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Ohio State football earns academic honor

– The NCAA gave the football programs at Miami and Ohio State a big morale booster.

Both teams outperformed many of their rivals in the classroom and joined 11 other Football Bowl Subdivision teams on this year’s list of academic overachievers.

The timing is impeccable for two of college football’s most prominent programs, both of which are trying to repair damaged reputations after facing embarrassing NCAA investigations over the past 18 months.

Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State’s coach in May 2011 after admitting he knew players had likely accepted improper benefits. Some Ohio State players also were suspended, and the Buckeyes have been banned from the postseason this fall.

The investigation into a series of tawdry allegations made last summer by former Miami booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro is ongoing. Shapiro claimed he provided improper benefits to 72 Miami football players and recruits from 2002 to 2010.

The NCAA, which plans to vote in August on punishing the most egregious rule-breakers more harshly, on Thursday rewarded Miami and Ohio State for their success in the classroom.

“It is with great appreciation that we accept this honor from the NCAA,” said David Wyman, Miami associate athletic director for academic services. “We applaud not only our illustrious student-athletes, but the faculty, academic advisers and coaching staff for fostering an environment that cultivates personal, academic and athletic excellence.”

The Academic Progress Rate measures classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team. The cutline, recently raised to 930 and being phased in, is better known because of the sanctions that can come from failing to reach it.

But the NCAA also annually recognizes teams with perfect scores of 1,000 and those that finish among the top 10 percent in their sport’s APR. This year’s data cover the four-year period from 2007-08 through 2010-11.

This year, 954 teams made the list – an increase of 55 over last year, up 123 from two years ago and an increase of nearly 200 teams from three years ago. The lowest score to make the list was 978.

“These teams prove that it is possible to not only balance academic and athletic commitment, as most student-athletes do, but to exceed standards and post outstanding academic scores,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “The drive and determination shown in the classroom and on the field by these men and women represent what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete.”

Only five other football teams that competed in BCS conferences last fall made the list – Northwestern (Big Ten), Duke and Clemson (ACC), Rutgers (Big East) and Vanderbilt (SEC).

Thirteen teams from last season’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, including national runner-up Kansas, perennial powerhouse Duke and tourney darling Lehigh, made the list. So did Butler and Memphis, two other recent national runner-ups. Forty-one women’s basketball teams were honored, including Tennessee.

Five national champions from 2010-11 were recognized: Notre Dame’s women’s soccer team, UCLA’s women’s golf team, Brown’s women’s rowing team, Arizona State’s softball team and Ohio State’s men’s volleyball team.

The NCAA plans to release all APR scores Wednesday.