I would expect most to concede that the Ivy League, with no weak sisters academically, is the top academic conference in NCAA Div. I athletics. I am curious to know what others think would be the best academic conferences of the other six big athletic conferences in Div. I; I can make a case for the ACC, the PAC-12, the Big 10/12, and maybe the Big East, but less of one for the SEC and the Big 12/10... here are my rankings of the schools in each of these six conferences, grouped into Top, Middling, and Not Top schools:
Top- Duke, BC, UNC, Virginia
Middling- Wake, Georgia Tech, Miami
Not Top- Florida State, Clemson, Syracuse, Pitt, Virginia Tech, NC State, Maryland
Top- Northwestern, Michigan
Middling- Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota,
Not Top- Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue
Top- Stanford, California, UCLA, USC
Middling- Washington, Colorado
Not Top- Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah
Top- Georgetown, Notre Dame, Navy
Middling- Villanova, Marquette
Not Top- Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, Boise State, Central Florida, South Florida, Seton Hall, Providence, St. Johns, DePaul, Houston, Southern Methodist, Connecticut, San Diego State
Middling- Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri
Not Top- South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky
Middling- Texas, Iowa State
Not Top- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Given my rankings, I think it comes down to the ACC vs. the PAC-12, with each having half their schools in the Top and Middle groups, and each having 4 really selective Top schools (although one could argue that the Big 10/12 has more strength in depth, with two-thirds of its schools in the Top and Middle groups, but only maybe 2 really Top-ranked schools)... I guess I would go with the Pac-12 being number one, based on Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and USC being a somewhat stronger top group than Duke, BC, UV, and UNC.
Obviously, there will be disagreements with my groupings, but differing opinions are welcome. I realize that I have not addressed other strong academic conferences (such as the Patriot) which have Div. I sports in certain areas, but are not Div. I across the board; I've also left out a many other less prominent conferences, like Conference USA.
Last edited by Mudge; 04-15-2012 at 02:12 AM.
I'll be the first to bite.
I've always believed (forever) that the ACC was the best all around conference, with great academics ACROSS the board, a commitment to student athletes at every school, and a blood is thicker than water mentality within our conference. The Big 10/1/2 comes a close second to that. For those reasons, those are the two top conferences I see. When I found out about the Association of American Universities - and how many of those schools were in the ACC and Big 10, it served as more of an anchor to that belief.
At first glance, I think you've injected a little too much "academic ratings of the athletes" vs. the actual schools themselves. Also, you've completely discounted the value of land grant institutions and their programs (Ag, Tech, Engineering). In many cases, maybe the second is just in line with the first, as many of these schools have attempted to "buy" respect from the "REAL" universities by whupping our butts in sports the wrong way.
But the academic progress of the athletes, while a factor, isn't what I think you're going for.
In our league, for example, you list Georgia Tech as middling, with Clemson, State, VTech, and UM as NOT TOP.
Well, if our NOT TOP schools include Clemson, VPI, NCSU, and Maryland, then we are BY FAR the top conference.
Let's start with State. Are you for real? The nation's top Vet School, #1 Textiles Engineering School, #2 Statistics Department, and an overall Top 20 Engineering school make you a "NOT TOP" school?
Your not top list also includes 2 more of the country's top engineering schools (not MIT or Cal Tech, but who is?). And while academically, the overall University of Maryland system is setup for everybody to attend, UM-College Park has some premium programs in place. To be honest, UM should be given extra props for setting up the University of Maryland - Munich, which is essentially the only way many of our armed service children will attend college - even those that would have otherwise attended Duke, Notre Dame, Michigan, etc.
Now, I can't bump up our own conference without pointing out some of the schools in other conferences: Wisconsin and Illinois for starters. Speaking of engineering (did I mention that before?), the UI EE program is just freaky awesome. Anddd Purdue & Michigan State are regular contributors to our nations biggest computer and software companies - companies that NEVER hire second tier talent. So, by the same philosophy as bumping up the ACC, the Big Televenelve looks good, too.
Don't see anything inherently off with your Pac 10 assessments, though I could be suffering from east coast bias there.
The Big East is interesting to look at when you lay it out: a whole bevy of commuter colleges and catholic schools, I don't think I see much there. At the same time, though, these schools achieve high marks for what and where they are: for example, while most Memphis students don't graduate, the ones that do tend to be bright and go on to do great things. And the law school is a treasure. Similarly, if I were a math nut, the Math Department, especially Stats, at UcConn is a great choice (behind Iowa State (#1), NC State (#2), and UNC (#3) of course).
I'm not sure I can really fault anything you write about the SEC schools, though I believe you have sold the University of Kentucky and Ol' Miss extremely short. To a lesser extent, Alabama and LSU, too.
Again, if you're rating the athletic departments' academics, then I see nothing wrong with your list, but if you're truly trying to analyze the academics of schools then you have to consider more than just their US News rankings and SAT scores.
For example, I have no problem with UNC being listed as a top flight school in the ACC, but with a 60% graduation rate, one could argue that ultimately, it's the same as other state universities in the south (Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky).
And while we certainly love to make fun of our land grant brethren across the country, to say that those schools are inferior academically is to completely ignore the value of technical programs. Heck, my EE degree from Duke ranks lower than almost all of the "NOT TOP" schools you list.
In terms of state schools, the most highly rated have been the Big Ten (virtually all of the traditional members, specifically Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, and Purdue), Cal, UCLA, Washington, Texas, Georgia Tech (you said middling?), UNC, and UVa. Uh,... my list has nine Big Ten state schools versus only seven from elsewhere. You may wish to quibble, but the Big Ten is very strong academically. (If I had to add one to the list of state schools, it might be Rutgers.)
WRT private schools, let's agree that Vandy, Duke, Northwestern and Stanford are excellent. But what about the next tier: Wake, Southern California, SMU, Syracuse? And, BTW, what is Pitt? It used to be a private school but now has a state affiliation. Also, how would you really rate the religiously oriented schools like Notre Dame, BYU, Georgetown, BC, which are very selective but have some interesting slants on philosophy and other matters? And you put Navy in the top tier? It does a great job of training naval officers, but its academics are doubtful.
Anyway, I think the ACC is far from the top conference academically, a ranking I would give to the Big Ten. Second is probably the PAC 12. The elite group of American research universities is the Association of American Universities. The ACC has only five AAU members among its 12 schools (six of 14 when Pitt joins). The Big Ten has 11 AAU members (all but Nebraska). The PAC 12 has eight members. I really dunno who is in the Big 12 anymore, but Texas, A&M, Iowa State, Kansas and Mizzou are AAU members. The SEC has Florida and Vandy but gets to add A&M and Mizzou.