2007 Athlademic Ratings – Revised

Posted by rtmsf on September 5th, 2007

Ok, so thanks to an insightful UCLA fan, we realized that our exuberant reliance on NCSA data to justify our Athlademic Rankings posted last week was giving them way too much credit for properly vetting their data.  So to make sure we get it right this time, we spent the better part of today going through the 2007-08 US News rankings and the 2006-07 Sears Cup rankings ourselves.  Here’s the revised list, in Table A

Table A.  Athlademic Ratings – Division I (revised)

NCSA Revised Rankings

New Arrivals.  In addition to UCLA and USC, we also see the inclusion of Georgia, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Tennessee, Rutgers and Auburn onto our list – all driven by strong athletic programs.  High academic schools with relatively weak athletic programs, such as Army, William & Mary and Dartmouth, fell out of the top 50 due to the addition of the above programs. 

Ivy League logo

The Ivies strike a Nice Balance in Athlademics 

Ivy League Balance.   Speaking of Dartmouth, Keggy the Keg and friends are the only Ivy League school that didn’t make our Top 50.  The other seven did, with Princeton (no surprise there) leading the way at #16 overall.  Granted, the high academics of the schools drives their inclusion here, but we shouldn’t discount that these schools rate above many larger BCS schools in terms of the success of its athletic programs.  Cornell has the 55th most successful athletic program, but there are 73 BCS schools, which means Cornell, Princeton (#63) and Harvard‘s (#64) athletic programs  are outperforming bigger state schools such as Kansas (#66), Iowa (#68), and Connecticut (#82).

Big 10 – ACC Challenge.    As in, the Big 10 and ACC challenge the rest of the BCS conferences to keep up with it when it comes to athlademics.  We rated all 73 BCS conference schools, keeping those ahead of them in place, and Table B below shows the results. 

Table B.  BCS Conference Athlademic Ratings

 Conf Ratings

Why is the Big East so bad?  There’s a pretty clear top tier of Big 10, ACC and Pac-10, a middle tier of the SEC and Big 12, and a bottom tier, where the Big East lurks like Gollum all by itself.  The Big East really gets killed on both sides of the equation – it has seven (of 16) third-tier academic schools, as rated by US News (more than the other 5 conferences combined); and seven schools that finished outside of the top 100 in the Sears Cup (Mississippi St. and Kansas St. are the only other two in BCS conferences).  This includes the dubious case of Seton Hall, who was the only BCS conference school of the 73 to not score a single point in the Sears Cup competition for 2006-07.  How is that possible?? 

Seton Hall

Days Long Since Gone at The Hall

Haves and Have-Nots.  The Pac-10 is the greatest example of bifurcation within a conference.  It has five of the top twenty athlademic programs in America (Stanford, UCLA, USC, Cal, Washington), but it also only has five of the top fifty programs – its next highest ranked school is Arizona at #51.  Compare this with the Big 10, who has nine of its eleven members ranked in the top forty, with only Indiana (#53) and Iowa (#58) weighing it down.  Conversely, the Big 12 only has two of its twelve schools ranked in the top forty – Texas (#11) and Texas A&M (#23). 

Non-BCS Stars.  We already mentioned the Ivies, whose eight schools average a 29.9 rating on our list.  But who else steps up to challenge the BCS big boys as an athlademic school?  The Naval Academy (#28) and a couple of the smaller UCs (Irvine (#35) & Santa Barbara (#39)) lead the way.  One surprise inclusion is our Mormon friends at BYU, who used a strong athletic showing to come in at 39th on our list. 

You can do Better.  Not to harp on anyone in particular, but it makes no sense to us that football (read: revenue) schools like Cincinnati (#196 in the Sears Cup), South Florida (#133), Mississippi St. (#120), Kansas St. (#111) and Syracuse (#110) can’t do any better with their overall athletic programs.  Let’s throw in Villanova (#132) and Marquette (#127) for good measure – both schools are wealthy private Catholic institutions, which means they have the resources to spread around the non-revenue sports.  So what’s their excuse? 

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NCAA D1 Athlademic Ratings

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2007

We came across this table last week, but haven’t had time to properly analyze it until today.  An organization called the National Collegiate Scouting Assn. (NCSA) evaluated how schools are doing in their totality by ranking them in the classroom and on the fields of play, using the US News academic and Sears Cup athletic rankings as their evaluative criteria. 

If they’d just stopped there, we’d have no problem with their rankings.  However, they also felt a need to add a third criterion – the NCAA’s school graduation rates for student-athletes, which have been long derided as archaic, inconsistent and generally not useful as a tool for determining how well a school is serving and educating its student-athletes.  Use of these graduation rates as a performance measure ultimately results in a reductio ad absurdum situation where an elite academic and athletic instutition like Stanford is penalized because an obviously articulate and well-rounded athlete such as Tiger Woods did not formally graduate before turning pro.  


A Relevant Indicator?  Not Here

And not only that, the NCSA decided to weight graduation rates equally (each counting one-third) with the academic and athletic ratings.  We could probably live with its inclusion if its weight was substantially minimized, but not as it currently exists.  Nevertheless, here is the NCSA list.  See Table A below.

Table A.  NCSA Division I Power Ratings 

NCSA Ratings v.5

Ok, so we have no problem with many of the schools at the top – HYP, Duke, Stanford, Rice, the other usual suspects…  But look at some of the more dubious schools that piggyback a high graduation rate (and not much else) into the top 50 – UMass-Lowell??  Bentley??  Coastal Carolina??  The NCSA cannot be serious.


According to the NCSA, Bentley Does Better Than Cal & Texas as an Academic/Athletic School

Additionally, consider the schools who do not have athletes who would normally be inclined to leave school early for the pros, train for the Olympics or seek more playing time elsewhere (not even benchwarmers leave Harvard).  The NCAA penalizes schools with transfers under its current metric for determining graduation rates.  Therefore, the Ivies, W&M, Furman, Drury, etc., all fare well in Table A because of the disproportionate weight given by the NCSA to graduation rates.  The bigger state schools that have excellent academics and athletics, yet are more vulnerable to market forces and playing time considerations – Michigan, UNC, Virginia, UCLACal – are all penalized using the NCSA method. 

So let’s take a look at what the NCSA should look like, by eliminating the graduation rates and simply comparing academic success and athletic success.  See Table B below.

Table B.  Division I Ratings (US News + Sears Cup)

NCSA New Rankings

That’s more like it.  Stanford is in its rightful place at #1 (how could the #4 national university and 13-time defending Sears Cup winner not be?), and all the schools we’d expect to be near the top of such a list are there.  Look at some of the highest risers – Johns Hopkins went from 59th to 3d; Cal from 88th to 5th; Texas from 78th to 14th; Wisconsin from 45th to 10th. 

This list is instructive in the sense that it shows which schools are getting the most out of its academic and athletic programs, but the NCSA flubs it my weighing graduation rates on par with the other two much more informative criteria.  Maybe they’ll do better next year.     

Update:  a UCLA fan rightfully questioned us as to why the Bruins and crosstown rival USC were not originally included on our list.  After a few moments of thought, we realized that the NCSA list didn’t have either school in its top 100!!!  This can only mean that the LA schools’ respective graduation rates were so low that its weight carried both schools outside the NCSA top 100 D1 schools, essentially proving our point about the ridiculousness of its weighting system.  UCLA (#25 US News and #2 Sears Cup) would earn a rating of 13.5 in our system, which would place the Bruins #4 on our overall list.  USC (#27 US News and #5 Sears Cup) would earn a rating of 16.0, placing the Trojans #7 overall. 

Update #2:  After reviewing NCSA’s data, we decided a whole new post was warranted.  We revamp the entire list and also take a look at how the BCS conferences stack up in our Athlademic Ratings – Revised

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