What the Super Bowl Can Tell Us About College Rankings

Today I’m sharing with you a great post from Michelle Kretzschmar, who writes a college blog that focuses on using data to create your own college rankings:  DIYCollegeRankings. I hope you read it and also visit her blog.

Football and US News Rankings

Like more than 100 million other Americans, I watched the Super Bowl. I always like the part where they run the clips of the starting players stating which college they graduated from. The announcers were talking about colleges and it got me thinking. Here you have the two best teams in a championship game based on wins and loses with rosters of players from colleges ranked on wins and loses.

BCS controversies aside, football has been ranking college teams by wins and loses long before US News & World Report’s college rankings came around. And unlike the US News college rankings, the football rankings are based on results of wins and loses. You can also see how many players make it to the pros.

The football powerhouses are well-known. And while people may not agree as to which team is the best each year, the top tier for any year is generally undisputed. So an aspiring professional football player can easily identify the colleges that will provide the best opportunities for making it to the pros.  You have a choice between Alabama State and Auburn, you go with Auburn. Hofstra and Syracuse? Syracuse.

Where Do NFL Players Go to College?

However, watching the Super Bowl players give their alma maters, I realized that not all players came from the well-established football power houses. In fact, there were players from Alabama State and Hofstra and none from Auburn or Syracuse.

If you look at the colleges for all the players on the two teams (so yes, this will include bench players) 15% of them did not come from nationally ranked schools.

What are nationally ranked schools? I defined them as institutions having appeared on at least one of the following lists:

•  Top 120 institutions based on historical  computer rankings from collegefootballpoll.com
•  Recent year’s 120 top institutions from collegefootball.com
•  Most recent BCS standings (top 25)

I think this is a pretty broad definition since a lot of people doing a college search won’t look at anything below the top 50. And by the way, only 65% of the players were from schools that were listed in the top 50 on any list.

Imagine that, players who didn’t attend the top football power houses played (ok, some probably sat the bench) in the Super Bowl. Going to a lesser ranked school didn’t doom their chances for football success.

Granted, attending certain schools can help you to the pros simply because people are looking at the schools. But the fact remains, individuals succeed even if they didn’t attend the top ranked football schools.

Bottom Line:

Rankings, whether football or academic, are information not the definition of success. Just ask any player on the New England Patriots-you know, the highest ranked team that lost the Super Bowl.

You can follow Michelle Kretzschmar on Facebook.

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