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Big Ten Countdown: 87 Academic All-Americans

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Yesterday was all about "Who's House?".  Today, on day 87, we are going to take a look at the academic side of things.  After all, Big Ten expansion was all about academics right?

When it was made official that Nebraska had joined the Big Ten, there were those that believed this was a bad move for the conference because of Nebraska's academic standings.  The University of Nebraska is ranked #104 in US News' college rankings (You can also view some other ranking agency's such as Princeton Review and College Prowler's rankings).  This would be dead last in the Big Ten.

Big Ten College Raitings:

Northwestern (12)

Michigan (29)

Wisconsin (45)

Penn State (47)

Illinois (47)

Ohio State (56)

Purdue (56)

Minnesota (64)

Iowa (72)

Indiana (75)

Michigan State (79)

Nebraska (104)

In the Big XII, this shaped up as:

Texas (45)

Texas A&M (63)

Baylor (79)

Colorado (86)

Iowa State (94)

Missouri (94)

Kansas (104)

Nebraska (104)

Oklahoma (111)

Kansas State (132)

Oklahoma State (132)

Texas Tech (159)

So what gives?  Nebraska's academic standing doesn't appear to be all that great.  Some would argue, though, that subjective ranking systems need to be taken with a grain of salt.  They are best estimates based upon statistical data.  Nebraska should fit into the Big Ten academically.  Nebraska has been making strides over the past two decades towards improving their academic standings and research capabilities and was even putting the pieces together for a new research park at the old state fair grounds before the Big Ten opportunity came calling.

I think another huge selling point for UNL towards Big Ten membership, though, was the academic all american tradition at Nebraska.  We graduate student athletes at a good rate.  We had the highest football and basketball graduation rates in the Big XII conference.  We would rank #4 in football and #2 in basketball in the Big Ten.  On top of that, we have some exceptionally gifted student athletes.  Nebraska leads the NCAA in Academic All-Americans.  And it isn't even close.

Number of Academic All-Americans through July, 2010:

Nebraska:  277

Notre Dame: 216

Penn State:  167

MIT:  165

Stanford:  144

Augustana:  134

Bucknell:  119

Texas:  119

Emory:  118

UCLA:  113

Florida:  113

The closest Big XII rival is Texas (119) and our closest Big Ten rival is Penn State (167).  Nebraska probably will never be the best school academic-wise in the Big Ten, but it will improve.  The Big Ten brings opportunities that will only help Nebraska's standing, and with UNL working on their own to make improvements (i.e.  the new research park), being in the same boat as Iowa, or Michigan State or Indiana is a very realistic long-term goal.  The Big Ten gets to tout to the rest of the land that all of the its members are AAU schools and now it also includes the university that is far and away above the rest of the pack in Academic All-Americans.  This is a valuable commodity for the conference.  Because of these things, the conference believes Nebraska will fit right into the Big Ten's goal of scholastic importance.