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The Academics Of Expansion: A Conference Comparison

Academics equal reputation.  Academics equal research grants.  Academics equal donations.  Academics equal students… and tuition.

Academics won’t be the driving force in conference expansion but they will play a role.  And if you’ve wondered why certain schools are considered “a good fit” with a certain conference, you should be able to look at our school-by-school numbers (links below) and come to a clearer understanding.

SEC academics

ACC academics

Big East academics

Big Ten and Notre Dame academics

Big 12 academics

Pac-10 academics

Those numbers aren’t meant to be definitive, by any means.  We simply present them to give you a thumbnail view of why a school like Texas seems to be more interested in the Pac-10 and Big Ten (academic standards, research grants) than the SEC.  Why a school like North Carolina might be less likely to jump from the ACC to the SEC.  And why SEC presidents might not have as much interest in adding schools like Louisville and West Virginia.

Let’s look at the average academic numbers from each league with Notre Dame’s data tossed in, too:

Conference % Admitted Enrollment Undergrad Enrollment ACT Low ACT High Endowment per Student ($) Research Spending ($)x1000 AAU Members US News Ranking
ACC 45% 23,339 16,340 27 31 $65,596 $298,766M 5 of 12 49 (0 Tier 3s)
Big East 62% 28,987 21,093 22 28 $6,407 $223,978M 3 of 8 60 (4 Tier 3s)
Big Ten 60% 41,035 29,961 25 30 $53,808 $505,703M 11 of 11 50 (0 Tier 3s)
Big 12 71% 29,669 23,208 23 28 $23,182 $196,047M 7 of 12 83 (3 Tier 3s)
Pac-10 56% 32,035 22,824 24 29 $106,560 $444,599M 7 of 10 62 (1 Tier 3)
SEC 61% 25,822 19,228 23 28 $29,009 $227,954M 2 of 12 91 (2 Tier 3s)
Notre Dame 27% 11,733 8,371 31 34 $327,695 $78,553M No 20

How ’bout some sweeping generalities?

* SEC schools — on average — are smaller than those in every other conference aside from the ACC.  Big Ten and Pac-10 schools churn out more students every year.  By default, those schools make more money from tuition, more money from alumni donations, and they churn out more fans each year, too.

* It is no wonder schools are interested in joining the Big Ten and Pac-10.  They have higher academic standards, far more endowment dollars per student, higher US News & World Report rankings and more AAU members than the SEC, Big 12 or Big East.  In addition, the amount of research spending for those leagues (ie: research grants coming in) dwarfs the other four BCS leagues.  “Richer and smarter” serve as pretty good lures.

* If there is a league that is close to the Big Ten and Pac-10 academically, it’s the ACC.  Read that again, SEC fans.  If the SEC is forced to expand and it decides to try to raid the ACC, Mike Slive will have to convince some ACC presidents to leave a league with a good academic reputation for one with a so-so reputation.  On the positive side, research spending is the area where the ACC lags behind the Big Ten and Pac-10.  From a monetary standpoint, at least that’s one battle the SEC won’t have to fight.

* The SEC, Big 12 and Big East are similar in academic terms.  The only difference?  The prestige and reputation of AAU memberships.  The Big 12 has seven such schools on its roster.  The Big East has three members among its eight football-playing members.  But the SEC has only two schools in the AAU — Vanderbilt and Florida.  Don’t think that won’t come up if the SEC makes a run at a school currently in the AAU.

We should point out that none of the schools and leagues graded and dissected above are “bad” schools or leagues.  We’re not talking about online degrees and community colleges here.  (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)

Also — and let’s make this perfectly clear — none of this means that Texas or another AAU member won’t be joining the SEC.  Academics are just one part of the equation.  As we’ve explained in our “Expounding on Expansion” series, football and television will drive the bus, but other factors will come into play.  Consider academics among those factors.

And after sifting through all this data, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of why we’ve declared some schools to be better academic fits with the SEC than others… and how we ranked the 18 schools we examined.

UPDATE — A reader has asked for a bit more info on the Association of American Universities.  According to its website, membership in the AAU is “by invitation and is based on the high quality of programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in a number of fields, as well as general recognition that a university is outstanding by reason of the excellence of its research and education programs.”  For more information on the AAU, click here.

You can find more information about the AAU (as well as the Big Ten’s CIC and the SEC’s SECAC) by clicking here.

 


5 comments
ACCer
ACCer

"If there is a league that is close to the Big Ten and Pac-10 academically, it’s the ACC"

ha ha ha. people in the big 10 get it twisted. KEEP TELLING YOURSELVES you're smarter though.

David on Cape Cod
David on Cape Cod

"If there is a league that is close to the Big Ten and Pac-10 academically, it’s the ACC." ??? What are you saying? Your own analysis says that the ACC exceeds both the PAC-10 and the Big Ten in ACT and US News rankings. Let's give credit where credit is due.

Jason
Jason

Hey David, I think the author is trying to downplay ACC academics in order to convince some schools to make the jump the SEC. Some updated information on academics given the events of recent weeks. The below list uses 2011 data with Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC and Texas A&M in the SEC.

The average US News undergraduate rankings for the major conferences are as follows. ACC=51.8 > B1G=57.2 > PAC-12=78.7 > SEC =104.1 > Big XII=104.7 > Big East=114.43.

ACC is #1 in undergraduate academics!!!

As for AAU membership...
B1G=11 members > PAC-12=8 members > ACC = 7 members > Big XII=4 members > SEC=3 members > Big East=1 member

The ACC is #3 in graduate rankings by this measure, but possibly closing the gap on the PAC-12 with FSU preparing to apply for AAU membership in the near future.

Jason
Jason

Sorry. One slight correction. There was an error on my spreadsheet. The SEC's average ranking is now 97, not 104. This does not change SEC's ranking as the fourth best conference, but it does increase the gap on the Big XII somewhat.. The SEC is still a long distance from catching the PAC-12.

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