At the risk of sending you straight for the comics: This is a story about numbers.
But before sprinting to Mallard Fillmore and Doonesbury, know that these numbers reveal plenty about individual college head coaches and their commitment to education.
But to avoid a data dump, let's first consider Megan Baier, a middle-class Ohio kid who in 1999 was Debbie Taylor's first signee as William and Mary women's basketball coach. After graduation, Baier enrolled at Syracuse's law school before transferring to Michigan's.
Today she's a merger and acquisitions attorney in Chicago for Skadden Arps, a renowned law firm.
"Probably the biggest reason I left my previous job (as an assistant coach at South Carolina) to come here was, to me this is a place where they do everything right," said Taylor, a College alum. "At William and Mary we look to develop people who are ready to take on the world when they graduate."
One partial measure of a program's classroom credentials is the Academic Progress Rate, a tool created by the NCAA in 2003. The governing body annually releases schools' and teams' four-year average APRs, but last week marked the debut of a database that shows year-by-year scores for coaches, even if they changed jobs.
While teams can lose scholarships if their APRs continually fall below an established minimum, coaches are not subjected to sanctions. So why track the numbers?
"Most people in intercollegiate athletics agree that the head coach is the primary influence on a student-athlete's success in college – including his or her academic success," the NCAA says on its website. "Applying the APR to the head coach only enhances that accountability."
University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA's academic performance committee, said in a statement that coaches "already are held accountable for success on the field or court. These rates extend that transparency and accountability to the classroom, as well.
"The perception is that head coaches don't care about academics. That isn't true. I know from my work with the NCAA baseball and men's basketball academic working groups that head coaches deeply understand the importance of academics."
Understanding the APR calculation isn't too taxing, even if you stayed out too late last night at a wedding reception.
Each scholarship athlete can earn two points per semester, one for staying in school and one for remaining eligible for competition. A team's total points are divided by points possible and multiplied by 1,000 to determine the APR score.
A perfect grade is 1,000. If a program continually falls below 925, a score the NCAA equates to a 50-percent graduation rate, scholarship reductions can be assessed.
The coaches' database, available at NCAA.org., reveals APRs for six years, through the 2008-09 academic calendar. None of the region or state's marquee coaches averages below the 925 minimum, and most are above the national average for their sport.
Frank Beamer's 938.5 average at Virginia Tech is next-to-last among ACC football coaches but above the national football number of 933.8. Virginia's Mike London averaged 974 in two seasons at Richmond, Al Groh 949.5 during his last six years with the Cavaliers, while William and Mary's Jimmye Laycock shines at 978.8.
The 930.3 national men's basketball norm pales to the numbers amassed by William and Mary's Tony Shaver (963.5), Old Dominion's Blaine Taylor (961.5), Virginia's Tony Bennett (968 in three seasons at Washington State) and Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg (950.2).
The only ACC football or men's basketball coaches below average for their sport are in hoops, with Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt (926.8) and Maryland's Gary Williams (923).
Baseball is dicey because so many players sign pro contracts after three years, but Virginia's Brian O'Connor (971.7) and Virginia Tech's Pete Hughes (968.7) are beacons in a sport where the Division I average is 938.
Nationally, women's basketball programs should be proud of their 960.6 average over six years. And while Virginia's Debbie Ryan (932) and ODU's Wendy Larry (954.8) are below that figure, William and Mary's Taylor is at a remarkable 990.8, with three perfect 1,000s in six seasons.
So routine is her program's academic excellence that Taylor wasn't even aware of the NCAA creating the coaches' database. The news prompted her to reflect on former players such as Katy Neumer, who works for J.P. Morgan in New York City, and Kia Butts, a Virginia Beach native and assistant admissions dean at William and Mary.
"I think (the coaches' APRs) at least reveal a trend," Taylor said, "and show what direction a program is going."
No one is suggesting that winning doesn't matter. It does.
But so does taking on the world.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.