The University of Kentucky scored well on a day when the NCAA announced positive academic news.
In its latest Academic Progress Rate calculations, the NCAA said the overall multi-year Division I APR was 967, up three points from last year. In the high-profile sports, football's average four-year APR was 944, up five points over last year; men's basketball was at 940, up seven points; and baseball had improved eight points to 954.
UK rated better than those improved averages in all three sports. In men's basketball, UK had a 954, football 951 and baseball 979.
Of the sports sponsored by Kentucky, the men's cross country team led the way with a perfect 1,000 points. Gymnastics (995), women's soccer (983), softball (979), baseball (979) and women's outdoor track (977) made up the top six.
The latest APR numbers are a four-year composite, covering the 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. The APR measures academic eligibility and retention of athletes. The NCAA sets a score of 925 or better to avoid the possibility of such penalties as loss of scholarships or post-season ban.
Sandy Bell, the administrator who directs UK athletics' academic efforts, declined a request to share her reaction. "Sandy doesn't wish to do any interviews," spokesman DeWayne Peevy wrote in a text message.
The APR numbers for Kentucky come after a school year in which the men's basketball team struggled in the classroom. In the fall and spring semesters, the team posted two of its four poorest grade-point averages since the school began recording that number in the fall of 2001.
"I'm very pleased with our overall evaluation," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release. "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. Most of all, our student-athletes should be commended for their efforts in striving for outstanding performance in the classroom."
Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance, noted on a teleconference that football and men's basketball lagged behind other sports in APR. He said that each sport had "distinctive" problems that hurt the scores.
Harrison said incoming athletes with poor preparation for college hurt men's basketball. To help ease that problem, Harrison said his committee recommended mandatory summer school before the freshman and sophomore years for those athletes.
Academic performance in football was hurt by players taking lighter class loads in the fall semester and then much heavier class schedules in the spring, Harrison said. The committee recommended that football players be required to take at least nine hours of class credit each fall.
NCAA schools won't vote on those recommendations until January and/or April of next year.
Nationally this year, 137 teams at 80 schools were penalized for poor academic performance. Last year, 177 teams at 107 schools received penalties, and two years ago 213 teams at 123 schools were sanctioned. There are currently more than 6,400 teams in Division I, the NCAA said.
Athletes considered 0-for-2 — that is to say leaving the school while academically ineligible — account for just 2.5 percent of all Division I student-athletes and are down 27 percent since 2004-05, the NCAA said.
Colorado and Syracuse were the only schools from the so-called power conferences to face penalties in the three highest-profile sports — football or men's and women's basketball. The men's basketball teams at both schools and the Colorado football team all were sanctioned for falling short of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate of 925.
Colorado will lose one scholarship in men's basketball and up to four scholarships in football. The Buffaloes scored 920 in football and 897 in basketball. The Syracuse basketball team scored 912 and could lose up to two basketball scholarships if academically ineligible players leave school before next season.
Only four BCS teams, other than those at Colorado and Syracuse, face penalties: men's outdoor track teams at Auburn and Cincinnati, the men's indoor track team at Auburn and the women's rowing team at West Virginia.