(WBIR-Knoxville) The University of Tennessee addressed the academic issues facing the football team on Tuesday.
According to a rating system measuring academic progress, the UT football program is well below satisfactory, ranking last in the SEC. If the team doesn't improve quickly, the Vols could risk serious punishments, like losing a scholarship.
The NCAA Academic Progress Rate measures the eligibility and retention of scholarship for student-athletes competing on every Division I athletics team. NCAA lists 1000 as their top score and 900 as a minimum before penalties. Next year that minimum goes up to 930, which will encompass the academic years of 2009-2010 through 2012-2013. The football team for the year was just 909, which was down from the multi-year average of 924.
No other UT athletic-program was below next year's minimum, but both the men's baseball and women's soccer team came close.
UT Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said steps have already been taken to correct some issues and are optimistic about next year.
"While our current football APR score is well below our expectations, we believe that the team's academic performance during the 2012-2013 school year and the improvements made in our structure over the last year have us strongly positioned for the future," said Hart.
UT has implemented several corrective measures to improve the overall academic support for sports programs, especially for at-risk student-athletes.
According to a UT release, university officials said under new UT Head Coach Butch Jones, the football team achieved a 2.80 GPA for the spring of 2013, which is the highest spring GPA the football program has earned since APR began tracking academic progress in 2003. During that term, a total of 46 football student-athletes posted a 3.0 GPA or higher, which is also the highest since 2003. The football team also performed better than past years in the fall of 2012. The football players posted a 2.49 GPA, which is significantly higher than the 2.08 GPA posted in the fall of 2011.
Jones said he's committed to making his players both successful on the field and in the classroom.
"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," said Jones in a release. "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."
UT said the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, which provides student-athletes with academic support programs, is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation of its effectiveness and impact.
The university also noted other athletic teams performed very well academically. The Women's Golf, Rowing and Women's Tennis scored in the top 10 percent of sports teams nationally. The golf program earned this distinction for the fourth consecutive year, and the tennis team achieved this honor for the second consecutive year. This is the first year the rowing team earned this distinction.
In addition nine Tennessee teams posted an APR of 1000 for the 2011-2012 academic year: Men's Golf, Men's Tennis, Women's Golf, Softball, Rowing, Women's Tennis, Women's Indoor Track, Women's Outdoor Track, and Volleyball.
A record 115 student-athletes were listed on the Dean's List, and 10 programs recorded a GPA of 3.0 or higher.