Tennessee Vols made grade to avoid NCAA sanctions

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TENNESSEE'S APR SCORESSix Tennessee programs recorded perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Rate scores in the data released Wednesday by the NCAA, and 14 of the Vols' 20 programs either improved or maintained their single-year APR scores from 2011-12 to 2012-13. The women's cross country, rowing, softball and tennis program earned APR Public Recognition Awards for a multi-year APR in the top 10 percent nationally in their respective sport.Here are the multi-year and single-year APR scores for Tennessee's 20 sportsTeam // Multi-year // 2012-13Baseball // 934 // 956Men's // basketball // 964 // 980Women's // basketball // 979 // 955Men's // cross // country // 949 // 968Women's // cross // country // 1,000 // 1,000Football // 932 // 962Men's // golf // 972 // 1,000Women's // golf // 991 // 962Rowing // 1,000 // 1,000Softball // 1,000 // 1,000Soccer // 973 // 981Men's // swimming // & // diving // 966 // 982Women's // swimming // & // diving // 986 // 971Men's // tennis // 973 // 1,000Women's // tennis // 1,000 // 1,000Men's // indoor // track // 960 // 968Men's // outdoor // track // 960 // 969Women's // indoor // track // 993 // 991Women's // outdoor // track // 993 // 991Volleyball // 988 // 943

KNOXVILLE - The good news Tennessee's football program got late last October became official on Wednesday.

When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate scores, it confirmed the Volunteers recorded the program's highest mark when it was absolutely necessary.

Tennessee's single-year APR score of 962 for the 2012-13 academic year set a new mark for the program and rescued it from potential penalties, including a possible postseason ban or loss of practice time, by raising the four-year score to 932, just clear of the NCAA's new benchmark of 930.

When the APR numbers came out last June, a multi-year score of 924 and a single-year score of 909 for 2011-12 meant the Vols and then first-year coach Butch Jones had to dig out of a hole to avoid sanctions.

In Tennessee's release on Wednesday, Jones called the impressive turnaround "among the greatest victories in the history of Tennessee football," though the Vols were told by the NCAA last fall they had done enough to be in the clear moving forward.

"This was an issue since day one when we walked in here as a coaching staff," he said after practice the Tuesday before Tennessee's trip to Missouri.

"It's probably one of the greatest victories we've had in Tennessee football," he continued. "There's been a lot of hard work and a lot of hard effort by a lot of individuals behind the scenes that have made this come to fruition. I'm extremely proud.

"Maybe you guys don't understand the magnitude of it, but it's huge. That is one of the things that we have fought in the recruiting process. As you know, opponents, they're going to look and they're going to read everything and they're going to try to throw everything at your competition. We had a great plan in place, and we executed the plan. I'm very proud of that."

The APR, created 11 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.

Attrition from coaching changes in recent years and academic issues stemming from disarray with the Thornton Center, the on-campus hub of student-athlete academics, helped create Tennessee's APR mess.

The turnaround began last spring -- Jones's first after arriving from Cincinnati -- when the Vols recorded a perfect APR score of 1,000 as 48 players finished the semester with a GPA of 3.0 or better. It was a big part of the 962 score that got the Vols two APR points above the cutline.

"With a coaching turnover, that's almost impossible to do," Jones said last October. "I don't want to underestimate that or undervalue that, because that is monumental in our football program in moving forward.

"I think this speaks volumes about the commitment toward academics here at Tennessee, from our coaching staff to our athletic administration to our Thornton Center and to our student-athletes."

Per his contract, Jones received a $50,000 bonus for a single-year APR score of 945 or higher, and he receives a $100,000 bonus if the APR score surpasses 965 for a single academic year.

Though Jones said Wednesday during an interview with the Times Free Press in his office he is awaiting final grades for the spring semester, Tennessee is confident enough the APR concerns are behind it that the program's release stated next year's multi-year APR "is expected to be even higher" due to "the expected level of academic performance" for this academic year.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.