Success on and off the Field

With Outback Bowl opponent Tennessee losing three starters and six players due to academics, the Badgers are proud to say they have taken care of business off the field.

TAMPA, Fla. — It's two days before the Outback Bowl and the Wisconsin Badgers have already achieved an important victory over Tennessee.

When the two schools take the field on New Year's Day, Tennessee will be without six players - three of whom started during the 2007 season - that have lost eligibility because of academics. The Badgers, on the other hand, have lost nobody.

With a strong academic support staff working tirelessly to keep the students on par with their studies, UW coach Bret Bielema can focus strictly on the on-the-field issues, especially with a new academic rule change that has already impacted college football.

Beginning this season, the NCAA required student-athletes to pass six hours within the specified grade requirements of each individual major to be eligible for bowl games.

Leading receiver Lucas Taylor (73 catches for 1,000 yards) linebacker Rico McCoy (106 tackles) and first-team defensive tackle Demonte' Bolden all will not suit up for the Volunteers due to academic violations.

"I feel fortunate to have some great people in administration and academic services," Bielema said. "They made us aware of the situation (and) really monitored guys we felt might be an issue. It is proactive thinking that has really helped us."

Tennessee is not the only team to succumb to the new rule. In Friday night's Champs Sports Bowl, Michigan State had to play without five players, including starting defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic. Without Saint-Dic, the Spartans did not sack Boston College QB Matt Ryan once in a 24-21 loss.

With Wisconsin having players taking exams as late as 5 p.m. on Dec. 22, balancing bowl preparation and studies at the same time, the Badgers understand that success in the classroom is just as important as success on the field.

With Badger standouts Marcus Coleman, Paul Hubbard, Danny Kaye, Chris Pressley and Ben Strickland among the many to get their degrees this winter, Wisconsin players have taken care of business.

"It is stressed in our program that academics come first, football second," Donovan said. "I think a lot of the guys understand the importance of school and getting the job done. The academics resemble how you play on the field and taking care of our business."

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