The Academic BCS

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 22 2011 12:47 PM

Infographic: The Academic BCS

College football players don't get paid, in part on the theory that they're really mere students participating in a little recreational athletics and not at all the main labor force for a multi-million dollar industry. But how do the universities participating in the bowl games this holiday season actually stack up in terms of educating football players? Our partners at the New America Foundation devised this interactive infographic that helps you see how all the top 25 BCS teams stack up academically. Player often graduate at far lower rates than regular students at their schools, and black players' graduation rates lag behind those of their white teammates. TCU, for example, climbs to third in the Academic BCS rankings, while Alambama and LSU drop to fifth and 13th, respectively. (No. 1 in the Academic BCS? Penn State.)

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This map shows how all the top 25 BCS teams stack up academically. Player often graduate at far lower rates than regular students at their schools, and black players' graduation rates lag behind those of their white teammates. TCU, for example, climbs to third in the Academic BCS rankings, while Alambama and LSU drop to fifth and 13th, respectively. (No. 1 in the Academic BCS? Penn State.)

What These Scores Mean

Academic BCS Ranking: A school's place among the Bowl Championship Series top 25, based on the overall Academic BCS score calculated by New America's Higher Ed Watch. Football BCS Ranking: A school's final 2011-12 Bowl Championship Series ranking, as announced on Dec. 4 by the BCS. According to the BCS, these rankings are based on "three components, each weighted equally: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings (Jeff Anderson & Chris Hester, Richard Billingsley, Wes Colley, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe)."

Graduation Rate Disparity: This score shows the difference in graduation rates between a school's football players and its general student body -- think of it as the "Football Graduation Gap." A negative score means that football players graduate at a higher rate than their non-football-playing peers.

Football Black-White Graduation Disparity: This score shows the difference in black and white football players's graduation rates. (Schoools' overall black-white graduation disparites are not included here, but do factor into the Academic BCS scores, and can be found in the full data set.)

NCAA Academic Progress Rate: The NCAA has its own, complex measure of classroom performance among student-atheletes; the most recent average score for all Division I-A football programs was 941. With the APR, teams get points for eligibility (having players who have good enough grades to play sports) and for retention (having players who don't drop out of college). It is factored into Higher Ed Watch's scoring, but is given less weight than the graduation-rate comparisons.

Academic BCS Score This score, calculated by New America's Higher Ed Watch, incorporates a football team's graduation rate relative to the school overall; the difference between black and white graduation rates on the team; the difference between black and white graduation rates at the school overall; and the difference between the graduation rates of black players on the football team and the school's overall black student population. Click here for the full methodology.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.