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Kleinlein happy with Eagles' APR performance

    When Tom Kleinlein came on as the director of athletics at Georgia Southern, he felt lucky to have a staff full of coaches who put a high premium on academics.
    It showed.
    When the NCAA released 2011-12 Academic Progress Rates for each Division-I program on Tuesday, GSU's 15 programs were all well above the 900-point threshold at which possible sanctions are administered.
    "I don't have a coach on my staff right now that I have to worry about as far as emphasizing academics," Kleinlein said. "We have to have buy-in for our coaches on the academic side."
    The NCAA's APR process, which began nine years ago, gives each scholarship athlete one point for meeting the NCAA academic eligibility requirement of a 2.0 grade point average each semester and one point for continued enrollment each semester, giving each athlete a possible four points per year.
    The number of points is divided by the number of possible points, and that number is multiplied by 1,000 to calculate the final yearly score.
    A rolling, four-year average is used to grade each sport.
    APR has become a part of daily life in college athletics.
    "It's now a common phrase," Kleinlein said. "If this kid transfers or that kid's ineligible, how's it effect our APR?'
     "When it first started, some of the bigger schools — the Tennessees and Floridas of the world — they actually went out and hired APR specialists. They're kind of like salary-cap guys in the NFL."
    Transfers can negatively impact APR. A 2.6 GPA is necessary for an athlete to transfer without losing the program an APR point.
    Georgia Southern found itself in exactly that situation recently, when Cleon Roberts — a sophomore basketball player who was recruited by former coach Charlton Young — decided to transfer to La Salle after Young was replaced by Mark Byington.
    Byington spent the spring semester making sure Roberts had his credits and grades in order before Roberts finished at GSU, and he left in good standing without hurting GSU's APR score.
    "When you have a kid who decides to transfer — who has a 2.0 and is eligible to compete (in the NCAA) — they may lose a point because they don't have a 2.6," Kleinlein said. "So now, you're asking a new basketball coach to come in and you say, 'Hey, that kid who just told you he was transferring, can you make sure he gets a 2.6?' It's an interesting challenge."
    Kleinlein is looking to add to the academic structure of athletics on his staff. He will hire a director of academic services to take over some of the responsibilities of Keith Roughton, GSU's associate athletic director of compliance and eligibility and student-athlete services.
    Roughton will continue to to oversee GSU's compliance issues.
    Kleinlein mentioned the expanding staff as another perk in moving the program to the Football Bowl Subdivision Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
    "Because of our resources and because of what we're now getting with the FBS move, there are some things happening in the academic area with staffing," Kleinlein said. "Any time we talk about additional revenue, it always starts with, 'How are we going to enhance our academic programs?'"
    Georgia Southern has suffered APR penalties in the past in men's basketball and football, but both are now well above the 900-point cut line for NCAA sanctions. GSU basketball (921) has seen improvement each of the last four years under Young, and scored 935 this year.
    The 900-point benchmark will increase to 930 next year.
    "It's challenging, but it's challenging for the right reasons," Kleinlein said. "That's what we're here for. We're here to graduate our student athletes."

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.