UT athletics board meeting

Student-athlete academic success highlighted the annual spring meeting of the University of Tennessee Athletics Board.

Saturday's meeting also included updates on the department's reporting structure, budget and several facility projects.

The morning began with a report from Dr. Todd Diacon regarding the task force studying the reporting structure for athletics. The task force, appointed last fall by UT President Dr. Jan Simek, has submitted its recommendation. Dr. Simek is reviewing the report and will make his recommendations to the UT Board of Trustees in June. In its report, the athletics task force recommends shifting reporting responsibility for the athletics department from the UT System to the Knoxville campus. The athletic board unanimously approved a resolution in support of the report.

Discussion followed on academic success for the fall semester:

- Lady Vol trackster and three time NCAA champion Phoebe Wright was named the H. Boyd McWhorter Female Scholar of the Year. Wright, a native of Signal Mountain, Tenn., has a 3.96 grade point average, with a double major in Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

- Ten members of the football team played the 2009 season having already earned an undergraduate degree. Those Vols were enrolled in graduate classes, while five more members of the 2009 squad had met the requirements for one undergraduate degree and were working on a second certificate. This distinction made Tennessee No. 1 nationally in the number of graduates on its 2009 football roster. Of the 15 athletes who had graduated or met the requirements to graduate, 12 earned letters last season.

- A total of 62 student-athlete's were named to the SEC Fall and Winter Academic Honor rolls – three from men's basketball, six from women's basketball, 20 from football, 10 from soccer, 15 from men's swimming and diving, and eight from volleyball.

- The VOLScholar Academic Honor Roll for fall featured 239 student-athletes.

- Twenty student-athletes graduated in December.

For fiscal year 2009-10, UTAD has a $102.45 million budget. The Tennessee Fund reported total giving to Tennessee Athletics has exceeded $33.24 million as of March 19. The department generated a cash surplus of $2.7 million in FY 2009 and anticipates an additional surplus for FY 2010 after providing more than $6.8 million in direct cash support to the university:

- $2.7 million from the Tennessee Fund, which allows academic donors to receive athletic benefits for academic donations.

- $800,000 for graduate student fellowships

- $100,000 for the Faculty Enhancement Program

- $100,000 for the Student Success Center

- $375,000 for the Lake Loudoun Boulevard Campus Beautification Project

- $1.375 million in academic scholarships awarded to non student-athletes

- $1.125 million in annual debt service on five University parking garages

- $107,000 for Turfgrass Research Partnership

Marketing reported negotiations are complete on an extended apparel contract.

Among the facility projects discussed were:

- Goodfriend Tennis Center – The indoor tennis facility will be expanded by two courts this year.

- Intercollegiate Golf Complex – The construction of three practice holes and a practice green were completed in February and will be available to student-athletes in the fall. Planning and design is underway for the clubhouse with bidding to follow.

- LaPorte Stadium/Tom Black Track – A brick façade and wrought iron fencing was added to LaPorte Stadium this year to blend the facility with campus.

- Lindsey Nelson Baseball Stadium – Phase II, which includes batting cages, field level club seating and commons area, and interior stadium brick façade work to be completed in May.

- Neyland-Thompson Sports Center Addition – The project has been approved to construct the addition to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, which will include coaches' offices, meeting rooms, a weight room, locker room and training room. The addition of this space will allow the 110 employees currently located in Stokely Athletics Center to be relocated to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. Excavation will be complete in May with building construction scheduled to begin this fall for a spring 2012 completion.

- Neyland Stadium – The second portion of Phase III of the Neyland Stadium Master Plan began following the 2009 season. Crews will create a Gate 21 entry plaza, add two elevators to the northwest side, add brick and wrought iron façade work along the north and west sides as well as construct the Tennessee Terrace. It features 1,800 chair-back seats on the upper west sideline and offers a private, climate-controlled concourse. Crews also will be preparing a site for a statue of Gen. Robert R. Neyland that will be added along the west side in November.

- Thompson-Boling Arena – A pedestrian bridge to the G-10 parking garage to connect with Thompson-Boling Arena, and construction of an elevator in the northwest corner of the arena, and an upgrade of the arenas electrical capacity were completed in March. Phase III, which includes modification to coaches' offices, the basketball office entrance, ticket offices and the north exterior façade, begins in May and will be completed in October.

- Volleyball/Indoor Track facility – A feasibility study has been completed. The facility will be located off Leinart Lane near the softball and soccer stadiums once funds have been raised.

- The athletics department has partnered with the campus to create a new campus entrance off Neyland Drive and beautify the Lake Loudoun entrance to campus.

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