UT Vols must work on academics as they aim to improve on the field

UT Vols must work on academics as they aim to improve on the field

June 12th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sportscollege

TENNESSEE'S APR SCORES

Though there are concerns about the football program's Academic Progress Rate scores, Tennessee's other programs are relishing academic success. Eight teams posted perfect single-year APR scores for 2011-12, and three have perfect four-year scores. The men's basketball program's multiyear score of 973 is its best ever.

Here are the multiyear and single-year APRs for all 20 Tennessee varsity teams:

Team - Multiyear - 2011-12

Baseball - 942 - 935

Men's basketball - 973 - 960

Women's basketball - 990 - 957

Men's cross country - 936 - 964

Women's cross country - 989 - 960

Football - 924 - 909

Men's golf - 963 - 1000

Women's golf - 1000 - 1000

Rowing - 1000 - 1000

Softball - 970 - 1000

Soccer - 959 - 938

Men's swimming & diving - 970 - 943

Women's swimming & diving - 989 - 975

Men's tennis - 991 - 1000

Women's tennis - 1000 - 1000

Men's indoor track - 946 - 978

Men's outdoor track - 946 - 978

Women's indoor track - 995 - 1000

Women's outdoor track - 995 - 1000

Volleyball - 995 - 1000

Vols T logo

KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's football program must make improvements on the field to end a two-year run of not playing in a bowl game, but the Volunteers also have work to do academically to ensure their eligibility for the postseason after the 2013 season.

The NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rates on Tuesday, and Tennessee's single-year APR of 909 in 2011-12 dropped the Vols' multiyear score to 924.

Beginning next year, teams whose APR multiyear score dips below 930 or a two-year average of 940 will face possible postseason bans. The NCAA approved raising the minimum threshold from 900 two years ago.

"While our current football APR score is well below our expectations," athletic director Dave Hart said in the university's release, "we believe the team's academic performance during the 2012-13 school year and the improvement made in our structure over the last year have us strongly positioned for the future."

In its first semester under new coach Butch Jones, Tennessee's football team registered its best semester academically since the university began tracking such data in 2003. The Vols complied a 2.8 cumulative grade point average, and 46 players posted a 3.0 GPA or higher. It was marked improvement from the 2.08 the team posted during the fall semester of 2011.

The APR, created 10 years ago, keeps schools accountable for the academic eligibility of their student-athletes. Players earn the program one point for staying in school and another for remaining academically eligible for each academic term. A team's total points are divided by the possible points to calculate the score for each individual year as well as the previous four years.

Tennessee also has addressed some of the problems in its support structure for student-athletes.

The university finally filled the long-vacant director post for the Thornton Center, the academic hub for student-athletes, when it tabbed Joe Scogin in April. He had been Missouri's associate athletic director for academic services.

According to Tennessee's release, some of the "corrective measures" include a greater focus on academically at-risk student-athletes, changes in requirements regarding progress toward a degree and specific GPAs, an ongoing evaluation of the Thornton Center and a comprehensive class-attendance policy.

"I believe that once we identified the APR issues with our football program, we have done everything necessary to address them," chancellor Jimmy Cheek said. "I am proud of the performance in the classroom by our student-athletes over the last two semesters, and I have great confidence that we have put the past issues behind us and will only continue to improve."

The Vols' current four-year APR score encompasses the end of Phillip Fulmer's tenure as coach, Lane Kiffin's one season at Tennessee and the first two seasons under Derek Dooley. A total of 33 players from the last four signing classes either transferred, left the program for academic, disciplinary or personal reasons or never made it to campus. After the single-year APR jumped from 928 (2008-09) and 921 (2009-10) to 934 in 2010-11, it again dropped significantly.

Tennessee inserted APR incentives into Jones' initial contract. A single-year APR score of 945 is rewarded with a $50,000 bonus. If that number increases to 965 or higher, the bonus doubles to $100,000.

The single-year APRs improved under Jones at each of his previous stops. At Central Michigan, the number increased from 920 to 960 in one year, and Jones' teams finished with APR scores of 947 and 945 during his second and third seasons. He inherited a team that scored 907 at Cincinnati, and the Bearcats' 2011-12 APR score was 957.

"Academics are at the forefront of the priorities within our football team, and we are excited with the results in the classroom from the spring semester," Jones said. "We are moving forward with a great plan and structure that alleviates past academic concerns, and we are confident of avoiding any APR issues. Everything is in place to provide the best possible environment for achieving academic success for our student-athletes as we continue to move forward."

The Vols' bowl hopes for 2014 and beyond depend on players taking advantage of it.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.