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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee athletic department is putting up $20 million to help recruit the state’s best high school graduates.

President J. Wade Gilley and Doug Dickey, men’s athletic director, Thursday announced a 20-year pledge of $1 million annually for UT’s Trustees Scholarship program.

Announced in October, the scholarships will pay $1,000 for four years to any Tennessee high school graduate in the top 10 percent of their graduating class or who have a 3.5 grade point average and score at least 26 on the ACT entrance exam.

The first Trustees Scholars will enroll this fall at UT in Knoxville, UT-Chattanooga and UT-Martin. The additional $1 million supplement will be available only to students at the Knoxville campus.

“The university and the entire state is fortunate to have an athletics program that can make a gift of this kind,” Gilley said. “It is a compliment to the success of our student athletes, their coaches and the superb management of the program by Doug Dickey and his staff.”

Dickey said it is the loyalty of Tennessee fans that makes the gift possible.

“We enjoy great fan support for our teams. If Vol fans didn’t fill our stadium and arena, we would not be able to do this,” Dickey said.

“The quality of all programs is important to our university and helps set the tone for what we can accomplish in athletics. We have always been a team player on this campus.

“For more than 10 years, we have provided annually over $500,000 to the Robert R. Neyland Scholarship, the Bicentennial Scholars program, the Peyton Manning Scholarship and the University of Tennessee Band Scholarships.

“We have provided tickets for the UT National Alumni Association to our football and basketball games for use through priority seating fund-raising that generates more than $3 million per year for student and faculty use. Over the last two years, we have provided $1 million for the engineering building and, at different times, we have supported university libraries when needed.

“We will continue our efforts to have as high a quality, nationally-competitive athletic program as we can. At the same time, we understand our responsibility to do what we can financially to enhance the quality of the university,” Dickey said.

Students qualifying for Trustees Scholarships, named for the UT Board of Trustees, can renew them for three additional years if they maintain a 3.25 grade point average.

“Higher education has a very important role in the economic development of our state,” Johnnie Amonette, vice chair of the UT board, said.

“To fulfill this mission, we must attract our best students to our universities. When they go to college out-of-state, many never return.”

Of the 3,800 freshmen enrolled at Knoxville this fall, officials estimate approximately half would have been eligible for Trustees Scholarships.

Information about the scholarship is available at www.tennessee.edu or by contacting the financial aid office at a UT campus.