CFB Update: Big Ten Expansion and Academics

Big Ten College Football Conference Expansion Nebraska Academics

Note: this post has nothing to do with the Eagles.

University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman recently penned a column describing why Nebraska and the Big Ten will be a good match. He wrote,

“I’m confident you’ll find that Nebraska is a natural fit with the Big Ten in terms of culture, athletics and academics.”

I’m on board with the first two. Certainly Nebraska has a history of athletic achievement, especially in football. And in terms of culture, it’s tough to argue that the white, midwestern nature of the school is markedly different from Iowa or Illinois or Purdue.

But an academic fit? Really? Academics was supposed to be a key part of any addition to the Big Ten, a conference that prides itself on its educational standards.

And clearly there were basic standards — Nebraska had to be part of the Association of American Universities. But if you look at the US News & World Report rankings (flawed but overall a good guide), it’d difficult to accept that academics played any role in this decision at all:

Big Ten College Football Conference Expansion Academics Rankings

How can the Big Ten justify accepting Nebraksa on academic grounds? While Nebraska fits right in the middle of the Big 12, it’s ranked much lower than the worst ranked Big Ten schools. The Pac-10 at least has schools that are ranked lower than the two they admitted.

The school’s far from “a natural fit.” But then again, maybe that’s the problem. No one’s actually looking at these programs as schools. They’re just sports teams, professional minor league clubs. It’s clear, when you actually look at the numbers, that there’s no academic case to be made.

So what allows the Big Ten to get away with this calculated money grab? The common white, midwestern “culture,” which people stuck in the 1980s associate with quality academics.