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Expansion-Related Exaggerations- The Farce of Big 10 Academic Superiority

Even though the rumors of the ACC’s demise have quieted down somewhat (which just goes to prove the absurdity of their existence to begin with), I want to continue with my planned series on conference realignment. So today I’m going to tackle the most often mentioned reason to join the Big 10. No, it’s not television money…it’s research money.

It’s true that the Big 10 is a great academic conference. But the benefits of its research organization, the CIC, are greatly overblown. Universities can, in fact, collaborate on research with anyone they want to. They can work together. They can raise funds together. They can do all of the things that the CIC offers without ever even stepping foot in the Midwest. And they do- ACC universities already do this with great success. For example, the University of North Carolina has become the nationally recognized leader in concussion research. They’re working on it on their own terms, with the schools that they want to. Yet, they’re not in the CIC. And Virginia Tech is pushing the boundaries of renewable energy. Their solar house has become a nationally recognized award winner, but they’re not members of the CIC either.  It’s not the organization that innovates. And it’s not the amount of money that it has that changes the world. It’s the people, and ACC universities are home to some of the top research talent available.

But you might say that money DOES matter and that the CIC will provide this to prospective members like UVA and GT. Okay, so how do ACC schools stack up when comparing research dollars? A quick glance at The Center for Measuring University Performance’s “Top American Research Rankings” list, shows ACC schools like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State and Pittsburgh alongside Michigan and Wisconsin. That’s the Big Ten alongside the ACC- there’s virtually no difference. ACC schools benefit from their association with each other just like the Big Ten schools do. Research dollar rankings prove this.

And that’s without even touching academic rankings. The ACC far exceeds the Big Ten as a whole in the often mentioned US News and World Report findings. The ACC boasts 11 universities in the Top 60 (including Maryland), while the Big Ten only has 6. Even with Maryland gone, the ACC will have a remarkable 66.6% of its members in this top group, compared to the Big Ten’s 50%. Again, facts not bias.

Many Big Ten fans point to membership in the Association of American Universities. Since an impressive 11 of 12 Big Ten schools hold a spot in this organization, it’s no wonder that they cite this as evidence of their superiority. Who wouldn’t? Yet, while it’s true that the AAU boasts a truly elite group of universities, having an exclusive membership like a collegiate fraternity does not mean that its members are more academically advanced than their peers. Highly regarded universities such as Dartmouth (#10), Notre Dame (#17), Georgetown (#21), Wake Forest (#27) and Boston College (#31) do not hold membership in the AAU, but are all, rightfully so, considered to be among the top schools in the country (US News and World Report ranking in parentheses). Membership in the AAU is not a necessary part of, or even a precursor to academic success. It looks good to have a title beside a school’s name, but what the school accomplishes is much more important. ACC schools prove this everyday.

This article is by no means an outlet to demean the Big Ten, but to start a discussion. The Big Ten is an impressive collection of schools with great academic programs and a rich history- this can’t be denied. But it’s great for them, NOT us. We appreciate our history. We celebrate our success. And we’re proud of our top-notch academic programs. The facts speak for themselves.

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7 thoughts on “Expansion-Related Exaggerations- The Farce of Big 10 Academic Superiority

  1. Nice article. Totally agree with you – ACC schools seem to do very well academically and in research, thank you very much!

  2. Jon Wren on said:

    Great article. I would have come down much harder on this B1G academic superiority propaganda – my theory is it comes from the same place as the realignment rumors (i.e. WVU inbreds). Schools want to join the ACC for academics. No school will ever leave the ACC because of academics.

  3. Very good article and thought process. One area that would have proven fruitful to expand on would be to look at the $$$ each of the CIC universities receive for research and what percentage of those dollars come from being a CIC/B1G member. In your article did you in fact compare Michigan, OSU, Northwestern against ACC schools…would UVA/UNC etc be fed significantly more research dollars than they receive now as members of the B1G.
    I also believe that the ACC is in the hotbed for research and business growth whereas the B1G is getting somewhat rusty….start-ups including pharma are flourishing in the Research Triangle and other camps in the ACC footprint; I believe not so much in the midwest.

  4. BTW, why don’t you guys ever discuss the other rankings? Don’t they reflect well on the ACC? Very curious.

    Cue the departmental rankings crowd in 3…2…1… “Clemson’s International Agri-Economics Dept was ranked #4 globally for overall quality of professor student scholarship, NC State was the leading candidate for chairing the Benjamin Franklin counsel of adult parasite research..etc. etc. etc.”

  5. Dukefan on said:

    Another thing worth mentioning is the undergraduate experience. Big Ten schools are known for the outstanding research and graduate programs. I myself went to a prestigious liberal arts college that had no graduate program and a student/teacher ratio of 8 to 1. So when they compare those big midwestern schools to the small private institutes in the ACC I wonder how factors such as class size and access to professors differs. You could fit the undergrads of five or six ACC schools into Ohio State. Unfortunately football will eventually only have room for big state schools and no one else. For that reason, I think Vanderbilt and Northwestern are better fits for the ACC.

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