Recruiting – part VII – Do Academics Standards Matter



Finally, the recruiting class of 2014 is in the barn for Division I schools.   Final rankings tell us a lot about how these football programs will perform in upcoming years.   Some football programs recruit football players and some programs recruit student-athletes.  Over the past several years, certain teams have shown us that they can do both.    

Academic standards vary from team to team and from conference to conference.  Many times, particularly here in the Heartland, conference teams will insinuate that the lack of academic standards in the SEC gives that conference the edge and has transformed the conference into the best in the land.   As the saying goes, those living in glass houses should not throw stones.  While the SEC will never rival the Big Ten or the ACC in academics, the SEC and Big 12 are about the same when it comes to this area.  


Cutting to the chase, it is important to note that all Division I schools have the same academic requirements for their athletes.  The NCAA uses a sliding scale for test scores and grade point averages. Basically, a player must score a 17 on the ACT test and the 2.5 grade point average (GPA) in the classroom.  While these minimum academic requirements apply to all Division I football playing schools, an individual university or conference can create higher standards for their players. 

This happens in the Big Ten and Pac 12 and among many private universities.  For example, high school players need not apply to Michigan, Stanford and/or Notre Dame without a 21 ACT.  On the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State will go to great lengths to recruit players that can sniff out a score of 17 on the ACT. 

These facts came into play during the conference realignment era as Texas and Oklahoma were considered for Big Ten.  OU was outside the standard, normally expected of a Big 10 university but the David Boren edge along with the pull from top 50 Texas, gave the suggestion promise.  Once it was revealed that OSU, with its bottom feeder academic ranking had to be part of the deal, the possibility of a move to the Big Ten was sunk.

By examining the US News and World Report  academic list and the Rival100 recruiting list for 2014 one can get a much better idea of the universities that value both football and academics.  As can be seen from this list, it appears the need to recruit players to meet certain academic standards may be hurting the Big Ten cause.  The Big Ten leads among power conferences academically, but comes in last in the recruiting wars.  The ACC and Pac 12 seem to have created a balance between academia and winning.   The SEC is next to last academically yet, first when it comes to recruiting.

The bad news for OU — even with the record number of national merit scholars and Boren’s penchant for academia, the Sooners still rank in the bottom half among power conference teams.  The good news — under Boren’s leadership, OU should continue its march up the academic chart.  Currently, the Sooners rank 42nd among the 62 power conference schools.  Further good news is the Sooners are ranked #4 academically among Big 12 universities and #1 in the conference in recruiting. 

US News and World Report

Academic ranking of Division I football-playing universities. (Average of conference schools in parenthesis) 


  1. Big Ten (27)
  2. ACC  (27)
  3. Pac 12 (38)
  4. SEC (47)
  5. Big 12 (55)





  1. SEC (17)
  2. ACC (33)              
  3. Pac 12 (37)         
  4. Big 12 (39)          
  5. Big Ten (44)


Full list: 

Academic rankings of power conference teams with overall college/university ranking in parenthesis…


  1. Stanford (5)
  2. Duke (7)
  3. Northwestern (12)
  4. Vanderbilt (17)
  5. Notre Dame (18)
  6. California (20)
  7. UCLA (23)
  1. Virginia (23)
  1. Michigan (28)
  2. North Carolina (30)
  3. Boston College (31)
  4. Georgia Tech (36)
  5. Penn State (37)
  6. Illinois (41)
  1. Wisconsin (41)
  1. Miami (47)
  2. Florida (49)
  3. Ohio State (52)
  1. Texas (52)
  1. Washington (52)
  1. Georgia (60)
  2. Maryland (62)
  1. Pittsburgh (62)
  1. Syracuse (62)
  1. Clemson (62)
  1. Purdue (68)
  2. Virginia Tech (69)
  1. Texas A&M (69)
  1. Rutgers (69)
  1. Minnesota (69)
  1. Iowa (73)
  1. Michigan State (73)
  1. Indiana (75)
  1. Baylor (75)
  1. TCU (82)
  2. Alabama (86)
  1. Colorado (86)
  1. Auburn (91)
  1. Florida State (91)
  1. Mississippi (97)
  2. Tennessee (101)
  1. Nebraska (101)
  1. North Carolina State (101)
  1. Oklahoma (101)
  1. Kansas (101)
  1. Iowa State (101)
  1. Oregon (109)
  2. South Carolina (112)
  3. Kentucky (119)
  1. Arizona (119)
  1. Utah (121)
  2. Arkansas (128)
  1. Washington State (128)
  1. LSU (135)
  1. Kansas State (135)
  1. Oklahoma State (142)
  1. Mississippi State (142)
  1. Oregon State (142)
  1. Arizona State (143)
  2. Mississippi (150)
  3. Texas Tech (161)
  4. West Virginia (170)




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