Another APR hit

Losing a basketball game by a point is tough. Losing a basketball scholarship by a point may be even tougher.

This is the fate that has befallen Tennessee's hoops program, however. NCAA rules decree that any sport scoring below 925 on the APR (academic progress rate) formula is subject to losing a whole or partial scholarship, and Bruce Pearl's basketball Vols carry a 924.3 rating, based on figures released today by the university. Making the cut even deeper is the fact Tennessee's APR rose from 911 last year to 924 this year. The progress simply fell one point shy of averting a penalty.

Currently at the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarships, the Basketball Vols must get to 12 in order to comply with the APR penalty. Should Tyler Smith elect to bypass his senior year and turn pro, the Vols are OK. Should Smith stay, the Vols must remove one player from scholarship. If Smith returns for 2009-10, chances are Philip Jurick, a 6-10 Chattanooga native who redshirted as a freshman last year, will not.

Tennessee also is being penalized in baseball, despite a significantly improved APR. The Diamond Vols show an 898 rating (up from 879 last year) and must surrender one-third of a scholarship. They suffered the maximum penalty, 1.17 lost scholarships, a year ago. Some observers point to the fact head coach Todd Raleigh is competing short-handed as a key factor in the Diamond Vols' disappointing 2009 season.

The new APR scores are based on averages from the 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years. According to today's UT release, here is how the APR is calculated:

"The APR is based on each student-athlete, having the opportunity to earn two points during each regular academic term of full-time enrollment (e.g., fall semester). One point is awarded if the student-athlete is academically eligible to compete the following regular academic term (or has graduated). The other point is awarded if the student-athlete returns to the institution as a full-time student the next regular academic term or graduates from the university. The APR is calculated by adding all points earned by student-athletes over the past four academic years and dividing that number by the total possible points that could have been earned. That number is then multiplied by 1,000."

Except for basketball and baseball, Tennessee's other varsity sports are in excellent shape in terms of APR scores. Football improved from 948 last year to 949 this year. Cross country improved from 950 to 960, swimming from 920 to 946, indoor track from 936 to 938 and outdoor track from 938 to 940. Golf (978 to 977) and tennis (937 to 932) suffered slight drops this year but remain in good shape relative to the APR cut-off point.

Meanwhile, all 11 Lady Vols sports are well above APR standard. Basketball rose from 963 last year to 973 this year. Rowing (985 to 986), softball (957 to 964), indoor track (968 to 969) and outdoor track (968 to 969) also made progress in the past year. Golf (992) and tennis (983) posted identical APR scores the past two years. Cross country (983 to 981), soccer (962 to 953), swimming (974 to 969) and volleyball (977 to 970) dipped slightly but are in no danger of falling below the APR standard.

Women's athletics director Joan Cronan said in the news release she is "very proud of the accomplishments our student-athletes have made," adding: "Now, we not only keep score on the field of play, but the APR is the win/loss record in the classroom, which is in accord with our mission statement that our student-athletes are students first."

Eric Brey, director of the Thornton Student Services Center, also is quoted in the news release:

"I am proud of the progress all our student-athletes and coaches have made with the NCAA's APR system," he said. "In the first year the APR was calculated, UT had four teams below 925. Each of those teams have made significant improvements in their academic standing due in large part to the dedication of the students, coaches and administration. As we move forward, I have faith that all our teams will move out of the APR penalty range and we will continue to see success from our students in the classroom. I commend the students for their efforts and thank the Thornton Center staff, coaches, faculty, staff and administration for their continued support and encouragement."

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