25 athletes to graduate

Twenty-five current and former Vols and Lady Vols representing eight sports are graduating from the University of Tennessee Friday, continuing Tennessee's athletics commitment to excellence in the classroom. This group boasts 15 SEC honor roll and 21 Thornton Athletics Student Life Center honor roll recognitions.

Among the graduates are several student-athletes who have earned their diplomas early, such as football standout Kevin Burnett. He graduates for the second time at Tennessee, earning his master's degree in sport management. Burnett received a bachelor's degree in sport management in May 2003.

Junior safety Jason Allen also will sport his cap and gown at ceremonies this weekend, earning his bachelor's degree in sport management in two and a half years. He plans to start graduate school in January.

"The graduating student-athletes take with them college degrees that prepare them for a life of learning and opportunities,'' said Dr. Ruth Darling, associate provost and Thornton Center director. ''They also take a set of skills they have acquired though their athletic participation that will contribute to their success in future careers and professions."

Another footballer, Michael Munoz, who finished his undergraduate degree in political science in December 2003 and is doing master's work in public administration, was named winner Tuesday of the Vincent dePaul Draddy Trophy. Known as the "Academic Heisman," this award is presented to the nation's top scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He was a two time Academic All-SEC recipient.

The athletics departments saw a dramatic rise last year in student-athlete academic success rates, rising from 86 percent in 2003 to 98 percent in 2004. Football, men's basketball and women's basketball boasted a 100 percent academic success rate.

The academic success rate is calculated by taking the graduation rate for athletes who entered the university in 1997 and adding any student-athlete that left the university in good standing, which includes athletes who leave to pursue professional careers or transfer to another college or university.

Aiding in the increase of the academic success rate is a program based in the Thornton Center, the Renewing Academic Commitment (RAC) program.

Eight former student-athletes who returned to the university to finish their degrees through RAC are graduating Friday. The RAC program works with former student-athletes by assisting them with advice on remaining degree requirements, course scheduling, tutoring, employment and internships opportunities offered through the CHAMPS/Life Skills Program, as well as use of the Thornton Center for their everyday needs.

Ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. in Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena (TBA). There is a short reception prior to graduation for student-athletes, their families and their coaches in the Letterman?s Room of TBA at 7:45 a.m.

2004 fall graduates include:

Women's Basketball
LaToya Davis Psychology

Men's Basketball
Jon Higgins Political Science

Jason Allen Sport Management
Tony Brown Criminal Justice
Kevin Burnett Sport Management (Master?s Degree)
Rick Clausen Communication Studies
Victor McClure Sociology
Karlton Neal Sport Management
Chuck Prugh General Business
Jason Respert Sport Management
Ovince Saint Preux Sociology

Women's Golf
Tai Perry Sociology
Mary Fernandez Sociology

Mimi Couns Sociology/ Criminal Justice

Carissa Roustan Psychology

Men's Swimming and Diving
Cameron McDaniel Psychology

Women's Swimming and Diving
Kylee Wells Marketing

Men's Tennis
Wade Orr Industrial Engineering

Whitney Gifford Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Jeff Smith, football Sociology
Floyd Miley, football Sociology
Diron Robinson, football Urban Studies
Teddy Gaines, football Historyv Jarvis Reado, football Urban Studies
Mike Stowell, football Sociology
Peter Handoyo, tennis Management
C.J. Black, basketball Interdisciplinary Studies Urban Studies

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