Most Popular Academic Majors for 2016 Power 5 Conference Football Players

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystAugust 18, 2016

Most Popular Academic Majors for 2016 Power 5 Conference Football Players

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    On fall Saturdays, it can be easy to overlook the fact the players who suit up for the biggest college football teams across the country are still students. They have to juggle academic responsibility with football, combining long hours in the classroom and the film room, the study hall and the locker room.

    An important part of any college student's life is declaring the major he or she wants to study, and college football players are no different. The majority of players in Power Five conferences, excluding underclassmen who are still new to campus, have declared majors and are working toward degrees as they go through their football careers.

    For a majority of programs in the major Power Five leagues, finding a player's major can be as easy as looking up his hometown, measurables and stats on the team's online roster. So what do the numbers say about the most popular majors in major college football?

    After months of tallying the results, here is a conference-by-conference breakdown of the most popular majors for Power Five conference football players. A few schools without major listings online had to be contacted directly, and a couple of teams didn't have information available by the time this was originally published.

    Last year, I focused on clusters of majors—business, communication, etc.—to determine the most popular courses of study for Power Five football players. This year, I am focusing primarily on the individual majors and looking for the top ones across the country. 

    The following slides contain a top-10 list for each conference and the top major for each Power Five team, along with a final tally at the end. For a more detailed breakdown of each individual school, check out this spreadsheet

ACC and Notre Dame

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Here are the 10 most popular majors at all 14 ACC schools and Notre Dame, which is a member of the conference in every sport except for football. The Fighting Irish have a scheduling agreement with the league and are usually discussed with other power programs, so they are included with the ACC here.

    No. 6, business/management (enrolled in school), is for players who don't have specific majors but are listed as part of a specific school at their university. No. 4 and No. 10 on this list are those who have the specific majors of business and management, respectively.

    1. Arts and sciences/arts and letters (enrolled in school): 120
    2. Communication: 93
    3. Exploratory/general/university Studies: 71
    4. Business: 65
    5. Sociology/social sciences: 49
    6. Business/management (enrolled in school): 39
    7. Sport management/sport administration: 38
    8. Exercise science: 34
    9. Finance: 30
    10. Management: 26

    A large number of players at several schools are listed online as "enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences" or, in the case for a few players at Notre Dame, "the School of Arts and Letters." The biggest individual major is communication, with exploratory studies and business following closely behind. 

    Virginia Tech led the way for the ACC in number of different majors with 30 different ones represented on its 2016 roster. Defending league champion Clemson was close behind with 27. Louisville and Virginia had the smallest amount of declared majors in the Power Five with seven each.

    Here are the top majors at each individual school in the ACC, including Notre Dame:

    • Boston College: Management (enrolled in school)
    • Clemson: Business
    • Duke: Evolutionary anthropology
    • Florida State: Social science
    • Georgia Tech: Business administration
    • Louisville: Communication
    • Miami: Arts and sciences (enrolled in school)
    • North Carolina: Exercise science
    • NC State: Exploratory studies
    • Notre Dame: First Year of Studies
    • Pittsburgh: Arts and sciences (enrolled in school)
    • Syracuse: Communication
    • Virginia: Arts and sciences (enrolled in school)
    • Virginia Tech: Business
    • Wake Forest: Communication

Big Ten

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    All 14 members of the Big Ten have majors information listed on their online rosters. The conference has plenty of variety among its majors, including a good number of players who have a course of study that is completely unique to them in college football.

    Here are the 10 most popular majors in the Big Ten:

    1. Communication: 79
    2. Business: 59
    3. Criminal justice/criminology: 50
    4. Literature, arts and sciences (enrolled in school): 46
    5. Kinesiology: 37
    6. Economics: 36
    7. Exploratory/general/interdisciplinary studies: 34
    8. Finance: 33
    9. Sport management/sport industry: 30
    10. Sociology/social sciences: 29

    Enrolled in the school of literature, arts and sciences gets the high spot of No. 4 because it is far and away the most popular listing for Michigan. All 46 players in the Big Ten with that major are Wolverines. The Big Ten also has a lower amount of general studies majors compared to the rest of its Power Five brethren.

    Defending conference champion Michigan State has 30 different majors on its roster, which is the most in the league. As the case was last year, Minnesota and Wisconsin are led by some majors that are not found in any other Power Five program.

    These are the top majors at each of the 14 Big Ten football programs:

    • Illinois: Communication
    • Indiana: General studies
    • Iowa: Business
    • Maryland: Criminal justice/criminology
    • Michigan: Literature, arts and sciences (enrolled in school)
    • Michigan State: Advertising and criminal justice/criminology (tie)
    • Minnesota: Business and marketing education
    • Nebraska: Business administration
    • Northwestern: Economics and learning/organizational change (tie)
    • Ohio State: Sport industry
    • Penn State: Business
    • Purdue: Communication
    • Rutgers: Criminal justice/criminology
    • Wisconsin: Community/nonprofit leadership and life science communication (tie)

Big 12

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The Big 12 had academic information online for each one of its 10 teams except for TCU, which no longer releases its players' majors. Business leads the way once again in Big 12 country, with a good chunk of players opting for sports science-related majors.

    Here are the 10 most popular majors among the nine available schools in the Big 12:

    1. Business: 64
    2. General/Liberal/Multidisciplinary studies: 45
    3. Kinesiology: 40
    4. Communication: 33
    5. Exercise science: 22
    6. Criminology: 21
    7. Sociology/social sciences: 20
    8. Arts and sciences: 18
    9. Marketing: 17
    10. Finance: 16

    A third of the schools with available information—Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas—are led by business as an individual major. It's also one of the top majors at Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma.

    Oklahoma State has the most majors listed with 29, while Baylor only had 10 different ones listed on its latest online roster. 

    Here are the most popular majors for each Big 12 school, excluding TCU:

    • Baylor: Kinesiology
    • Iowa State: Liberal studies
    • Kansas: Arts and sciences
    • Kansas State: Business
    • Oklahoma: Communication
    • Oklahoma State: Business
    • Texas: Business
    • TCU: N/A*
    • Texas Tech: Exercise science
    • West Virginia: General/Multidisciplinary studies

    *According to Mark Cohen, TCU's Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, the Horned Frogs no longer release majors.


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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    All teams in the Pac-12 are represented in the following data. Sociology and social sciences are king in the Pac-12, with that one major reaching triple digits. Sociology in the Pac-12 is the single-biggest major for any Power Five conference in this data, and it's followed behind by communication and business-related courses of study.

    Here are the 10 most popular majors among the members of the Pac-12:

    1. Sociology/social sciences: 140
    2. Communication: 76
    3. Business administration: 61
    4. Exploratory/interdisciplinary/liberal studies: 52
    5. Business: 50
    6. Economics: 34
    7. Criminal justice/criminology: 24
    8. Applied economics, business and society: 21
    9. Political science: 20
    10. Finance: 16

    Sociology is the top major at four schools—Colorado, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State—while the pre-social science major was tied for the lead at Washington. Business administration's place in the top five is thanks to its commanding lead on all others at California.

    While the majority of Arizona State's players are in exploratory, interdisciplinary or liberal studies, the Sun Devils have the highest number of different majors in the Pac-12 with 27. UCLA has one of the fewest numbers in the entire country with 10 majors represented.

    Take a look at the most popular majors for each Pac-12 school:

    • Arizona: Business
    • Arizona State: Exploratory/interdisciplinary/liberal studies
    • California: Business administration
    • Colorado: Sociology
    • Oregon: Applied economics, business and society
    • Oregon State: Sociology
    • Stanford: Science, technology and society
    • UCLA: Political science
    • USC: Communication
    • Utah: Sociology
    • Washington: Ethnic studies and pre-social science (tie)
    • Washington State: Social sciences


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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Information was available either online or through sports-information departments for 13 of the SEC's 14 schools as of publishing time. More players in college football's premier conference want to stay in sports after leaving campus than any other course of study, as sport management and related majors top the league.

    Here are the 10 most popular majors among the 13 available schools in the SEC:

    1. Sport management: 96
    2. General/interdisciplinary/university studies: 87
    3. Kinesiology: 65
    4. Sociology/social and behavioral sciences: 56
    5. Communication: 42
    6. Liberal arts (enrolled in school): 39
    7. Human science and education: 36
    8. Education: 34
    9. Criminology/criminal justice: 32
    10. Management: 31

    Big majors at both Florida and LSU crack the top-10 list for the conference as a whole. Some form of sport management is the most popular major at four different schools—Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee. Texas A&M also has a high number of players in a parks and recreation major.

    Majors among football players seem to cluster more among the SEC, as Georgia leads the league with highest number of majors at 26. Auburn no longer lists individual majors for its players, opting to release only the school the student-athlete is enrolled in at the university.

    Here are the most popular majors for each SEC school, excluding Alabama:

    • Alabama: N/A*
    • Arkansas: Recreation and sport management
    • Auburn: Liberal arts (enrolled in school) and education (enrolled in school)
    • Florida: Social and behavioral sciences
    • Georgia: Management
    • Kentucky: Undergraduate studies
    • LSU: Human science and education
    • Ole Miss: General studies
    • Mississippi State: Kinesiology
    • Missouri: Sport management
    • South Carolina: Sports and entertainment management
    • Tennessee: Recreation and sports management
    • Texas A&M: Recreation, parks and tourism sciences
    • Vanderbilt: Communication studies

    *Major information for Alabama was unavailable at time of publishing.

Power 5 as a Whole

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    After adding up all the major information from the five major conferences in college football, here is a top-10 list of the most popular listed courses of study for Power Five players:

    1. Communication: 323
    2. Sociology/social sciences: 294
    3. Business: 291
    4. General/interdisciplinary/university studies: 289
    5. Arts and sciences: 195
    6. Sports management: 186
    7. Criminal justice/criminology: 151
    8. Kinesiology: 150
    9. Finance: 125
    10. Business administration: 120

    Last year, business was the top individual major among college football players. Of the schools who released information this time around, communication takes the No. 1 spot. When you add in majors such as journalism, radio, film and public relations, it's easy to see communications majors are rising among Power Five football players.

    Sociology and social sciences are up this year when compared to 2015 as well as arts and sciences, which was at the No. 9 spot a year ago. Generic majors will continue to claim a large chunk of top college football players, but plenty are opting for defined communication, social, business and sports-related majors.

    Business and its related majors—finance, economics, administration, management, etc.—should be the top field among football players year in and year out. The business major itself is an ideal one for players who will gain career opportunities thanks to the spotlight they gained in their days on the gridiron.

    Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.


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