College Football Rankings: Best BCS Conferences Based on Academics
The BCS is highly dependent on the success of its member schools in academics for marketability, economic success and just the general value of the league itself. Some conferences are far superior to others in the academic game, and need to focus on their balance between athletic influence and academic influence on their students.
Coming off an NCAA rule violations by South Carolina, the idea of academic success over handouts has become an even bigger issue than it already was. These players are student-athletes—their payment to play is in scholarships, which are intended for their success in school, as most student-athletes go on to be professionals in something other than sports.
The conferences that are most effective in governing academic success over athletics are listed here.
Honorable Mention: The Independents
The lone founding member within the BCS that remains an independent is Notre Dame.
The small Catholic college in South Bend, Indiana is among the highest ranked academic schools in the nation. It ranked 19th in 2012 and had an unheard of 90 percent four-year graduation rate.
Several football players on the Irish roster have gone onto very successful careers in something apart from sport, and besides religion, one of the aspects of Notre Dame student-athlete life is their success in the classroom.
It is clear Notre Dame knows what it is doing, and big conferences should take note.
6. Big 12
According to the US News 2012 Rankings of top universities, the Big 12 as whole has an average ranking of 100.3 out of the 250-plus schools in the rankings.
Other than Texas, no school is ranked inside the top 60. (Texas is tied for No. 45 with a four-year graduation rate of 53 percent.) The Big 12 has four schools outside the top 100. Overall, just 36.9 percent of students graduate in four years.
If the Big 12 plans on staying intact, it will need to significantly improve its academics to attract more suitors.
The most powerful football conference in the BCS, the SEC, is the second worst academic conference in the nation. The difference between level of play on the field and the level of production in the classroom is too large.
There is a reason the SEC is vying to become more successful academically, and its lack of production in the classroom is a big part of it. Over the past few years multiple schools has been accused of violating NCAA rules, including Florida, Auburn and, most recently, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The overall ranking average of the SEC is 99.1, with Vanderbilt coming in at 17th in the nation and Mississippi State at 157th overall. This is too much of a differential between member schools, and the SEC needs to slim the gap.
4. Big East
The Big East is by far the largest conference of the BCS, and it is not beneficial to the academic success of the conference.
The disparity between the academic success of the member schools is huge, with Georgetown ranking highest at 22 (Providence and Villanova are top five in regional schools) and the University of South Florida at a dismal No. 181 with a four-year grad completion rate of just 24 percent.
Overall, the average ranking of Big East schools in 94.8 with a four-year graduation rate of just 53 percent.
The Big East is at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting big-name athletes that consider the academic side of their time in school due to its large size, but with multiple schools departing with better academic schools arriving in coming years, the Big East should move up in this list very soon.
The addition of two new schools to the Pacific Conference has significantly affected the overall academic success of the conference.
The additions of Utah, ranked No. 124 a four-year graduation completion of 23 percent, and Colorado, No. 94, add to the five other schools over the top 100 in the conference.
The overall average ranking of the schools in the Pac-12 is 78.7, with a four-year grad rate of 49 percent, which isn't so bad considering the academic programs they took on the past year.
2. Big Ten
The Big Ten is the first BCS conference with just one team over the top 100 in the US News rankings. Northwestern tops the list at No. 12 overall and has an unprecedented 86 percent four-year graduation rate, while Nebraska rounds out the bottom at No. 101 and just a 29 percent rating.
The Big Ten, however, does create a lot more revenue by way of research grants and donations than most of the other conferences in the BCS, and it greatly affects the players involved.
Other than the tattoo scandal at Ohio State last year, most of the Big Ten schools have remained fairly clean when it comes to violations, and they are improving yearly in their academic potential.
1. Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC is head and shoulders above any other BCS conference in terms of academics. It is the only conference with over half its member schools as part of the top 50 schools in the nation with seven, and the only conference with at least one top 10 school every year in the last five scholastic years.
Rounding out the top of the ACC is Duke at 10th in the nation, with Virginia and Wake Forest coming up tied for No. 25. The overall average rank in the ACC is an astounding 43.25—almost 30 more ranking higher than any other conference—and the graduation rating is also at least 10 percent higher than any other conference in the BCS.
Although the level of competition in the ACC fluctuates annually, and it is more focused on basketball, its adamant attitude towards the success in the classroom is unbelievable compared to other BCS conferences and is a big reason why many schools are avidly pursuing a membership within the conference.