50-50 Highlights: Best Colleges for Football

Empty football field with lightsIt used to be that big time college football programs were justified because they supported the rest of the school’s athletic programs.?  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, in 2011 only 19% of the 120 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivsion reported a profit. And given the increasing concerns of concussions and player health, why have the number of four-year college programs increased by 24 from 2003 to 2011?

It basically comes down to raising your profile. Yes, football is a major marketing tool for colleges.

Smaller, D3 schools add football to attract more male students and balance male/female ratios that are tipping too far to the female side. Rex Nelson reports on the addition of football to the Hendrix and Lyon Colleges athletic programs:

At many liberal arts schools, the male-female ratio has become skewed with the percentage of female students often topping 60 percent. The sudden injection of dozens of new male students to play football addresses that gender gap. It also can add diversity at schools with low numbers of black students. Studies also show that male students – even those who don’t play – prefer to attend colleges with football programs.

Hendrix President, Tim Cloyd defended restarting the football program because “Many outstanding high school students simply won’t consider attending a college that doesn’t offer football.”

You should really read Jordan Wiessmann’s article Would Colleges be Better Off Without Football in the Atlantic Monthly. He points out that should the team win, you then have The Flutie Effect where the number of applications to the university increases with national wins.

Furthermore, Wiessmann reports that while winning teams may result in lower GPA’s among the schools’ male students,?  the overall freshman retention rates improve. There is even evidence that shows football success could raise a school’s peer assessment score in the US News College Rankings. That’s 20% of a school’s score-so much for the Ivory Tower.

Perhaps they will soon be talking about the Johnny Manziel effect as well. The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas A&M raised a record $740 million in donations in the past year which exceeds the university’s previous record by 70%. A&M isn’t quite ready to attribute it all to just one player but the chancellor of the A&M System tells the Chronicle of Higher Education?  that “Football is one heck of a megaphone for us to tell our story.”

It’s unclear at what point will the long-term health effects on the players will ultimately outweigh the benefits to the schools.

Until then, if football is important to you, there are plenty of 50-50 schools with strong football programs for you. The following table lists the 50-50 schools ranked in the top 25 for their division as of the week of November 13th. Naturally, there will be teams that just fell out of the rankings and others appearing for the first time. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive; it’s just another way of finding possible colleges. The five-year graduation rate is used for public universities and the four-year rate for private institutions. Subscribers to the How to Get the Best Deal on a College Education email list get a spreadsheet copy of the 50-50 list.

50-50 Colleges with Top 25 Football Programs

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