The University of Kentucky Athletics Department touted a slight improvement in the team grade-point average for men's basketball in the spring semester in a news release Tuesday afternoon.
UK's release did not reveal the men's basketball team's spring GPA, but John Calipari's Web site, coachcal.com, said it was 2.18, up .155 points from the 2.025 in the fall semester. The fall GPA was the lowest of any of the 22 teams sponsored by UK and the worst of nine Southeastern Conference schools that released their men's basketball GPAs to the Herald-Leader.
UK Athletics did not release every team's GPA for the spring semester despite repeated open-records requests by the newspaper. A spokesperson for UK's legal office, which responds to those requests, wrote via e-mail the Athletics Department had "not provided our office with any grade information" for the spring semester.
The cumulative average for the 22 UK varsity teams was 3.04 in the spring, achieving UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's goal of a 3.0 overall GPA. It was the highest score since Barnhart was hired in 2002, according to the press release. It called the men's basketball team's GPA for the spring semester "a step in the right direction, considering five underclassmen declared for the 2010 NBA Draft."
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. expressed disappointment in the fall scores. Todd recently became a member of the NCAA Division I Board that will work to improve athletes' academic performance.
Calipari and Barnhart cited "privacy concerns" and declined to comment for a story about the basketball team's fall semester grade-point average.
However, each made public statements about the slightly better spring-semester GPA in men's basketball.
"One of the issues we face in basketball is that with such a relatively small number of athletes, a bad semester from one or two kids can bring down the GPA significantly," Calipari wrote on his Web site. "A GPA just under 2.2 is not what we hoped for. But for the most part, every player improved from the fall semester, and most finished strong.
"With all that was swirling for this team and all the scrutiny and pressure, our guys buckled down and did what they had to. ... But our improvement does show we are headed in the right direction and that our guys understand their priorities need to be in the classroom before they can turn their attention to the basketball court."
Following the UK release, John Wall posted on his Twitter account that he had a 3.5 GPA in the spring.
Barnhart noted the improvement came in a school year in which Kentucky basketball got a new coach.
"Considering all the challenges that go with that transition, and we had some athletes having to take big course loads, I was pleased that we made some progress," Barnhart said in the news release.
Barnhart also suggested UK will have no problem when the NCAA releases new Academic Progress Rate information early next month. Programs that lose players who depart while academically ineligible for the next season face the possibility of such penalties as loss of scholarships or banishment from post-season play.
"Our student-athletes took care of their business so that we could continue to have opportunities for other student-athletes coming into the program, and we would not face any penalties," Barnhart said.
UK did identify grade-point averages for some of its other teams. The highest team GPAs in the spring semester were achieved by women's cross country (3.49), softball (3.48) and women's soccer (3.42). Thirteen of UK's 22 teams averaged a 3.0 or better, according to the release.
UK also noted the football team's grade-point average improved from 2.35 in the fall to 2.66 in the spring.
"Football has a tendency to be able to move the needle because there are such huge numbers in the sport," Barnhart said in the news release. "When you've got 85 guys in a sport, and for those 85 guys to get a 2.66, that is significant. It can move the needle the other way if you don't have a great semester."