A second straight poor Academic Progress Rate score has put the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's soccer program into the historical penalty phase, joining the football program in the NCAA's academic doghouse.
The NCAA released its latest APR scores and penalties Wednesday and both programs have been hit with scholarship and practice time reductions. The current four-year average -- which measures eligibility, player retention and progress toward graduation -- includes the academic years from 2005-06 to 2008-09.
Despite some setbacks in 2008-09, both programs just completed very strong academic years, athletic director Rick Hart said, and are heading in the right direction.
Staff File Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Head coach Russ Huesman shouts orders to the scrimmaging players during the first spring practice on Sunday at Finley Stadium.
"Based on projections it looks like football will be right back up where we expect them to be (when next year's APR scores are released) and soccer will be back up where we expect them to be," Hart said. "Those are the two that we're really keying on and it appears as though we'll be trending upwards again next year."
Hart announced earlier this year that the football team will be eligible for the 2010 postseason after being banned last season for poor historical APR performance. That was the good news, but the Mocs' scholarship allotment is down to 55.18 (out of 63) and its team activities will be limited to 16 hours over five days instead of the standard 20 hours over six.
The Mocs' 2008-09 APR score was 867, down from 915 the year before. Most of that drop was the result of player attrition following the coaching change in 2008 when Rodney Allison's contract was not renewed and Russ Huesman was hired.
Despite the single-year dip, football's four-year average went up, from 872 last year to 885. That's because UTC was able to drop a 2004-05 score of 816 and replace it with the 867.
UTC's associate athletic director for compliance Laura Herron said next year's four-year average will "definitely" be above 900 because it will be dropping an 827 and adding a single-year score of close to the NCAA benchmark of 925.
"I think our players are proud of the fact that they're doing well in school now, and it's important to them that they're a part of the solution," Huesman said.
By getting the multi-year score above 900, UTC would move out of the historical penalty phase and have the current penalties lifted. Doing so would be "a major accomplishment and a major achievement for our program," Hart said.
Though the light at the end of the tunnel might be getting brighter, Hart said he won't relax until "we have all of our programs above a 925 for their multi-year."
The soccer team's multi-year score is 855 after posting a 2008-09 score of 825, due primarily to retention problems. Coach J.D. Kyzer's squad will lose nearly two scholarships for next season, dropping its total available to just 4.77. The NCAA maximum for women's soccer is 14, but UTC only funds about half that many.
Soccer will also face the same practice restrictions as football.
"When you're in a really hard spot to begin with in terms of scholarships and budget, and you're hit with that, that's tough," Kyzer said. "That's a situation where you're already hurting and you're hurting more."
UTC's wrestling team had a single-year score of 900 and was penalized 0.19 scholarships, but it won't affect the program because, like soccer, wrestling isn't fully funded. The men's basketball team lost a scholarship last year but was not penalized this time after posting a single-year score of 920.
Of the 15 UTC sports, 11 have four-year APR averages of 927 or higher, led by the women's track team which has a score of 985. Five women's teams (basketball, golf, tennis and indoor and outdoor track) had perfect single-year scores of 1,000 for the 2008-09 reporting period, while golf and cross country led all UTC men's teams with scores of 975.
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John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...