Auburn's football program has the highest academic progress rate of any BCS public institution in the country. Only three BCS private schools, Boston College, Stanford and Duke, joined Auburn in being honored by the NCAA for their Academic Progress Rate based on the two-year figures released on Wednesday that include the 2003-2004 academic year and the 2004-2005 academic year.
The only bad news in the report was expected by Auburn officials. Both the men's and women's basketball teams fell under the 925 score to be free of the potential for losing any scholarship slots.
However, associate athletic director Mark Richard says that neither program will lose any scholarships unless a player currently enrolled on the men's or women's basketball team drops out of school while academically ineligible. He says that he is hopeful that won't happen.
Richard adds that Auburn officials believe the low scores in basketball are the result of transition with both programs making 100 percent changes in coaching staffs two years ago with Nell Fortner taking over the women's team and Jeff Lebo taking over the men's program.
Men's golf and men's cross country were Auburn's sports that received perfect report cards--a score of 1,000. The football team is right behind with its 981 score, up from last year's score of 960.
The average for all Division I men's football programs is 929 and the average APR for football at public Division I colleges is 920.
The Auburn football program was joined by 23 other colleges that received recognition from the NCAA. That group includes Boston College, Brown, Bucknell, Colgate, William & Mary, Cornell, Dartmouth, Davidson, Duke, Eastern Kentucky, Furman, Harvard, Lafayette, Princeton,Samford, Stanford, U.S. Naval Academy, Dayton, New Hampshire, Penn, Villanova, Wofford and Yale.
Of the men's sports, men's tennis is the next highest scorer at 966 and it is followed by swimming (961), indoor track (944), outdoor track (943), baseball (921+) and basketball (862). Even though baseball fell under the 925 mark, it is not subject to penalty because its squad size is not considered large enough statistically for an adequate sample.
On the women's front, tennis is number one with its 986 score and is followed by swimming (977), gymnastics and soccer (975), softball (962), golf (955), cross country (950), indoor and outdoor track (907+) and basketball (861). Like baseball, the statistical sample rates for the women's track teams are considered too small to subject those teams to the possibility of any sanctions.
"Three of our sports have received public recognition by the NCAA," Richard says. "They are football, men's cross country with a two-year of 1,000 and men's golf with a two-year of 1,000." Florida is the only other SEC school that had three sports recognized for its APR.
Richard notes that he is hopeful that neither basketball team will have to lose a scholarship due to APR penalties. "The only way they would come into effect, if anyone on the current team would leave the team and not come back next year and if they would leave the team ineligible." If that happens, the scholarship would be taken at the next opportunity, which would be for the 2007 incoming freshman class.
Richard says he credits head football coach Tommy Tuberville with being a major factor in Auburn's good standing nationally in that sport.
"I think it is a testament to Coach Tuberville and his coaching staff with the type of young men they are bringing into the program," Richard says.
"I think you have to give credit to Virgil Starks, who is our senior associate athletic director for academics and support services, and the fine job they do over there. The two groups work real well together. Coach Tuberville has bought into this academic program and it is just a total team effort."
Last year 10 of Auburn's sports finished higher than the national average among public institutions. This year the figure is up to 12.
Looking at the big picture, Richard says, "Obviously, with football being where they are, we are ecstatic. Baseball has done well. They were under 900 last year and are at 921. They have jumped a whole percentile. Overall, we are pleased with what is going on. We just have to get men's and women's basketball back in gear."