The Ocho

A home away from home for the college football fan who's tired of the talking heads not knowing what they're talking about.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Academics and Football: Did Jim Delaney Have a Point?

In my last post, an interesting tidbit about the Big Ten came up: every member of the Big Ten is also a member of the Association of American Universities . Now, whether membership in this organization means that there are higher academic standards is debatable. The membership is by invitation only, and a stated focus on research doesn't necessarily mean higher academic standards. On the other hand, pretty much every school that is typically mentioned of having high academic standards in US News or any other source is on this list. Except for, you know, Notre Dame.

At any rate, without passing any judgment on what it means for football, here's the breakdown of how many schools from each conference are members of the AAU.

ACC: 4 of 12 - Maryland, Duke, UNC, and Virginia
Big 12: 7 of 12 - Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, and Texas A&M
Big East: 3 of 7 - Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse
Big Ten: 11 of 11
C-USA: 2 of 12 - Rice and Tulane
MAC: 1 of 13 - Buffalo
MWC: 0 of 9
Pac 10: 7 of 10 - Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Washington, and Oregon
SEC: 2 of 12- Florida and Vanderbilt
Sun Belt: 0 of 9 (including Western Kentucky)
WAC: 0 of 9

Now obviously, being a member of this doesn't preclude football greatness: our last 3 MNC winners are on this list (Florida, Texas, and USC). Also obviously, not being on the list doesn't mean football strength - every BCS conference has at least 2 members and the MWC, Sun Belt, and WAC all have none.

What I do find interesting, though, is if you apply this list to relative conference strength, especially on a yearly basis. For instance, the SEC is deemed the toughest conference, certainly by its fans, year in and year out, and it has the fewest members of any BCS conference. The Big East has risen to prominence of late, and has only three. On the other hand, the Pac 10 also seems to be gaining strength, and it has the second highest percentage of membership. The Big 12 also has more than half of its membership in the AAU.

So what does this mean? Probably nothing. On the other hand, though it may not apply to Florida, Delaney was right on the money when he said the Big Ten schools have different academic priorities than the SEC schools. That difference could merely be the focus and funding given to research, and not necessarily mean higher academic standards and less cutting of corners for football players. Or it might mean he has a point. That's up to you to decide.


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