Study Claims That Conference Realignment Leads to Academic Benefits

Posted by EJacoby on June 11th, 2012

It’s widely assumed that conference alignment in the NCAA is all about money and prestige. Schools change conferences in order to gain more media exposure, profit from lucrative TV deals, compete against higher competition, and boost their ‘cachet’ in the college sports realm. But a new study from some graduate students at Georgia claims that colleges who change leagues often benefit scholastically in terms of an increased number of higher-quality applicants. There’s often a correlation between athletic success and admissions at an institution, but this study’s findings indicate a more specific relationship between conference changes and academics, having nothing to do with actual success on the field. A sample of their thesis is presented here, and there’s much to debate in terms of the validity of their claims. But it’s quite an interesting study that could have an impact on conference realignment, at least in terms of its public perception.

Despite struggles on the court, Boston College has improved academically in the ACC (AP Photo)

The paper, entitled “On the Move: Is Athletic Conference Realignment an Opportunity for Academic Gain?” studies 32 colleges that changed conferences between 2004 and 2011. The results show that many of them benefited academically from the switch, becoming more selective from a wider range of higher-quality applicants. ACT scores of incoming students increased by an average of .29 points at schools that changed conferences. Is this number significant enough as a real improvement or is that number just statistical noise? However, other numbers added up, such as 130 additional applicants every year across all schools yet a three percent decrease in acceptance rate, suggesting a more selective admissions process. Additionally, five percent more accepted students enrolled at these schools, showing an improved desire for kids to attend these colleges.

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Reviewing ACC Basketball Graduation Rates

Posted by KCarpenter on October 26th, 2011

To be honest, on average, the graduation rates for men’s college basketball players have  increased everywhere. To be completely honest, the graduation rates for student-athletes as a whole have improved. Still, let’s take a minute and appreciate how this trend holds up in the Atlantic Coast Conference: All in all, basketball players are graduating at better rates that they once did in the ACC, and at a rate that’s better than the national average for men’s college basketball players. So, that’s something.

But is it the whole story? No, but since the NCAA loves nothing if not thorough documentation, we can get at least get a clearer view of the story. The NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is a modified version of a rolling measure called the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR). The Federal Graduation Rate for a given year is the percentage of an incoming freshmen class that graduates at that institution within six years of entry, averaged with the three classes that preceded it. The FGR does not count any player who transferred to another university and graduated or otherwise left the university. The NCAA’s measure, GSR, tries to account for the fact that lots of athletes transfer to other universities, and, at least in a few sports, enter the professional leagues. So, in short, the GSR is in some ways, an inflated version of the Federal Graduation Rate, where an athlete can get counted as “graduated” as long as they leave the university in good academic standing. It almost makes sense, but since it’s the NCAA’s preferred metric, we’ll roll with it.  (ed. note: see our previous article this morning for Matt’s take on the value of graduation rates to the NCAA)

Now, because of the six year window that both rates use to count graduation, the numbers that were released this year deal with the players who entered a given university between 2001-02 and 2004-05.  So, while these numbers can give a good indicator in the general direction a program is heading, the data isn’t particularly timely.  Still, looking at the past and looking at how the data is trending can give a useful glimpse into the present.

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Taylor King Throws Down the Academic Gauntlet

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2010

Jeff Goodman reported today that former-Duke, current-Villanova forward Taylor King is transferring yet again, this time making his way from the cooker known as the East Coast to the balmier weather and lifestyle of Southern California.   And when we say Southern California, we mean it literally.  King will enroll at USC this fall and, after sitting out a second transfer season in 2010-11, he will be eligible to play his senior year in his home area, a little less than an hour’s drive from where he grew up in Huntington Beach.  The 6’6 forward was a key contributor at Villanova last season, averaging 7/5 per game in bench duty, but he’s shown flashes of offensive skill with eight double-figure games in points and a solid three-point stroke (career: 37%).

Right. It's the Academics.

King has had some family issues and after spending a few weeks at home this summer decided that giving up the 3,000-mile commute back to the Main Line was in his best interests.  He considered a couple of local NAIA schools, but ultimately found that sitting out the additional transfer season to play at USC was the best option.  However, it was a quote from King buried at the end of Goodman’s report that really caught our eye.  When asked about his decision-making process:

King said while he would like to continue his playing career beyond college, academics and connections at USC played a role in his decision.  “The education is off the charts at SC. No offense to Duke or Villanova, but they don’t compare.”

All snickering aside, most people reading this site may not be aware that USC is a very strong academic school despite its iconic status relating to babes and football (wonder why they’d ever have that perception?).  The latest US News & World Report ranks Southern Cal as the 26th best national university, holding a 24% acceptance rate and SAT scores that it claims are greater than crosstown rival UCLA’s (by and large considered the more academically-minded school).  But Duke?  A perennially top-10 school by any measure?  Villanova?  The top Masters University in the Northeast for more than a decade?  Questionable.

We figured that the denizens of the two dissed schools would come running to their defense, and it didn’t take long.  Villanova fans seemed to find great hilarity in the comment, while the Duke people hardly even gave his comment much consideration due to its absurdity.  Of course we realize that King is only trying to justify his decision to himself when he made that comment, but it would be fourteen kinds of awesome if USC managed to find itself in a road game at Duke or Villanova two seasons from now.  We’re fairly certain that the lesser-academically-inclined students at those places would find clever ways to make him feel welcome.  Hey, we can always hope, right?

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