Is the Big Ten or the SEC a Better Academic Conference?


In 1835, Ohio and Michigan fought a near-bloodless battle over the boundary between their two states that left one dead and tensions broiling. Each year since 1897, they've fought a less bloody, but still contentious war for bragging rights - in football.

The rivalry encapsulates the fact that in college football, loyalties and rivalries are about more than just football.

In college football, fan loyalties encapsulate a territorial ferocity. More than mere sports teams, college football teams are representative of their city, state, and even their region, and thus college football touches parts of our identities in ways few other sports can.

Rarely was this seen as much as during the seven consecutive national championships won by SEC teams from 2006-2012. As typical northern stalwarts like Michigan and Notre Dame floundered, Ohio State carried the torch for the north and was smoked twice in championship games, in 2006 and 2007.

The result of the SEC dominance as a pride in brotherly performance rarely seen in sports. Fans across the SEC reveled in each other's championships, with "SEC" chants ringing in stadiums across the south. In some ways, the surge in southern football dominance reflected a near-Confederate era unity that linked together the only states in the country that at one point declared themselves NOT part of the country.

While northern teams have held their own - Ohio State rebounded and won the 2014 national championship, defeating Alabama on the way to doing so - southern pride in the SEC's football dominance remains as rowdy as ever.

But what if we were to look beyond football - at academic performance? Which conference is a better economic performer between the Big Ten and SEC? We looked at a variety of metrics, mostly focused on average SAT scores of university admits, selectivity as measured by admissions rate, and average university endowment.

Per the statistics, the Big Ten is a stronger academic conference across the board. Below are the median scores for each conference, with each figure's rank among the Power Five in parentheses.

The Big Ten

Average SAT: 1266 (2)

Average Admissions Rate: 55% (3)

Average Endowment: $3.7 billion (2)

The SEC

Average SAT: 1193 (4)

Average Admissions Rate: 64% (4)

Average Endowment: $2.2 billion (4)

Here is a ranking of all the schools in both conferences. In parentheses are the average SAT scores, admissions rate, and university endowment. Big Ten Schools have been highlighted in bold. SEC schools are italicized.

1. Northwestern (1480, 10%, $11.7 billion)

2. Vanderbilt (1505, 11%, $4.3 billion)

3. Michigan (1405, 29%, $8.9 billion)

4. Illinois (1383, 60%, $2.5 billion)

5. Minnesota (1315, 44%, $3.6 billion)

6. Wisconsin (1310, 53%, $2.9 billion)

7. Ohio State (1285, 54%, $4.6 billion)

8. Maryland (1315, 48%, $1.3 billion)

9. Florida (1275, 46%, $1.7 billion)

10. Georgia (1240, 54%, $1.2 billion)

11. Rutgers (1230, 57%, $1.3 billion)

12. Penn State (1200, 56%, $4.2 billion)

13. Purdue (1195, 56%, $2.5 billion)

14. South Carolina (1210, 72%, $0.8 billion)

15. Texas A&M (1190, 67%, $13.5 billion)

16. Indiana (1175, 79%, $2.4 billion)

17. Mississippi State (1175, 56%, $0.5 billion)

18. Mississippi (1175, 79%, $0.7 billion)

19. Iowa (1170, 84%, $1.43 billion)

20. Auburn (1160, 81%, $0.8 billion)

21. Missouri (1155, 75%, $1.6 billion)

22. Tennessee (1145, 77%, $1.3 billion)

23. Nebraska (1135, 75%, $1.7 billion)

24. Michigan State (1125, 66%, $2.9 billion)

25. LSU (1130, 76%, $0.8 billion)

26. Kentucky (1125, 91%, $1.3 billion)

27. Arkansas (1115, 63%, $1.1 billion)

28. Alabama (1105, 53%, $1.4 billion)

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