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pjm.2021 Offline
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Post: #1
Conference Academics
Every once in a while, when people talk about conference realignment they discuss the “academic fit” of a university in a certain conference. Because I had some time on my hands I decided to compile an average 2020 ranking of the universities that make up a number of conferences. I used two major undergraduate college rankings, US news and WSJ/Times Higher Education. Interestingly enough, while those two rankings use different inputs and differ from each other drastically on individual schools, for the most part the conferences end up in the same order regardless of which service you use.
If the school fell into a ranking range (i.e. 601-800) I used the average of that range as the school’s ranking (in the example above the school would be ranked 700).

A few conferences had some schools not ranked in the US news national rankings. Those schools were either ranked as a regional university (offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master's programs but few doctoral programs) or a liberal arts universities (emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study). As these designations do not have anything to do with quality and there is no way to compare a US news regional/liberal arts ranking to a national ranking, I simply left those schools out of the US news average for the conference. For extra info I marked how many schools were not counted in the US news average ranking (does not impact the WSJ ranking).

There were 5 schools for who I could not find a WSJ 2020 ranking (4 of them in the Sun Belt). They were USAFA, Arkansas State University (ranked >800 in 2019), Louisiana-Monroe (ranked >800 in 2019), Troy, and UT Arlington.

Finally, for this analysis Uconn is in placed in the Big East. I also put the independents in their Olympic sports conferences: Notre Dame-ACC, BYU-WCC, UMASS-A10.

Conference-----WSJ avg------US News Avg--#of schools not in US News
Ivy League----------7-------------------7
ACC---------------104-----------------58
Big 10-------------107----------------63
Pac 12-------------122----------------82
WCC---------------151----------------80-------------2
Big East-----------188----------------96-------------3
A10----------------228---------------117------------5
SEC----------------258---------------113
CAA----------------266---------------112------------2
Big 12-------------285----------------141
AAC----------------330----------------160
MW----------------393----------------238------------2
CUSA--------------507----------------268
MAC---------------537-----------------237
Sun Belt----------631-----------------323------------3
06-18-2020 08:57 PM
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bill dazzle Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Conference Academics
(06-18-2020 08:57 PM)pjm.2021 Wrote:  Every once in a while, when people talk about conference realignment they discuss the “academic fit” of a university in a certain conference. Because I had some time on my hands I decided to compile an average 2020 ranking of the universities that make up a number of conferences. I used two major undergraduate college rankings, US news and WSJ/Times Higher Education. Interestingly enough, while those two rankings use different inputs and differ from each other drastically on individual schools, for the most part the conferences end up in the same order regardless of which service you use.
If the school fell into a ranking range (i.e. 601-800) I used the average of that range as the school’s ranking (in the example above the school would be ranked 700).

A few conferences had some schools not ranked in the US news national rankings. Those schools were either ranked as a regional university (offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master's programs but few doctoral programs) or a liberal arts universities (emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study). As these designations do not have anything to do with quality and there is no way to compare a US news regional/liberal arts ranking to a national ranking, I simply left those schools out of the US news average for the conference. For extra info I marked how many schools were not counted in the US news average ranking (does not impact the WSJ ranking).

There were 5 schools for who I could not find a WSJ 2020 ranking (4 of them in the Sun Belt). They were USAFA, Arkansas State University (ranked >800 in 2019), Louisiana-Monroe (ranked >800 in 2019), Troy, and UT Arlington.

Finally, for this analysis Uconn is in placed in the Big East. I also put the independents in their Olympic sports conferences: Notre Dame-ACC, BYU-WCC, UMASS-A10.

Conference-----WSJ avg------US News Avg--#of schools not in US News
Ivy League----------7-------------------7
ACC---------------104-----------------58
Big 10-------------107----------------63
Pac 12-------------122----------------82
WCC---------------151----------------80-------------2
Big East-----------188----------------96-------------3
A10----------------228---------------117------------5
SEC----------------258---------------113
CAA----------------266---------------112------------2
Big 12-------------285----------------141
AAC----------------330----------------160
MW----------------393----------------238------------2
CUSA--------------507----------------268
MAC---------------537-----------------237
Sun Belt----------631-----------------323------------3


thanks for posting.

I'm not surprised by the top four. After that ... who knows? But I'm also not surprised to see the Big 12 as the "academically weakest" of the P5 (to be fair, there are some fine universities in the B12).

Obviously, there are various metrics once could use to determine which league is "better" or "worse" than some other.
06-18-2020 09:11 PM
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DFW HOYA Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Conference Academics
Ranking for the eight Big East universities. The other three are regional colleges that are ranked as well in their US News division

Georgetown (24)
Villanova (46)
Connecticut (64)
Marquette (84)
Creighton (104)
DePaul (125)
Seton Hall (139)
St. John's (179)

Providence (1, North)
Butler (1, Midwest)
Xavier (5, Midwest)
06-18-2020 09:24 PM
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SkullyMaroo Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Conference Academics
I always heard after the very top those rankings don’t mean anything and it’s just a way for the ranking services to make money from the schools.
06-18-2020 09:45 PM
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BruceMcF Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Conference Academics
One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Chinese English Language major programs are sold based on what percentage of graduates go to grad school in the top 50 and top 100 ... or if the top 50 number is too discouraging, top 100 and top 200.

I don't have the time right now to go through the Shanghai List to do counts by tiers, but my impression is the top of that conference ranking above would have a very similar order ranked in that way ... the PAC-12 might be ranked higher, because the median PAC-12 school is probably ranked above the average, as geography is a bigger constraint on the PAC-12 than on the Big Ten.
06-19-2020 04:04 AM
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pjm.2021 Offline
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RE: Conference Academics
(06-18-2020 09:24 PM)DFW HOYA Wrote:  Ranking for the eight Big East universities. The other three are regional colleges that are ranked as well in their US News division

Georgetown (24)
Villanova (46)
Connecticut (64)
Marquette (84)
Creighton (104)
DePaul (125)
Seton Hall (139)
St. John's (179)

Providence (1, North)
Butler (1, Midwest)
Xavier (5, Midwest)

I also think the Big East schools are a good example of the difference between US News and WSJ rankings. You can't really compare the raw ranking between the two systems because WSJ ranks almost double the number of schools on their list, but you can see that the order of schools change. The first set of numbers are the US News ones (same as you posted) and the second set are the WSJ/THE rankings.

Georgetown (24) (29)
Villanova (46) (129)
Connecticut (64) (105)
Marquette (84) (165)
Creighton (104) (127)
DePaul (125) (221)
Seton Hall (139) (332)
St. John's (179) (253)

Providence (1, North) (229)
Butler (1, Midwest) (172)
Xavier (5, Midwest) (304)
06-19-2020 08:20 AM
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Post: #7
RE: Conference Academics
(06-18-2020 08:57 PM)pjm.2021 Wrote:  Every once in a while, when people talk about conference realignment they discuss the “academic fit” of a university in a certain conference. Because I had some time on my hands I decided to compile an average 2020 ranking of the universities that make up a number of conferences. I used two major undergraduate college rankings, US news and WSJ/Times Higher Education. Interestingly enough, while those two rankings use different inputs and differ from each other drastically on individual schools, for the most part the conferences end up in the same order regardless of which service you use.
If the school fell into a ranking range (i.e. 601-800) I used the average of that range as the school’s ranking (in the example above the school would be ranked 700).

A few conferences had some schools not ranked in the US news national rankings. Those schools were either ranked as a regional university (offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master's programs but few doctoral programs) or a liberal arts universities (emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study). As these designations do not have anything to do with quality and there is no way to compare a US news regional/liberal arts ranking to a national ranking, I simply left those schools out of the US news average for the conference. For extra info I marked how many schools were not counted in the US news average ranking (does not impact the WSJ ranking).

There were 5 schools for who I could not find a WSJ 2020 ranking (4 of them in the Sun Belt). They were USAFA, Arkansas State University (ranked >800 in 2019), Louisiana-Monroe (ranked >800 in 2019), Troy, and UT Arlington.

Finally, for this analysis Uconn is in placed in the Big East. I also put the independents in their Olympic sports conferences: Notre Dame-ACC, BYU-WCC, UMASS-A10.

Conference-----WSJ avg------US News Avg--#of schools not in US News
Ivy League----------7-------------------7
ACC---------------104-----------------58
Big 10-------------107----------------63
Pac 12-------------122----------------82
WCC---------------151----------------80-------------2
Big East-----------188----------------96-------------3
A10----------------228---------------117------------5
SEC----------------258---------------113
CAA----------------266---------------112------------2
Big 12-------------285----------------141
AAC----------------330----------------160
MW----------------393----------------238------------2
CUSA--------------507----------------268
MAC---------------537-----------------237
Sun Belt----------631-----------------323------------3

Very interesting - thank you for posting, including your rationale for your decisions. While I would probably quibble with your decision to simply withhold regional colleges from the rankings, which skews the results higher for those conferences by removing the "lowest ranking" members, your point about how they stack up similarly enough in the WSJ rankings is a compelling argument against that.

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06-19-2020 08:40 AM
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whittx Offline
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RE: Conference Academics
And America East would be high up in the mix.
06-19-2020 08:47 AM
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bullet Offline
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RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 04:04 AM)BruceMcF Wrote:  One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Chinese English Language major programs are sold based on what percentage of graduates go to grad school in the top 50 and top 100 ... or if the top 50 number is too discouraging, top 100 and top 200.

I don't have the time right now to go through the Shanghai List to do counts by tiers, but my impression is the top of that conference ranking above would have a very similar order ranked in that way ... the PAC-12 might be ranked higher, because the median PAC-12 school is probably ranked above the average, as geography is a bigger constraint on the PAC-12 than on the Big Ten.

Here's ARWU 2019:
Big 10 96
Pac 12 121
ACC 297
SEC 364
Big 12 383 (TCU not ranked)
AAC 400 (Tulsa, Navy not ranked-UConn (200-300) treated as already left)

Ivy 81 (20 excluding Dartmouth)
MWC 463 (San Jose, Fresno, Boise, Air Force not ranked)
Almost all the Big East was unranked.
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 10:20 AM by bullet.)
06-19-2020 10:09 AM
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DawgNBama Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 04:04 AM)BruceMcF Wrote:  One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Chinese English Language major programs are sold based on what percentage of graduates go to grad school in the top 50 and top 100 ... or if the top 50 number is too discouraging, top 100 and top 200.

I don't have the time right now to go through the Shanghai List to do counts by tiers, but my impression is the top of that conference ranking above would have a very similar order ranked in that way ... the PAC-12 might be ranked higher, because the median PAC-12 school is probably ranked above the average, as geography is a bigger constraint on the PAC-12 than on the Big Ten.

Actually looking at the Shanghai rankings (Shanghairanking.com), I didn't really see any Division 2 schools. For FBS and maybe some of Division 3, the Shanghai List is fine, but that's it. ECU, UCF and USM were all on the Shanghai List , surprisingly enough compared to the glut of P5 schools on there. UAB was on there also, but that's not a surprise to me.
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 10:20 AM by DawgNBama.)
06-19-2020 10:13 AM
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BruceMcF Offline
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RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 10:13 AM)DawgNBama Wrote:  Actually looking at the Shanghai rankings (Shanghairanking.com), I didn't really see any Division 2 schools. For FBS and maybe some of Division 3, the Shanghai List is fine, but that's it. ECU, UCF and USM were all on the Shanghai List , surprisingly enough compared to the glut of P5 schools on there. UAB was on there also, but that's not a surprise to me.

It's a ranking based entirely on outputs. Until a few years back they only ranked top 500 worldwide, but it's a global list and they aren't going to go past 1,000. If Division 2 schools are not in the list, that's because there's 206 US Universities in the top 1,000 worldwide on their ranking criteria.

There is no such thing as an "unbiased" ranking ... a ranking can be objective, but it ranks on the things it chooses to rank on and with the weightings it choose to apply ... and it may be noted that the Shanghai List has a pro-STEM lean.

The USNWR rankings are US focused rather than global, so it's natural that is has a wider coverage in the US. They are also easier to game.
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 10:34 AM by BruceMcF.)
06-19-2020 10:30 AM
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Post: #12
RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 04:04 AM)BruceMcF Wrote:  One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Georgetown and Dartmouth rank way down in the 301-400 group in the Shanghai list. A full 20 percent of the score comes from "Papers published in Nature and Science" which wouldn't be likely in a liberal arts environment. Georgetown also has very few Chinese nationals.

http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU-Meth...-2019.html
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 10:43 AM by DFW HOYA.)
06-19-2020 10:38 AM
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RE: Conference Academics
The #1 metric most professional academics care about is the Carnegie Foundation classification. Then, of those schools, the AAU is more prestigious. While university administrators have to care about US News, ARWU, Shanghai, WSJ, Forbes, etc., because of admissions, when we talk institutional fit, we are talking about what the faculty at-large, the Faculty Senate, the Provost, and such are likely to feel about a prospective member. Look at Carnegie, AAU, and Federal research funding first and foremost. Then you can consider issues like institutional mission/orientation; land/space/sea grant; other research group affiliations; university budget & endowment; faculty in national academies; doctoral degrees awarded; and other such things. But US News & such aren't taken real seriously by faculty in assessing the quality of other institutions.

Obviously there is more to the concept of institutional fit than just the view of academics. It also matters that a university makes sense in the eyes of the fans and conference. Is it an institution that is going to be seen as similar culturally? Is it going to attract interest from fans to play that school? Those are factors that matter as well when you assess a prospective institution holistically as a "fit" too. This is a reason why I don't think Texas will ever legitimately join the B1G or PAC-12...the fans have no connection those areas or the schools there. The cultures are very different, even if UT-Austin as an academic institution is a lot more similar to UCLA than it is to Oklahoma State.
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 11:15 AM by CitrusUCF.)
06-19-2020 11:10 AM
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Statefan Offline
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Post: #14
RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 10:09 AM)bullet Wrote:  
(06-19-2020 04:04 AM)BruceMcF Wrote:  One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Chinese English Language major programs are sold based on what percentage of graduates go to grad school in the top 50 and top 100 ... or if the top 50 number is too discouraging, top 100 and top 200.

I don't have the time right now to go through the Shanghai List to do counts by tiers, but my impression is the top of that conference ranking above would have a very similar order ranked in that way ... the PAC-12 might be ranked higher, because the median PAC-12 school is probably ranked above the average, as geography is a bigger constraint on the PAC-12 than on the Big Ten.

Here's ARWU 2019:
Big 10 96
Pac 12 121
ACC 297
SEC 364
Big 12 383 (TCU not ranked)
AAC 400 (Tulsa, Navy not ranked-UConn (200-300) treated as already left)

Ivy 81 (20 excluding Dartmouth)
MWC 463 (San Jose, Fresno, Boise, Air Force not ranked)
Almost all the Big East was unranked.

The ACC has a handful of ARWU "dogs" because they are not graduate research universities and are instead undergraduate and liberal arts focused.

As a rule US News rankings are garbage - just an extrapolation of the number of applicants for the number of spots.

NSF numbers are good for comparing research universities and most P-5 are research universities. The r and d money is how most major universities really compare each other when it comes time for a pecker measuring contest.

The ACC goes as follows for 2017 https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/profiles/site?...ce&ds=herd

8 Duke
11 UNC
16 Pitt
24 GT
46 VT
47 NC State
51 UVa
64 Miami
82 FSU
101 ND
111 Clemson
120 WF
122 Louisville
132 Syracuse
187 BC

For comparison, the lowest ranking B10 school is Nebraska at 78. However BC is not graduate research institution and about 30 years ago Syracuse dumped a lot of its research through decisions that are inexplicable and need to be explained by Syracuse grads. WF is TINY, Clemson and ND are both small in comparison to a Big 10 school. But since a University is in reality a money eating machine, these rankings go a long way to explaining how other institutions see each other.
(This post was last modified: 06-19-2020 12:04 PM by Statefan.)
06-19-2020 11:50 AM
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RE: Conference Academics
Interesting that all of the AAC, MAC, and CUSA schools are ranked in USNWR.

And because others have commented on it: USNWR is easily the most important ranking system because it's the one the media focuses on. None of the others mean basically anything. A school president can see his school drop down in WSJ and Carnegie etc. and not get fired.

If you tumble in USNWR, you get fired.

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06-19-2020 12:20 PM
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RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 12:20 PM)quo vadis Wrote:  Interesting that all of the AAC, MAC, and CUSA schools are ranked in USNWR.

And because others have commented on it: USNWR is easily the most important ranking system because it's the one the media focuses on. None of the others mean basically anything. A school president can see his school drop down in WSJ and Carnegie etc. and not get fired.

If you tumble in USNWR, you get fired.

07-coffee3

There's some truth to that, but a president who sees his institution drop in Carnegie is going to have a lot of faculty pressure. I'm sure it occurs, but I'm actually not sure I could name a university that has dropped from Very High Research to High Research...I feel like that list has expanded with schools like UTEP and Southern Miss that used to be nowhere near the top classification.
06-19-2020 12:25 PM
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RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 12:20 PM)quo vadis Wrote:  Interesting that all of the AAC, MAC, and CUSA schools are ranked in USNWR.

And because others have commented on it: USNWR is easily the most important ranking system because it's the one the media focuses on. None of the others mean basically anything. A school president can see his school drop down in WSJ and Carnegie etc. and not get fired.

If you tumble in USNWR, you get fired.

07-coffee3

Yes, I agree. The USNWR rankings are important because the consumers (prospective parents and students) deem them to be important. Many (nearly all?) administrators may hate the USNWR rankings and find them quite flawed (which is a totally valid concern), but nevertheless can't ignore them because the marketplace cares about them. I've said this before, but I think the reason why the USNWR rankings are used by consumers so much is that they generally pass the "smell test" of which schools are hardest to get into for undergrad. No one trusts a ranking where Harvard and Stanford are ranked #20 because that doesn't reflect the reality in the marketplace of college admissions (where those two schools are the toughest to gain admission to even for applicants with perfect stats, test scores and extracurricular activities). Now, whether that means that the USNWR are simply reflecting the "confirmation bias" of its readers is a fair question.

It's important to note that the USNWR undergraduate rankings are looking at undergraduate prestige, which would seem to be obvious, but we need to be clear that they are not attempting to rank graduate research prowess. I'm a Big Ten guy, but if we're going to be fair, flatly stating that Nebraska is a better academic school than Boston College and Wake Forest solely because of graduate research metrics is a bit disingenuous. When it comes to undergrad, BC and WF are significantly more difficult to get into compared to Nebraska and the difference in job opportunities based on a bachelor's degree from any of those schools will reflect that. The Big Ten schools generally emphasize graduate research prowess whereas the ACC schools are generally more undergraduate-focused. There are some schools that are great at both (e.g. Duke, Northwestern, Michigan). In any event, there are different ways of looking at academic prestige.
06-19-2020 12:58 PM
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esayem Offline
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RE: Conference Academics
Another reason the American should add Rice!
06-19-2020 01:08 PM
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Post: #19
RE: Conference Academics
(06-19-2020 11:50 AM)Statefan Wrote:  
(06-19-2020 10:09 AM)bullet Wrote:  
(06-19-2020 04:04 AM)BruceMcF Wrote:  One reason I use the Shanghai List is I know that for at least the target market of Chinese parents funding Chinese student's foreign University education, top 50 and top 100 (in the world) mean a lot and not being on the list at all is also a signal.

Chinese English Language major programs are sold based on what percentage of graduates go to grad school in the top 50 and top 100 ... or if the top 50 number is too discouraging, top 100 and top 200.

I don't have the time right now to go through the Shanghai List to do counts by tiers, but my impression is the top of that conference ranking above would have a very similar order ranked in that way ... the PAC-12 might be ranked higher, because the median PAC-12 school is probably ranked above the average, as geography is a bigger constraint on the PAC-12 than on the Big Ten.

Here's ARWU 2019:
Big 10 96
Pac 12 121
ACC 297
SEC 364
Big 12 383 (TCU not ranked)
AAC 400 (Tulsa, Navy not ranked-UConn (200-300) treated as already left)

Ivy 81 (20 excluding Dartmouth)
MWC 463 (San Jose, Fresno, Boise, Air Force not ranked)
Almost all the Big East was unranked.

The ACC has a handful of ARWU "dogs" because they are not graduate research universities and are instead undergraduate and liberal arts focused.

As a rule US News rankings are garbage - just an extrapolation of the number of applicants for the number of spots.

NSF numbers are good for comparing research universities and most P-5 are research universities. The r and d money is how most major universities really compare each other when it comes time for a pecker measuring contest.

The ACC goes as follows for 2017 https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/profiles/site?...ce&ds=herd

8 Duke
11 UNC
16 Pitt
24 GT
46 VT
47 NC State
51 UVa
64 Miami
82 FSU
101 ND
111 Clemson
120 WF
122 Louisville
132 Syracuse
187 BC

For comparison, the lowest ranking B10 school is Nebraska at 78. However BC is not graduate research institution and about 30 years ago Syracuse dumped a lot of its research through decisions that are inexplicable and need to be explained by Syracuse grads. WF is TINY, Clemson and ND are both small in comparison to a Big 10 school. But since a University is in reality a money eating machine, these rankings go a long way to explaining how other institutions see each other.

Not to mention that FSU didn't have a med school until 2000 (and does not have a university affiliated hospital) and shares its engineering school with FAMU.
06-19-2020 01:14 PM
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Post: #20
RE: Conference Academics
Defining “academics” is the challenge.

For schools focused on undergraduate education, the USNWR rankings are the most important metric. The missions of many private institutions (such as WFU, BC and ND), as well as some liberal arts public universities (such as UVA and W&M), are heavily focused on undergraduate education.

Larger universities tend to put more emphasis on research. The PAC and BIG conferences have the most research focused schools.

There are a solid number of FBS schools that excel in both education and research rankings...Stanford, Duke, NW, Vandy, Cal, UCLA, UNC and Michigan.
06-19-2020 03:01 PM
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