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May 24, 2011

NCAA report: All 14 Tech teams comfortably exceed national APR mark

Recruiting the "right kids" is a key to success, according to Matt Bragga, Watson Brown

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – There was more good news Tuesday for Tennessee Tech athletics when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced its annual report on Academic Progress Rates (APR).

All 14 of Tech’s teams have comfortably exceeded the 925 benchmark for four-year averages for the period 2006-2010, and eight Golden Eagle teams achieved perfect APR scores of 1,000 for 2009-10, the most recent year in the study.

“The APR averages are a true test of whether an Athletics program is meeting its commitment to developing student-athletes,” said TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson. “For all 14 of our teams to be comfortably above the national standard of 925 is a very good reflection on the success of Tennessee Tech’s coaching staffs.” 

The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete. The APR includes eligibility and retention in the calculation and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport. The APR awards are based on a two-point system - one point for academic eligibility and one point for academic retention.

A team's APR is the total points earned by the team at a given time divided by the total points possible, multiplied by 1,000. Multi-year APR includes four years of data (this year's numbers included the academic years of 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10).

Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams that score below 925 on their four-year rate and have a student leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships through contemporaneous penalties. Teams can also face historically based penalties for poor academic performance over time.

The NCAA announced APR results Tuesday, with two different groups of results. The first part of the report is a listing of each team’s single-season APR for 2009-10. The second part is a four-year average APR score for each team between 2006-2010.

In the first set of results, eight Tech teams had perfect marks for the year 2009-10 -- men’s basketball, men’s cross country, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s tennis, softball, soccer and volleyball.

For the second group of results that listed the four-year APR average, the Golden Eagle volleyball team led the way with a near-perfect 995 effort. Close behind were women’s golf and men’s cross country, each posting 994 APR marks.

“Not only did all 14 teams exceed 925, they all did so comfortably,” Wilson said. “Three of our teams were close to perfect for their four-year average, which is a significant mark for them to achieve.”

Following close behind volleyball, women’s golf and men’s cross country, was the men’s golf team at 988, followed in order by soccer (980), women’s cross country (977), softball (972), baseball (967), women’s basketball (967), men’s tennis (964), women’s outdoor track (962), women’s indoor track (961), football (953) and men’s basketball (940).

Success stories for Bragga, Brown

Two of the most notable success stories within Tech athletics in the current APR reports are the numbers achieved by the baseball team under coach Matt Bragga, and the climb by the Golden Eagle football team under head coach Watson Brown.

“For both the baseball and football teams, the trend has been upward over the past several years,” Wilson said. “Most of our teams have been fairly consistent and have stayed above the 925 mark for a long time, but both Matt and Watson have worked hard at improving their teams and changing the ‘culture’ within their program.”

The Golden Eagle baseball team was at 874 for 2004-05, a four-year average that Bragga inherited when he was named head coach. He and his staff have worked hard with the program, not only toward winning two Ohio Valley Conference championships in 2009 and 2010, but the Golden Eagles' APR also jumped to a high of 975 for 2008-09. The baseball team’s four-year APR average through 2009-10 was 967.

“One of the keys is recruiting the right young men who understand the importanace of academics,” Bragga said. "It's also having the right people around these young men working with them. Dr. (Lance) Jasitt, Coach "B" (Larry Bragga) from our staff perspective, who do a marvelous job keEping up with these guys. And the players also do a good job keeping each other accountable. That's another important aspect of this. We have goals that we want to accomplish on the field, but academically as well.

"We put those goals out there for these guys, not only GPA goals but also the APR goal," Bragga said. "They understand the system for determining the APR, and what they need to do for Tennessee Tech to be successful."

During the past four years, the Golden Eagles have established new high marks each year for team GPA within the baseball program, Bragga said. Having the right players is one of the primary factors in notching those numbers.

"It's a big key that these guys love Tennessee Tech," he said. "They love the town, they love the college and they enjoy their baseball experience. When you have that kind of combination, it leads not only to success academically, but success in recruiting the right young men each year."

The Golden Eagle football team, meanwhile, was down at 914 for it’s four-year average through 2004-05. Showing steady improvement under Brown's watchful eye, the team hit 951 in 2007-08 and reached it’s highest mark at 962 in 2008-09. The football team’s latest APR through 2009-10 is 953.

“It’s been a twofold process,” Brown said about the football team’s level of success in both retention and academics. “Number one, it’s recruiting the right kids, and number two, it’s academics and working hard with the kids so they can be successful.

“We have to find the kids who will be happy here, who like Cookeville, and want to stay,” Brown said. “Our academics have come up because the players are buying into what we’re trying to do.”

The system that’s in place with the Athletics Department works well, Brown said.

“Coach (Will) Holthouser is the person on our staff who is the liaison with academics and he works very closely with Lance (Jasitt) and Leveda (Birdwell).” Brown said. “They’ve done a tremendous job, and they work very hard. All of our coaches do a good job working with them, and that’s really changed the culture within this program.”