All UK sports teams surpass NCAA standard for academic progress

Better academic scores. Fewer teams being penalized for poor academic performance. The NCAA trumpeted that trend when it released the latest figures on its Academic Progress Rate on Tuesday.

Now, even higher standards might be the challenge for NCAA Division I athletes.

University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, the chairman of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance, spoke of a higher standard APR for teams to meet in the future and more stringent academic standards for athletes to achieve to gain eligibility as freshmen.

"We want to keep getting better," Harrison said on a teleconference. "We don't want to settle at any rate."

The University of Kentucky noted how well its teams did in the new APR scores. All 22 UK teams surpassed the NCAA cutoff score of 925, and 16 surpassed the national average for public universities in their sports, UK announced.

The women's tennis team led the way with 992 points out of a possible 1,000, followed by women's cross country (988), softball (987), and men's golf and women's swimming (both 984), UK noted in a news release.

The latest APR scores covered the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. The APR measures academic eligibility and athletes' enrollment.

"I continue to be pleased with the consistency of our scores," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in the release. "Our student-athletes should be commended for their performances. Our coaches and support personnel are doing a good job adjusting to the requirements of the APR, and we will continue to work toward more success."

Because of the scores, no UK teams will be subject to penalties, such as scholarship reductions or post-season bans. None of UK's 22 teams has incurred a penalty during the seven-year history of the APR.

UK's men's basketball team improved by 20 points compared with last year's score. The new score of 974 will make Coach John Calipari $50,000 richer thanks to a contractual bonus that kicks in when his team posts an APR score over 950.

The national average score for Division I men's basketball teams is 945.

Among Southeastern Conference schools, UK tied Vanderbilt for the best score in men's basketball. UK and Vandy were one point better than Alabama.

In football, UK's score ranked eighth among SEC teams.

This year, 103 teams at 67 schools have been sanctioned for poor academic performance, the NCAA said. Last year, 137 teams at 80 schools were penalized and, two years ago, 177 teams at 107 schools received penalties.

The latest four-year Division I APR is 970, three points higher than last year, the NCAA said. The average four-year rate also rose in the high-profile sports of men's basketball, football and baseball.

Harrison suggested raising the minimum APR standard for teams to meet from 925 to 940. While men's basketball and football keep improving overall, these sports continue to post the lowest multi-year APRs of all sports.

As for initial eligibility, Harrison said his committee favored increasing the minimum standard for grade-point average in high school core classes from 2.0 to 2.2 or 2.3.

UConn dips

NCAA President Mark Emmert lamented Connecticut's decrease in academic performance in a school year that saw the Huskies win the national championship.

In response to a caller on a teleconference who noted that UConn's APR dropped from 930 to 893 in the last two years, Emmert said, "Obviously, it's disappointing to see that drop."

UConn will have a new president this summer, and Emmert said the NCAA routinely meets with new university chiefs. "To help them understand the relationship with the NCAA," he said.

The Associated Press reported last week that UConn will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season because of the APR report.