Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Football and Research Money: Big Ten Wins

During a conversation the other night, we were debating the relative merits of the various university athletic conferences.

I work at Texas Tech, a member of the Big XII Conference. I grew up in Kansas City, which was the heart of the former Big 8 Conference. I also earned my master's degree at Kansas State, so I am partial to the Big XII. Bad news for me below.

My Ph.D. is from Indiana, and my first faculty position was at Ohio State, so I am partial to the Big Ten, too.

Some of my other colleagues are from Southeastern Conference schools, and I was talking smack about the traditional football powerhouse conference.

So I wondered how the conferences stack up academically. It's difficult to pick any one metric for academic success, but I decided to go with research funding. Research is the lifeblood of major universities, and funding fuels that research. I turned to the Center for Measuring University Performance and their 2007 Top American Research University Report.

So how do the conferences of the Bowl Championship Series stack up?

Well, it's not quite easy to tell. Apples and oranges, and something like that. Some university totals appear to include their medical school and some don't. So there's no total for Baylor University, which suggests they have less than $20 million in annual federal research funding. However, Baylor College of Medicine had $458,694 in research funding in 2005. To include or not include? Also, there is no amount for Boston College. Pittsburgh leads the Big East, and if it were not for Pitt (which surely includes their medical school), the Big East would average about half of the next lowest conference.

No matter Baylor's fate (I decided to exclude the medical college), the news is not good for the current top powers in football. The Big XII and SEC have the top four ranked teams in the land and five of the top seven. However, gridiron greatness does not translate to research power.

The Big XII is dead last among the six BCS conferences, and the SEC is fourth (if you include Baylor's medical school, the Big XII jumps to fourth).

The Big Ten, led by Michigan, leads the way. Although, the Big Ten is "down" this year, Michigan is the most successful program in college football. So these data may be spurious. Florida also tops the SEC in football and research dollars.

In rank order, here are the final data for average annual funding for each institution for 2005 and 2004.

Conference, Average Amount, Top Program
Big Ten, $477,259,000, (that school up north)
Pac 10, $422,266,000, UCLA
ACC, $296,778,000, Duke
SEC, $210,054,000, Florida
Big East, $209,668,000, Pittsburgh
Big XII, $201,376,000, Texas A&M

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2 Comments:

Anonymous SpeedyMom said...

You should be aware that Baylor University in Waco, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas are all totally independent of one another. So including Baylor College of Medicine as a "Big 12" institution is incorrect. Baylor University (Waco) is the only institution affiliated with the Big 12.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Samuel D. Bradley said...

This is a good point of clarification. Thanks for bringing it up.

I did not intend to insinuate that they were the same. Indeed, they are not.

The point is that it appears that each institution gets to decide whether a health sciences center is part of the main institution or a separate entity.

And with a list of institutions, one never knows who decided to include health sciences and who did not.

Thus, rather that pondering the administrative structure of Baylor, I had hoped to point out that my metric was not perfectly reliable.

12:06 PM  

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