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KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee football program's Academic Progress Rate continues to rise under fourth-year head coach Butch Jones, according to the numbers released by the NCAA on Wednesday.

The Volunteers recorded an APR score of 975 during the 2014-15 academic year and raised the program's four-year score to 956, its highest since the NCAA introduced the APR — which measures student-athletes remaining academically eligible and in school — in 2005.

Only four years ago, Tennessee produced a single-year APR of 909 that lowered the program's multi-year score to a perilously low 924, but the single-year APR scores since were 962 (2012-13), 972 (2013-14) and 975 (2014-15).

Tennessee football's multi-year score of 945 last year was just short of its previous best of 949 in 2007-08.

The Vols' single-year score for 2014-15 matched Arkansas as the sixth-best in the Southeastern Conference behind Vanderbilt (perfect score of 1,000), Missouri (987), Auburn (981), South Carolina (980) and Florida (976).

Three years of much-improved APR scores mean an additional $250,000 in bonuses for Jones, whose original contract includes incentives of $50,000 for single-year scores of 945-plus and $100,000 for 965 or better.

Nine of Tennessee's 18 sports teams recorded perfect single-year scores, and 13 teams, including all eight men's programs, matched or increased their multi-year scores from last year. Thirteen teams also outperformed the national averages in both single- and multi-year scores for those respective sports.

"Our student-athletes continue to perform at a very impressive level academically," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a university release. "They are breaking their own records annually over the past few years in virtually every measurable academic category such as APR and graduation rates.

"This level of high academic performance is a testimony to our student-athletes being students first as well as the emphasis on academics from our coaches, faculty, administration and the staff at our Thornton Center."

Tennessee's hire of Joe Scogin from Missouri as the director of the Thornton Center in 2013 has been credited as a key factor in the recent academic success of the football team and the entire athletic department.

"APR scores often give a glimpse of the culture of a department," Scogin said in the release. "There are great things going on in Tennessee Athletics, and I am so proud of our student-athletes' commitment to excellence in all aspects of their experience at UT."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

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