Saturday, November 28, 2009

What If the BCS Considered Graduation Rates in Bowl Selections?

Move over, Florida. Alabama is now #1, you’re #2. Sorry, Texas, Cincinnati and TCU are now ranked ahead of you and closer to a national championship pick. Sorry Iowa. Penn State is the best team for a BCS bowl. Why? As part of the BCS ranking formula, I gave some consideration in the final bowl selection picks to the NCAA reported graduation rates of college football players.

The NCAA report just came out, and a few days ago Tony Mancuso of Official Sports Reports published an article of how the AP Top 25 would stand in the graduation rankings. To see that article, click on the link on the right side of my blog (if you’re reading this in the CDT, go to the blog roll, click on see this blog with pictures then click on the link to the right). You will need to subscribe. But it’s free, and the reporting is quite good. The listings of the NCAA graduation success rates and federal graduation rates, and the rankings, can be found in an article published this week. Or you can go to and look at the graduation data for each school yourself.

So I thought I would take Tony Mancuso’s listings one step further and see what difference graduation rates would make in the overall BCS rankings. I made an adjustment to the BCS standing based on the difference between each school’s graduation rate and the average for the FBS subdvision. I looked at both the Graduation Success Rate (which tracks football players receiving financial support) and the federal graduation rate (which looks at all football players). Then I averaged the two differences.

So, for example, Alabama’s GSR is 67%, 0% difference from the FBS average of 67%. Their Federal Graduation Rate is 75%, 20 percentage points above the FBS average of 55%. I averaged those two percentages and came out with an adjustment of 10%. So I adjusted the Overall BCS Standing for Alabama by 10%. Whereas Texas’s GSR is 49%, 18 percentage points below the FBS average of 67%. And its Federal Graduation Rate is 48%, 7 percentage points below the FBS average of 55%. The mean is -13%, so I adjusted their BCS standings accordingly. I did these for all 25 teams included in the BCS standings.

What’s the new order?

RANK Team Revised BCS Points
1 Alabama 1.05754
2 Florida 0.985728
3 Cincinnati 0.8977595
4 TCU 0.895997
5 Texas 0.8105125
6 Ohio State 0.6946995
7 Boise State 0.693309
8 Pittsburgh 0.687033
9 Penn State 0.628992
10 Georgia Tech 0.597212
11 Oregon 0.584988
12 Iowa 0.5743275
13 Oklahoma State 0.500565
14 Virginia Tech 0.48667
15 LSU 0.352225
16 Miami (FL) 0.316578
17 Clemson 0.2828325
18 Oregon State 0.27789
19 USC 0.2498385
20 Brigham Young 0.238693
21 Utah 0.2247115
22 California 0.2165145
23 North Carolina 0.1623375
24 Houston 0.134412
25 Mississippi 0.08484

Looking at this order, the national championship picture would be very different. Cincinnati or TCU would be ahead of Texas to play Alabama or Florida. Penn State would be ahead of Iowa –a cool reward to Penn State achieving the #1 spot – the highest graduation rates among the BCS ranked teams. Georgia Tech would lose two spots in BCS rankings because their graduation rates are ranked #23 and #25 among the top 25 BCS teams.

Of course I’m sure there will be folks who will point out the flaws in such a reward system. Perhaps one of the NCAA graduation rates should be rated more than the other. Perhaps schools like Georgia Tech and Texas have tougher academic standards than other schools. Perhaps there should be a fine-tuning that also compares the football players’ graduation rates with the overall graduation rates of the school.

There are also anomalies in graduation rates. For example if a highly ranked football player (for example at Texas) decides to declare for the NFL draft early because they are projected to go in the 1st round rather than stay in college to finish their degree, the school takes a hit on their graduation rate. But who can blame the athlete for choosing not to stay in school when an injury could cause them to lose millions of dollars the following year?

Adding a graduation rate measure makes no less sense than some of the computer-based rankings that are a part of the BCS, and may make more sense. It at least gives some acknowledgment that academics matter in this increasingly commercial college football bowl scene.

What do you think?

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