BATON ROUGE -- Whoever winds up taking over the vacant men's basketball position at LSU can at least thank Trent Johnson for one thing: a full allotment of scholarships.
One of the well-documented struggles of Johnson's tenure with the Tigers was the one with the Academic Progress Rate, or APR. The NCAA calculates APR based on athletes' academic eligibility and retention during a four-year period. Each student-athlete in each sport is capable of earning up to two points per semester, for a maximum point total of 1,000 per sport.
The NCAA lists a cutoff point, currently at 930 after being bumped up from 925, that sports must meet to avoid penalties. That magical number is something the Tigers struggled to meet during Johnson's tenure.
"They use a four-year average. So when Trent came, in particular the year he took over, I think we were down in the 800's," said Miriam Segar, LSU associate athletic director. "Since then he's been able to get the number obviously higher through retention of his athletes. A lot of them graduated, and he really made a concerted effort to get the rates higher."
The departure of players from the program certainly hurt Johnson has his tenure continued. The program's APR score dropped from a 942 in 2008 -- the year he was hired -- to a 918 in his first season on the job. The primary reason was a single-year score of 827 in 2009, which killed the team's four year average. The severe dip below the cut off point eventually cost the Tigers a scholarship for the 2010-11 season.
Since bottoming out to start his tenure, however, Johnson slowly built the APR back up. The Tigers' four-year score for 2010, released last spring, was still at a disappointing 905. But the one-year score for that season was a much better 932.
"Each year from that (the 827 score), the number went up significantly," Segar said.
Segar said the problem the Tigers need to avoid -- the one that cost the team a scholarship -- is what's known as an "oh-for-two." Simply put, that's when a student-athlete leaves a school while also being academically ineligible. Attrition within the program in names like Bo Spencer, Dennis Harris and Delwan Graham helped contribute to the penalty in that regard.
"It's a moving target, because they've increased the number, and because you never want to have an oh-for-two," Segar said. "If for some reason kids leave LSU and they weren't academically eligible when they left, then you're losing points. The more kids like that, the more transfers -- you're just losing points, even if they were academically eligible."
On the surface, it looks like the new hire could be forced to deal with similar issues because of the early departure of center Justin Hamilton. Segar said that isn't the case, as Hamilton is on pace to graduate early, and will leave the university in good standing if he completes the semester.
Should a younger player, such as Anthony Hickey or Johnny O'Bryant III, decide to transfer as a result of the upheaval, Segar said it could cost the Tigers one to two points per player, depending on their academic standing.
Assuming that's not the case, however, Segar said Johnson has left the Tigers' APR much better than he found it. The NCAA's report is delayed by a year, so the findings for 2011 won't be released until May. But whoever LSU brings in for Johnson should be happy with what he sees.
"Right now, everything is in good shape. He left it in good shape," Segar said.