After being a leader in academic performance through most of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford's tenure at Cal, recent stumbles in grad rates and APR have vexed the program, inspiring the staff to put changes in place to get back on track academically.
Always a challenging academic environment, with no easy majors or Mickey Mouse classes to hide academically-challenged athletes, Cal can be a tough place for even non-student athletes to keep up or graduate, let alone student athletes that may have to devote as much as eight hours a day to their sport during the season.
Still, with Cal football's academic gameplan and all they've put in place to make sure their student athletes were reaching their potential academically, the program had managed to maintain solid APR and grad rate numbers till recently, when the GSR dipped to 54%.
Tedford noted that often, measures like APR can be influenced by things that are easily controllable, rather than simply reflecting a program's inability to help their student athletes maintain academic standards.
"Because if it's a four year average, if you have a class that brings the numbers down and you take a good number off and a put bad number on, it affects the numbers," said Tedford of the APR numbers.
"It's not so much that we're losing guys or that a lot of them are ineligible. It's more that when some guys' eligibility is over and they have one semester left and they have a lot going on, they don't focus and finish and that can cost you some points. So that's something that we really have to concentrate on and focus on, making sure that guys are getting it done before their eligibility is over. And if they haven't, understanding the importance of getting it done now.
"It's been something lingering, where the player says, 'I've got one class left. I'll take my time and get it done or I'll do it online' or whatever and they run out of time. One class lingering ends up hurting you so we've got to make sure they understand the importance of the timing of it."
With a slim budget to work with, the program hasn't been as fully-staffed as they'd like in the academic support area but changes are afoot to remedy the situation.
"We're working on increasing the resources," said Tedford. "We have two learning specialists now and we're bringing in another person that will monitor the APR and really focus on the guys that might have one class remaining and need to finish up.
"But the gameplan's there and we need to focus as a team on what the APR means. Things have changed with the APR in recent years, with new things put in place like losing scholarships or bowl games. It's not okay to have one class remaining. It's important that they all know that it can affect the program if you don't get it done.
"We're going to focus a lot more on making sure that happens."
The program has always had significant resources available to players, with the athletic study center and a large cadre of tutors available to them on a one-on-one basis.
"There's all kinds of tutors available to the players," said Tedford.
"We're going to have four people involved in the academic department. Two of them are learning specialists but we have three people there now and we're adding another one to make it four.
"But we have tutors for every class, too, so the resources are there.
"You can have two guys that don't finish and that could be the difference between a 940 and 960. It's just really important that we focus on guys finishing."