The GSR allows institutions to add transfer students on scholarship that fit into the 2000-01 freshmen class and delete those students that choose to leave and are academically eligible according to Progress toward Degree Requirements. UT also announced the student-athlete federal gradation rate for the 2000-01 freshman class was 52 percent and the student-athlete federal graduation rate for the four-year average was 57 percent.
The University of Tennessee already had an internal system in place to measure the academic success rate of its student-athletes. The success rate is similar to the GSR, but does not take out students based on transfer. Rather it looks at all scholarship student-athletes in the 2000-01 freshmen class and then calculates the rate based on their eligibility to be a student at the University of Tennessee. Instead of removing students from the calculation based on leaving the university, which would include athletes who leave to pursue professional careers or transfer to another college or university, it simply looks at the percent of students that were eligible to be students at the University of Tennessee. The academic success rate for this group was 93.4 percent, meaning 93.4 percent of the 2000-01 freshmen scholarship student-athletes were eligible to return to the university and complete their degrees.
"I am pleased with the success our students have in the classroom," said Eric Brey, director of the Thornton Center. "The new graduation success rate is a better indicator than the federal rate of the academic success our students have. The Thornton Center staff works hard to help our students move toward graduation."
Added Joan Cronan, women's athletics director, "I am very proud of the accomplishments our student-athletes have made. The Thornton Center staff has done a great job keeping our student-athletes on track to graduate."
The university encourages former athletes who left in good standing to return to the university to achieve their degree. The Renewing Academic Commitment (RAC) Program works with former student-athletes by assisting them with advice on degree requirements remaining, course scheduling, tutoring, employment and internship opportunities offered through the CHAMPS/Life Skills Office, and use of the Thornton Center for their everyday needs.
"The RAC program has been a great way for former athletes to return to school and finish their degree," said Mike Hamilton, men's athletic director.
There currently are more than 20 former student-athletes working with the RAC Program. In 2006-07, there were three graduates in the RAC Program.
A key focus for the University of Tennessee athletics program is to graduate student-athletes and prepare them for real-world experiences. In 2001, the University of Tennessee opened the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center to provide student-athletes with superior academic support programs and personal and career development assistance. Since the creation of the Thornton Center, Tennessee's student-athletes have achieved increasing academic success:
• During the 2006-07 school year, 75 current and former Vols and Lady Vols graduated from the University of Tennessee, continuing Tennessee's athletics tradition of commitment to the classroom. This group boasts 49 SEC honor roll and 60 Thornton Athletics Student Life Center honor roll recognitions.
• Tennessee had 227 student-athletes, or 45 percent, who achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher in fall 2006 and 225 student-athletes, or 48 percent, who achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher in spring 2007.
• Twenty-three former student-athletes have returned to earn their bachelor's degree through the RAC program since fall 2003.
With recent changes to NCAA rules for academic progression, the role of the Thornton Center is even more important. The new academic requirements for progress toward a degree call for student-athletes to complete various percentages toward degree requirements, specific grade-point averages, and other requirements to remain eligible to compete.
"The Thornton Center has been very active in the NCAA's academic progression discussions and has put in place a great framework to make sure our athletes stay on track," Hamilton said. "If our student-athletes aren't winning academically, they won't be competing."