KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee football ranks last in the Southeastern Conference in how the NCAA measures academic progress, and the Vols are at risk of being punished if they don't improve quickly.
The Vols have a ranking of 924 in academic progress measured over the past four years by the NCAA with the numbers released Tuesday. Currently, schools must be at least at 900 to avoid penalties. That figure jumps to 930 next year to measure eligibility, retaining students and graduation with penalties including a postseason ban for those programs that don't measure up.
Every other football program in the SEC had an Academic Progress Rate of at least 938 measured over the 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years, led by Alabama with 978. New SEC member Missouri had a rate of 982 during the four years measured but belonged to the Big 12 then.
Tennessee officials said that they have done everything to address the issues with the football program.
"While our current football APR score is well below our expectations, we believe that the team's academic performance during the 2012-13 school year and the improvements made in our structure over the last year have us strongly positioned for the future," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement.
Tennessee football players posted a 2.8 grade point average in the 2013 spring semester, its highest for a spring semester since the university started measuring GPAs on a sport-by-sport basis in 2003. Forty-six players posted GPAs of 3.0 or above. Football players had a GPA of 2.49 in the fall of 2012 and 2.08 in the fall of 2011 under previous coach Derek Dooley.
New coach Butch Jones, hired Dec. 7, 2012, said they are excited with the spring results in the classroom.
"We are moving forward with a great plan and structure that alleviates past academic concerns, and we are confident of avoiding any APR issues," Jones said. "Everything is in place to provide the best possible environment for achieving academic success for our student-athletes as we continue to move forward."
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said he is proud of Tennessee athletes over the past two semesters.
"And I have great confidence that we have put past issues behind us and will only continue to improve," Cheek said.
Every other program at Tennessee had an APR of at least 936. Tennessee posted a 972 APR in men's basketball, above the national average of 952. Tennessee's 990 in women's basketball was above the national average of 972. The women's golf, rowing and women's tennis programs earned public recognition awards for posting APRs in the top 10 percent of their sports nationally.
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