College Realignment: Analyzing the US News and World Report College Rankings

Schmolik@@Schmolik64Correspondent IISeptember 19, 2011

COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers drops back to pass against the Maryland Terrapins during the second half at Byrd Stadium on September 17, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. West Virginia defeated Maryland 37-31.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hello, college sports fans!

Throughout message boards and some Bleacher Report articles, I keep hearing many the same questions/comments repeatedly.

"The Pac-12 should take Boise State. Why doesn't the Pac-12 take Boise State?"

"The ACC should take West Virginia. Why doesn't the ACC take West Virginia?"

If you are not familiar with college realignment, the answer to the questions boils down to one thing: academics. Of course, athletics and money are predominant factors. Academics are not insignificant. There is money in academics as well.

Not every athletic conference is big on academics, I would say three of the major college football conferences care very deeply about academics. Those would be the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12.

In analyzing these conferences, I examine the latest US News & World Report college rankings.

The top schools on the list are not surprisingly Ivy League schools and other noteworthy academic schools like Northwestern, MIT and Stanford. I personally believe the rankings are biased towards private schools as the highest ranked public university is California Berkeley at 21.

You can use the rankings to compare various conferences and their academic standing, at least based on these rankings.

Among the Big Ten, the top school is Northwestern (12). Next up is Michigan (28), Wisconsin (42), and my two Big Ten alma maters Illinois and Penn State tied for 45. The lowest ranked Big Ten school is Nebraska, which tied for 101 place. All other Big Ten schools were in the top 100. The next lowest other than Nebraska is Indiana at 75.

Over to the ACC, the highest is Duke (10). Virginia and Wake Forest tied for 25, North Carolina is 29, Boston College is 31, Georgia Tech is 36 and Miami is 38. Of the 14 schools (counting Pitt and Syracuse), the lowest are Florida State and NC State, both tied at 101 place. The two newest members to the ACC are Pitt is No. 58 and Syracuse No. 62.

All but one of the Big Ten schools are in the top 100 ranked schools. All but two of the ACC schools are in the top 100. The three schools that missed the top 100 just missed (tied for 101).

The Pac-12 is led by Stanford (5), Berkeley (21), USC (23), UCLA (25) and Washington (42). The Pac-12 has six schools in the top 100. The lowest is Oregon State at 138. The two newest schools are Colorado (94) and Utah (124).

There is a reason why some schools are considered by these conferences and others aren't.


Among Big East and Big 12 schools, the higher ranked ones include Texas (45), Texas A&M (58), Connecticut (58), Rutgers (62), Baylor (75), Missouri (90), TCU (97) and Iowa State (97). Notre Dame is No. 19.

Schools outside of the top 100: Kansas (101), Oklahoma (101), Oklahoma State (132), Kansas State (143), Cincinnati (143), Texas Tech (160), Louisville (164), West Virginia (164), South Florida (181). By the way, Boise State is considered a "regional" university (I have no idea why it's not considered a national one). It ranks 67 among western regional universities. Remember, this doesn't include the Berkeleys or Stanfords, this is 67 among western regional universities.

I would consider Kansas and Oklahoma as top 100 schools. I think the "top 100" schools are more likely to be considered than schools below for the three conferences above. If you are wondering why Cincinnati isn't considered for the Big Ten or West Virginia for the ACC, my best guess is they don't fit the academic mustard.

The Pac-12 is supposed to be very selective when it comes to academics. I imagine Berkeley and Stanford at the very least want to maintain the level of academics. If I were them, I would tell Texas and Oklahoma to leave their neighbors Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home. Forget academics, why would the Pac-12 need two schools from these states when one is enough?

As for the West Virginia's and Louisville's of the world, the conference for you: the SEC. The only SEC school in the top 50 is Vanderbilt (17). The second highest school is Florida (58). Only five schools in the SEC made the top 100. West Virginia would be lowest ranked school if they joined the SEC but they wouldn't be too far behind Mississippi State (157). This is why it would seem to be more likely West Virginia would go to the SEC than the Big Ten or ACC.


Another criterion for "top" universities is the AAU. Only one Big Ten member (Nebraska) is not an AAU member (and they were until recently). Eight of the Pac-12 members are AAU members. Six ACC schools are. Only two SEC members are in the AAU (Florida and Vanderbilt). Of the Big East/Big 12: Texas, Texas A&M Rutgers, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa State are.

It may not seem like it, but the first word in college football or college basketball is still college. In some conferences, that is still important.