Most Popular Academic Majors for 2015 Power 5 Conference Football Players
To many fans, they're college football players. But in the eyes of the NCAA and their respective schools, they're student-athletes.
The first half of that term often gets ignored by those in the stands and watching on TV. When these players hit the football field each weekend, they aren't only coming off several days of hard practice. They are college students who have also been in the classroom and the study hall.
Like most college students, players have declared majors and specific plans of study toward the degrees they could use after they leave campus. After all, less than 2 percent of all college football players make it to the NFL, according to the NCAA.
After months of tallying the totals, here's a look at the most popular majors for Power Five conference football players. Most of the information for each individual school is available through online rosters, but a few programs had to be contacted directly through sports information directors for their players' declared majors.
Notice that many of these totals don't add up to the number of players on a team. That's because these are just the totals of players who have already declared majors or specific school enrollments—roughly one-third of Power Five players, mostly underclassmen, have not yet declared their courses of study.
The following slides contain a conference-by-conference breakdown of the most common majors and clusters of similar majors, as well as the top choice for each team. For a more detailed breakdown of each individual school, check out this spreadsheet.
ACC and Notre Dame
- Business (77) and related majors: 240
- Arts and Sciences: 116
- Communication (84) and journalism: 99
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 63
- Sociology: 55
Here are the five most popular majors and major types in the ACC, which had information available online for most of its programs. Business and related majors—finance, economics, management, marketing, etc.—lead this conference, but general arts and sciences is the biggest declared major, followed by communication.
A high number of players at Boston College, Pittsburgh and Virginia are listed as enrolled in their respective schools of Arts and Sciences, leading to that major's place on the top-five list.
Louisville and Syracuse both have communication as their biggest majors, while Virginia Tech had 36 different majors listed for its football players, which is the most in Power Five football.
Here are the most popular majors for each of the schools in the ACC:
- Boston College: Arts and Sciences (enrolled in school)
- Clemson: Parks, recreation and tourism management
- Duke: Sociology
- Florida State: Social science
- Georgia Tech: Business administration
- Louisville: Communication
- Miami: Sport administration
- North Carolina: Exercise and sport science
- NC State: N/A*
- Notre Dame: First Year of Studies
- Pittsburgh: Arts and Sciences (enrolled in school)
- Syracuse: Communication
- Virginia: Arts and sciences
- Virginia Tech: Human development
- Wake Forest: N/A**
*According to North Carolina State director of athletics digital communications Brian Reinhardt, the university's legal department requested an end to the release of student-athlete majors several years ago.
**According to Wake Forest associate athletic director Steve Shutt, "Student-athletes do not declare a major until after their sophomore year ... so this year, way more than half of Wake Forest's football players do not have a declared major."
- Business (56) and related majors: 214
- Communication (74) and journalism: 94
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 54
- Criminology and criminal justice: 51
- General studies: 50
All 14 of the Big Ten's schools have majors listed on their online rosters. Business and its related majors lead the way, but, like the ACC, communication is the single-biggest major.
Iowa was responsible for the biggest piece of the business pie in the Big Ten with 29 majors on the football roster. The Hawkeyes also had 34 different majors listed on their roster.
Minnesota and Wisconsin were led by some rather unique majors not found in any other program.
Here are the most popular majors for each of the schools in the Big Ten:
- Illinois: General studies
- Indiana: Liberal studies
- Iowa: Business
- Maryland: Criminal justice
- Michigan: General studies
- Michigan State: Advertising
- Minnesota: Business and marketing education
- Nebraska: Business administration
- Northwestern: Economics
- Ohio State: Sport industry
- Penn State: Kinesiology
- Purdue: Management
- Rutgers: Criminal justice
- Wisconsin: Life sciences communication
- Business (89) and related majors: 166
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 82
- Communication (40) and journalism: 55
- General studies: 44
- Engineering: 42
These are the most popular major types in the Big 12, which had information available online for all 10 of its programs. Business is far and away the front-runner—are you seeing a theme here?—while exercise and sports-related science majors come in second place.
Business not only leads the Big 12 as a whole, it takes at least a share of the top spot for six of the 10 programs in the conference.
The biggest individual major in the league was health, human performance and recreation studies at Baylor, as 26 of the 62 Bears with declared majors were in that course of study. Kansas State had 32 different majors represented.
Here are the most popular majors for each of the schools in the Big 12:
- Baylor: Health, human performance and recreation studies
- Iowa State: Business
- Kansas: Business
- Kansas State: Business
- Oklahoma: Business and criminology (tie)
- Oklahoma State: Business
- TCU: Arts and sciences
- Texas: Business
- Texas Tech: Human science
- West Virginia: General or multidisciplinary studies
- Business (53) and related majors: 131
- Sociology (84) and social sciences (27): 111
- Communication (60) and journalism: 88
- General/interdisciplinary/liberal studies: 42
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 33
The business cluster leads the Pac-12 as well, but the biggest major is actually sociology, with 84. That many declared majors make sociology and the related social sciences field one of the biggest non-business groups in college football.
Business types are the most prolific at Arizona and the Oregon schools, while Utah had a huge impact in making sociology a more common major in the West.
Academic powerhouse Stanford is led in major count by an expansive-sounding course of study—science, technology and society.
These are the most popular majors for each of the schools in the Pac-12:
- Arizona: Business
- Arizona State: Interdisciplinary studies
- Cal: Legal studies
- Colorado: Communication
- Oregon: Business administration
- Oregon State: Business
- Stanford: Science, technology and society
- UCLA: Political science
- USC: Communication
- Utah: Sociology
- Washington: American ethnic studies
- Washington State: Criminal justice, sport management and social sciences (three-way tie)
- Business (107) and related majors: 199
- Sport/recreation management or administration: 80
- Communication (60) and journalism: 69
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 53
- General studies: 55
Updated on August 28 to include Alabama's major information.
These are the top five majors in the SEC, which had information available from each school except for Alabama. Business is also king in the SEC—it would be the biggest cluster on its own—with sports and recreation management majors coming in second place.
Texas A&M's leading major was one completely unique to the Aggies, agricultural leadership and development.
Sport administration dominated LSU with 30 majors on the football team, making for one of the biggest majors in a given Power Five school. Auburn had 35 different types of majors listed on its roster, making the Tigers second behind Virginia Tech for the most among the power programs.
And here are those top majors for the SEC schools:
- Alabama: Business
- Arkansas: Recreation and sport management
- Auburn: Business
- Florida: African-American studies
- Georgia: Business
- Kentucky: Undergraduate studies
- LSU: Sport administration
- Mississippi State: Human science
- Missouri: Business
- Ole Miss: General studies
- South Carolina: Sports and entertainment management
- Tennessee: Recreation and sport management
- Texas A&M: Agricultural leadership and development
- Vanderbilt: Communication studies
Power 5 as a Whole
- Business (363) and related majors: 931
- Communication (308) and journalism: 395
- Kinesiology and exercise sciences: 285
- Sociology and social sciences: 247
- General/interdisciplinary/university studies: 230
- Engineering: 184
- Sport and recreation management: 181
- Criminology and criminal justice: 156
- Arts and Sciences: 141
After adding up all the majors from the Power Five conferences, nine distinct clusters stand out from the rest of the pack:
Business is by far the leader in college football, with more players picking related majors—and just "business" itself—than any other group.
While most won't go on to play professional football, business education can be useful for those who gain other career opportunities and fame thanks to their collegiate playing days.
Generic and somewhat vague majors will continue to be common in college football, but the top three groups of majors in the sport are in specified fields of study. More players are capitalizing on their scholarship opportunities to build toward business, communication and sports-related careers.
Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.