On Tuesday, Higher Ed Watch released its fourth annual Academic BCS–a poll that reranks the top college football teams using academic indicators, rather than athletic accomplishments.* The list looks a bit different this year, largely because typical top academic performers Boston College and Penn State had bad seasons this year and aren’t ranked. Instead, this year’s top spot goes to Stanford.
But what’s most surprising is the number two school on the poll: Boise State. Though the Broncos are known for their football prowess, the school’s paltry 26 percent graduation rate leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, members of the football team don’t take after their peers. In fact, they complete at a rate exactly double that of the school overall–52 percent. And though the black football players do have lower graduation rates than the white members of the team, their 43 percent completion rate is still 20 percentage points higher than the figure for white males at the school overall. No other team in the top 25 outperforms their overall school by such a large percentage.
The academic accomplishments of the Boise State football team should provide instructive lessons for the school overall. The university should take a look at the various tutoring and other academic supports given to football players to see which ones could be adopted for the general student body. Clearly the school found a way to solve some of the graduation rate problems with a specific subset of students. Now it needs to take those lessons and learn from itself to do something about that abysmal 26 percent overall graduation rate.
*Disclosure: I co-authored or provided data assistance on the previous few polls.