past four years, a key metric for the NCAA.

In February, the NCAA announced it will resume penalizing teams that struggle academically. Penalties can include limiting practice time or barring postseason play. The organization suspended such oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams with a score below 930 averaged across four years will be disciplined, and the NCAA will begin issuing penalties in spring 2024, according to the organization’s news release.

Penn State football’s four-year average in 2021-22 was 958, according to NCAA data. The team’s next single-year score would need to drop below 900 for it to be at risk of discipline.

The football team’s four-year average is the second-lowest among all Penn State sports, with only men’s basketball having a lower multiyear score. The basketball team also had the worst single-year score in 2021-22 at 884.

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