Are Academics BS in BCS rankings?

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to address America’s annual December controversy, college football’s selection of the top team in the nation (a.k.a., the BCS).

As an older sibling and parent, I know that there is no such thing as perfect fairness. But the BCS could do more to create a more level playing field to reflect the academic imbalances among teams.

You have to be an MIT grad to understand the imperfect formula employed by the BCS to calculate (weekly) the most recent records, margins of victory, and strengths of schedules of each team. Then, polls of sportswriters and coaches are factored in, and the two top-ranked teams play for the national championship.

What is missing from the formula are the academic standards of each school, particularly how academically challenging it is to be accepted. This has a direct impact on recruiting, as Stanford and UCLA, who lead the Pac-10 conference in acceptance requirements, have discovered in recent years. Many of their prospects have instead enrolled at Arizona St., Oregon St., and even Cal.

On Sunday, the BCS computers calculated that the best five teams in the nation as: Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Alabama and USC.

If you compare them to U.S. News & World Report’s annual collegiate rankings based on academics, graduation and acceptance rates, only USC can make a strong case for being one of the nation’s top schools academically.

USC ranked 27. Florida and Texas are ranked a respectable 49 and 47 respectively, but Alabama trails at 83 and Oklahoma is a distant 108.

And if you listen to the athletes interviewed following games, one can often tell which schools they attend based on the number of grammatical errors, misuse of syntax and frequency of “ya-knows.”

It would be interesting to see how schools would rank if the BCS formula (or another) would incorporate a category reflecting schools’ rankings on U.S. News & World Report.

Taking it a step further, I’d like to see another category or two reflecting the admission standards of each school, along with the graduation rates of student-athletes.

And if the BCS won’t do it, the NCAA might consider a formula that adjusts the number of scholarships each school could offer each year to student-athletes based on academic standards and recent graduation rates.

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