Thursday, May 03, 2007

Paging Jim Delany

As every SEC fan well knows by now, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany penned a letter dated February 9, 2007 in which he blamed the Big Ten’s relatively poor athletic performance on the conference’s “admission standards”. The letter included this gem -

"I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics."

Putting aside the outrageous implications and outright insipidness of placing such thoughts to writing, the gist of letter is simple.

In the SEC athletes are too good to be smart.

Deciding the academic worth of universities is mainly a subjective exercise. What are not subjective however is graduation rates.

The NCAA released its “Academic Progress Rate” data on May 2nd. Now in its 3rd year, the “APR” is used to determine which member programs are falling behind in graduation rates. Schools are scored according to a system devised by the NCAA, and schools failing to meet certain levels can be subject to penalties, including loss of athletic scholarships.

The reports on each school are broken down by sport, with certain sports (think swimming) typically having higher graduation rates than sports like football.

When looking at the APR for football graduation rates, the results of the schools of the SEC and the Big Ten make Jim Delany’s comments look even more foolish. Based on the NCAA’s scoring, the following are the schools of the SEC and Big Ten, ranked highest to lowest.


Auburn 967
Georgia 963
Florida 961
Vanderbilt 955
Kentucky 946
Alabama 942
LSU 941
Tennessee 938
Ole Miss 937
Arkansas 934
Mississippi State 921+
South Carolina 913 +

SEC Average 943.17

Big Ten

Northwestern 962
Penn State 960
Michigan 958
Iowa 957
Indiana 943
Wisconsin 935
Ohio State 928
Illinois 926
Michigan State 922+
Minnesota 919+
Purdue 915+

Bit Ten Average 938.64

While one might point out that a 943 average is only marginally better than a 939, it certainly is not worse.

As a Florida and SEC fan, I admit to not knowing much about the academics of Big Ten schools, other than perhaps the reputation of Northwestern. The APR report also gives percentile rankings of the football graduation rates. In this way, we can show comparable schools across conferences. (Listed in ranking order)

Highly Rated (80th to 90th percentile)

Penn State

High Rated (70th to 80th percentile)


Above Average (60th to 70th percentile)


High Average (50th to 60th percentile)

Ole Miss
Ohio State

Low Average (40th to 50th percentile)


Below Average (30th to 40th percentile)

Michigan State
Mississippi State

Well Below Average (20th to 30th percentile)

South Carolina

Who knew the Boilermakers and Gamecocks had something in common other than stupid mascot names?

Incidentally, 931 was the overall average for football, with an average of 922 for public schools and 955 for private.

At this point, I should take another shot at Mr. Delany, but it is too easy and obvious, and I’ll just let the stats speak for themselves.

UPDATE: This just came to mind. Annually the Draddy Trophy, known as the “Academic Heisman”, is given by the National Football Foundation and recognizes “an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.”

Past winners of the Draddy Award are –

· Chris Howard (Air Force, 1990 – Leader in Higher Education)
· John B. Culpepper (Florida, 1991 - Lawyer)
· Jim Hansen (Colorado, 1992 – MIT Professor)
· Thomas Burns (Virginia, 1993 – Ph.D. Nuclear Engineer)
· Robert Zatechka (Nebraska, 1994 - Physician)
· Bobby Hoying (Ohio State, 1995 – Real Estate Developer)
· Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996 – Nonprofit Director)
· Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997 – NFL Player)
· Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1998 – NFL Player)
· Chad Pennington (Marshall, 1999 – NFL Player)
· Kyle Vanden Bosch (Nebraska, 2000 – NFL Player) · Joaquin Gonzalez (Miami, 2001 – NFL Player)
· Brandon Roberts (Washington University-Mo., 2002 – Medical Student)
· Craig Krenzel (Ohio State, 2003 – NFL Player)
· Michael Munoz (Tennessee, 2004 – Nonprofit director and political candidate)
· Rudy Niswanger – (Louisiana State University, 2005 – Medical Student)
· Brian Leonard – (Rutgers, 2006)

17 award winners – and the conference with the most is the SEC, with 6 to the Big Ten’s 2 (both from Ohio State).


Senator Blutarsky said...

FWIW, any academic ranking that lists Auburn in the "Highly Rated" category is suspect per se.

Mergz said...

Agreed blutarsky.

However, it is not a "Highly Rated" academic standing, but a "Highly Rated" graduation rate that we are talking about here.

Maybe Auburn is too easy?

Senator Blutarsky said...

"Maybe Auburn is too easy?"

Eye of the beholder, sir.

By the way, I've been eagerly awaiting the SS Georgia rivalry post for a while now. When's it going to see the light of day?

Mergz said...

The Georgia Rivalry post - as well as the others in the series - is being delayed until we are closer to season, lest it not get the attention it deserves. So tales of jean shorts and Spurrier taunts will have to wait.

I apologize for the delay.