Northwestern, Northern Illinois top 'Academic BCS' rankings
The Northwestern Wildcats earned the #1 ranking in the New America Foundation's 'Academic BCS,' based on the school's player graduation rates and other academic factors.
December 13th, 2012
05:02 AM ET

Northwestern, Northern Illinois top 'Academic BCS' rankings

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - Imagine a college championship bowl game where the teams are Northwestern and Northern Illinois.

The Wildcats and Huskies are not exactly the first teams that come to mind when you think of football powerhouses, but according to the New America Foundation, they are academic giants among the teams in this year’s Bowl Championship Series.

In its sixth annual Academic BCS, the foundation rated Northwestern No. 1 and Northern Illinois No. 2 among the 25 college teams in this season's final BCS standings.

How did they determine the rankings?  The Education Policy team at the New America Foundation considers several factors. It calculates the difference between an entire football team’s graduation rate versus that of the other male students at the school; the graduation gap between black and white players on the team versus the same gap among the total male enrollment at the school; and the gap between the graduation rate of black football players versus all black males at the college.

The Education Policy team also factors in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, which according to the NCAA’s website is “a term-by-term measure of eligibility and retention for Division I student-athletes that was developed as an early indicator of eventual graduation rates.”

According to the Education Policy team’s formula, Northwestern was ranked No. 1 because it has a 90% graduation rate among its football players, with no graduation gap between its white and black players.

As for Northern Illinois, the study points out that the school only graduates 51% of its total student body, yet 66% of its football players graduate, putting it in the number 2 spot for the Academic BCS rankings.

Rounding out the top 5: Boise State, followed by Stanford and then Notre Dame.

Some question the methodology of an academic ranking system that puts Northern Illinois and Boise State ahead of Stanford and Notre Dame, but the inclusion of the graduation gap comparisons makes the final rankings about more than graduation rates. Alex Holt, an education researcher at the New America Foundation, told CNN that, "Our study is the only one out there that can contextualize these numbers.

“We’re not trying to say which schools graduate players at the highest rate,” Holt said. “We’re asking ‘Are you graduating players at at least as high a rate as other students?’”

Holt says that the study was initiated by the foundation because many interests benefit from the big money generated by college football. The question is, do students benefit from it?

"In our mind, the primary purpose of higher education institutions is to educate and graduate students," he told CNN.

The Academic Bowl Championship Series rankings were developed by the New American Foundation for Higher Ed Watch.

You can see the entire list and read more about the methodology here.

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Filed under: College • College football • Extracurricular • Graduation • Practice
soundoff (4 Responses)

    Thanks , I've recently been looking for information approximately this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have came upon so far. But, what about the conclusion? Are you certain about the source?|What i don't understood is in reality how you're not actually a lot more neatly-favored than you might be now. You're so intelligent.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  2. syb mayo

    A more important question should be what are they getting their degrees in? Graduation rates compared to other students is a good idea, but it's not a great idea. As long as student athletes continue to enroll in programs that have a low demand on the job market, they will remain more and more in lower classes of society as a majority of them do not turn professional.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • that1guynick

      You apparently know nothing about Northwestern University and it's tough academic rigors. Even a communications degree is worthwhile from that school.

      December 14, 2012 at 9:44 am |
      • syb mayo

        Are you denying that most athletes do not study degrees that would guarantee them good paying jobs if their athletic careers don't work out as planned? How many are in sciences? A field that has a ton of good paying jobs across this country?

        Northwestern might be a good school, but the point is not rigor, its whether you're studying something that is relevant for the current job market.

        In all fairness its hard to put as many hours as these guys do to sports, and still be able to sit through a Calculus 3 class.

        December 14, 2012 at 10:22 am |