The University of Tennessee football team had a "tough fall" academically, which may have been related to their on-the-field performance, said NCAA faculty representative Dan Murphy in a presentation to university faculty Monday.
"My point was that generally people do better in the classroom when they're doing better in the rest of their life," Murphy said following the UT Faculty Senate meeting. "When you're suffering from disappointments, it's hard."
The football team had a 5-7 record and didn't qualify to play in a bowl game.
Murphy did not have a specific grade-point average for the football team, but Donna Thomas, director of the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, said it was below a 2.45. No sports team fell below a 2.0 grade-point average, she said.
"I understand a 2.0 is not very good, but we have about 70 student athletes total who have below a 2.0 GPA," Thomas told faculty. "They're not all football players. Some of them are women."
Men's basketball, meanwhile, had the best academic semesters in "four or five years," Thomas told faculty.
Murphy estimated the men's basketball GPA to be about a 2.8.
Murphy touted first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin as the reason for the team's improvement, including making sure players went to class even after arriving in town at 3 a.m. following the Nov. 28 game against Oakland University in Detroit.
"I think Cuonzo Martin has really made it clear to the students that you go to class, you do your best," Murphy said. "You're a student athlete. Being a student is part of what he expects from his athletes — and it shows."
Discussion of the men's basketball and football team GPAs were part of a presentation Murphy made to faculty on the academic performance of the university's student athletes. In it, he pointed out that student athletes have a collective fall GPA of 2.94 and a graduation rate that is nearly the same as the rest of the student body at 60 percent.
Still, football and basketball became the focus when one faculty member pointed out that the members of the men's golf team, which had the highest team GPA of 3.45, are not the students faculty worry about.
"You're right," Murphy said. "Football and basketball, these are the ones that stand out that give you a little bit of heartburn at the end of the semester and who's going to make it."