UK men's basketball shows improvement in classroom

Basketball 15th of 20 UK teams, exits cellar

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJanuary 6, 2011 

Brandon Knight shook hands with Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller after he left the game as Penn played the University of Kentucky in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Monday, January, 03, 2011. This is second half action. UK won 86-62. Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF

  • UK grade-point averages

    Grade-point averages for all of UK's athletic teams for the Fall 2010 semester:

    1. Women's cross country 3.569

    2. Women's soccer 3.419

    3. Women's tennis 3.369

    4. Softball 3.257

    5. Women's track 3.243

    6. Women's golf 3.179

    7. Volleyball 3.160

    8. Men's cross country 3.080

    9. Women's swim/dive 3.066

    10. Men's golf 2.992

    11. Baseball 2.972

    12. Men's track 2.948

    13. Gymnastics 2.910

    14. Rifle 2.879

    15. Men's basketball 2.824

    16. Men's swim/dive 2.782

    17. Women's basketball 2.730

    18. Men's soccer 2.625

    19. Football 2.469

    20. Men's tennis 2.393

As Coach John Calipari said he expected would happen, his University of Kentucky men's basketball team showed marked improvement in the fall semester.

In the classroom.

Cal's Cats posted a 2.824 grade-point average for the fall semester, far surpassing the 2.025 of a year ago.

Last month, Calipari said he expected the team GPA to be "over 2.8. Could be as high as 2.9."

"I'm not sure (reporters) will write how it compares to other programs."

Figures from other Southeastern Conference schools were not yet available, but the Cats measured up with their in-state rival Louisville, which posted a 2.94 for the fall semester of 2010.

Within its own athletics department, UK men's basketball ranked 15th among the 20 teams. Last year, men's basketball ranked last.

"I was very, very pleased and proud of their effort," Mitch Barnhart, athletics director, said by phone from Hoover, Ala., where UK's football team is preparing for Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl. "Our kids were very focused in the classroom."

The grade-point averages were released Wednesday in response to an open records request by the Herald-Leader.

Women's cross country had the highest grade-point average among all UK sports at 3.569. Women's soccer was next at 3.419, a record for that program. Men's tennis ranked last at 2.393, although that is an improvement from 2.34 last spring.

Football, second-to-last at 2.469, also showed improvement from 2.352 in the spring. Football, with about 20 percent of the total athletes, has the greatest effect on the overall average.

The overall GPA for athletics is 2.930, down from 3.04. Men's sports averaged 2.720, women's sports 3.207.

"It was down just a touch," Barnhart said of the overall GPA. "But when we first came to Kentucky ... nine years ago, we were down in that 2.6, 2.7 range and we've moved up steadily. And we want to keep our eye on that 3.0 mark. We want that to be the goal."

The men's basketball GPA has progressed from 2.025 in Calipari's first semester, a year ago, to 2.18 in the spring semester and, now, to 2.824.

"I'm proud of the improvements we made academically this fall semester," Calipari said in a statement relayed by UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy. "We have always valued academics, including major turnarounds when we arrived at UMass and Memphis.

"We didn't get off to the start we hoped for in our first semester last year at Kentucky, but after that transition period we have steadily improved our grade-point average.

"The credit goes to the kids and the hard work they put forth along with balancing basketball and being a college student."

Barnhart noted that several of the basketball freshmen had "a great track record academically coming out of high school, and they did very, very well in their first semester."

The school did not release grade-point averages for individual athletes.

Barnhart also saluted the efforts of academic counselor Michael Stone of C.A.T.S. — Center for Academics and Tutorial Services.

And, of course, Calipari.

"He made it a point of emphasis," Barnhart said of the improved grades. "He wanted to be improved in that area."

In all, nine UK teams posted a GPA of higher than 3.0.

Herald-Leader staff writer Jerry Tipton contributed to this article.

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