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.