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National Student-Athlete Day Serves as Time to Reflect on Accomplishments
All-America linebacker candidate Kevin Burnett has completed his degree and is enrolled in graduate school.

All-America linebacker candidate Kevin Burnett has completed his degree and is enrolled in graduate school.

April 6, 2004


Tennessee's Thornton Athletics Student Life Centeris provides UT student-athletes superior academic support programs.

Hundreds of events around the nation will mark April 6, 2004, as the 17th annual National Student-Athlete Day. At the University of Tennessee, it serves as a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the student-athletes.

Two years ago, the University of Tennessee opened the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center to provide student-athletes with superior academic support programs. During that time, Tennessee’s student-athletes have achieved academic successes such as:

  • In 2003, 89 student-athletes graduated with degrees in 28 different majors.
  • For the fall semester of 2003, 232 student-athletes, or 48 percent, achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
  • Seventy-two student-athletes made the University’s dean’s list, achieving a 3.5 GPA or higher in fall 2003.
  • One hundred sixty-three student-athletes made the SEC 2002-2003 Academic Honor Roll.

“At the University of Tennessee, we are committed to the ‘student’ in student-athlete,” said Ruth Darling, associate provost and director of Thornton Athletics Student Life Center. “College athletes an devote enormous amount of time and energy to practice and to perfecting their athletic abilities. The Thornton Center and its staff provide the environment and the support where the same energy and drive can be applied to academic accomplishments and personal growth.”

Funding for the Thornton Center was provided by the athletic department through donations by several individuals including John Thornton. The center has provided an academic support model for the university to follow.

"The Thornton Center's wonderful facilities, superb tutors, and careful attention to the needs of student athletes is a model for other universities' programs to serve athletes,” said Dr. Loren Crabtree, chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “More than that, it has inspired planning for a similar complex, centralized center to serve all of Knoxville undergraduates. All our students will profit from such a center."

When the Thornton Center opened in March 2001, several changes were made to place a greater emphasis on academics for student-athletes. Among the changes was the move to have the Thornton Center report directly to the chancellor and vice chancellor rather than the athletic department. The Thornton Center also worked to strengthen partnerships between Thornton Center staff and other academic units on campus, encourage greater involvement in the student-athletes overall education experience by the coaching staff, and establish career development and personal development workshops and seminars to help student-athletes adjust to life after college.

“As a result of these programs, we are seeing positive changes in the overall academic performance of student athletes,” said Darling.

According to Darling, the university has seen a rise in the academic success rate of student-athletes, with 97.8 percent of student-athletes who started at the university in 1997 receiving a degree or leaving the university in good standing. This includes a 100 percent academic success rate for female student-athletes and a 97.1 percent success rate for male student-athletes.

“I am very proud of the accomplishments our student-athletes have made. The addition of the Thornton Center in 2001 has proven to be a great asset for all our student-athletes,” said Mike Hamilton, men’s athletic director. “The roles of the academic counselor, Thornton Center and the coaches are critical to the academic success of our students.”

Along with their accomplishments in the classroom, Tennessee’s student-athletes have been very active in the community. Since the school year began in August 2003, 323 student-athletes have participated in community service activities, serving 69 organizations in east Tennessee. In honor of Student-Athlete Day, the athletic department will host April Play Day on Wednesday, April 14 with nearly 400 boys and girls from eight different Boys and Girls Clubs. The main goal of April Play Day is to instill in children the desire to work hard toward a college education.

National Student-Athlete Day honors student-athletes and the network of parents, coaches, teachers and school systems that make it possible for young people to strike a balance between academic and athletic achievement. The day, established by the National Consortium for Academics & Sports and Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, is co-sponsored by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

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