Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn't keep the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic program from succeeding.
UTC recently learned its sports teams had set another program record for overall grade point average and nine of UTC's programs received perfect NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores.
For the fourth semester in a row, the Mocs posted a record performance for overall GPA with a 3.421, shattering the mark of 3.197 set in the fall semester. Among individual UTC programs, the women's cross country team led the way with a 3.81 overall GPA and those runners also set a program record with 11 student-athletes posting a 4.0 GPA.
Overall the Mocs had school records with 77 student-athletes earning a 4.0 GPA, 196 making the dean's list with at least a 3.2 and 226 making the athletic director's honor roll with a 3.0 or better.
Every team had a GPA of 3.0 or better, with football cracking the barrier for the first time at 3.14. Volleyball (3.80), women's cross country/track & field (3.79), women's tennis (3.78), men's tennis (3.65), women's basketball (3.64), men's basketball (3.36) and wrestling (3.23) all set program GPA marks in the spring.
"I was blown away by the academic numbers our student-athletes achieved this semester," UTC vice chancellor and AD Mark Wharton said in a release that also noted the university put in a pass/fail option for many classes this past semester due to the cancellation of in-person classroom instruction, a move that boosted the overall GPA.
"I know there were some special circumstances that helped this semester, but it doesn't lessen the impact of the work that was done by these student-athletes, Dr. Emily Blackman and our academic support staff and our coaches who made sure that academics remained a priority," Wharton added.
In the NCAA's release of APR scores, the Mocs, for the ninth year in a row, had at least seven programs with a perfect single-year score of 1,000. Eight programs beat the national average, while all 14 were above the NCAA minimum of 930. Single-year scores released were from the 2018-19 academic year, while the four-year scores encompassed 2015-16 through 2018-19.
Low APR scores can be costly. Fifteen programs across the country, nearly double last year's total, face the possibility of postseason bans next season or the season after due to unsatisfactory APR progress. Any teams posting a four-year score below 930, which predicts about a 50% graduation rate, can be penalized.
Scores are based on academic eligibility, graduation and retention. Each athlete receives one point per semester if they remain academically eligible and another if they graduate or return to school for the next term.
Also, for the first time, schools will see an economic payoff from classroom success. The NCAA will distribute money to schools that post an all-sport, single-year score of 985 or higher; that have a graduation success rate of 90% or higher; or produce a federal graduation rate among athletes that tops the federal average of nonathletes by at least 13 percentage points.
The Mocs also announced 26 of their student-athletes completed degrees this semester, with seven of those postgraduate degrees.
Those were, by sport: cross country/track — Abigail Bateman, Hannah Caldwell, Julia Henderson, Emily Poole, Micah Sneller and Nathan Watson; soccer — Bailey Gale, McKenzie Gregg, Jordan Mueller and Anna Rogers; football — Drayton Arnold, Rashun Freeman and Jacob Webster; softball — Morgan Kazerooni, Emma Sturdivant and Hayleigh Weissenbach; wrestling — Jacob Murphy, Rodney Jones and Dominic Lampe; volleyball — Brianna Anderson and Mikaela Gauthreaux; tennis — Charlotte Bossy and Simon Bustamante; basketball — Shelbie Davenport and Jonathan Scott; golf — Maddy McDanel.
In other academic notes for area colleges from the spring semester:
— The Covenant College athletic department's overall GPA of 3.35 is a record for the Division III school's NCAA era (the previous best was 3.23), all 14 teams produced at least a 3.0 combined GPA and 138 Scots and Lady Scots made the athletic honor roll, which requires a 3.0 GPA or better, with 26 of them boasting a 4.0. The top five team GPAs came from women's basketball (3.63), softball (3.62), women's tennis (3.56), women's soccer (3.55) and men's soccer (3.45).
— Dalton State College announced 10 student-athletes who earned their degrees. Those were, by sport: soccer — Rury Alvarez, Jordan Bernard, Alyssa Bilbrey, Taeylor Fisch and Maria Vazquez; basketball — Mon'Darius Black and Sean Cranney; golf — Sport Allmond, Haejin Choe and Hannah Gasaway. In addition, 30 Roadrunners — close to 1/3 of the NAIA Division I school's total number of student-athletes — made the dean's list.
— Cleveland State had 12 athletes with a 4.0 GPA among 30 with at least a 3.0 — the latter group representing almost half of the school's athletes — with the baseball team's 3.37 GPA the best among the Cougars and the softball team's 3.18 GPA the best among the Lady Cougars. Also, 18 Cleveland State sophomore student-athletes will graduate this spring and summer.