Good question. I don't think we do have to choose, but if we *did* I would choose academically elite. I'm a software engineer with a CS degree from UF. Football is entertainment, whereas UF's academic reputation impacts my earnings potential.
Best Posts in Thread: Can you be an Elite Academic Institution and be an Elite Football Program?
let's look at the AP Final Football Top 20, and see how many are in the Top 20 Public or Private Academic Universities:
1. Clemson (61) - Public - Academic top 20 - No
2. Alabama - Public - Academic top 10 - No
3. Ohio State - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#17)
4. Oklahoma - Public - Academic top 10 - No
5. Notre Dame - Private - Academic top 20 - Yes (#18)
6. LSU- Public - Academic top 20 - No
T7. Florida - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#8)
T7. Georgia - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#13)
9. Texas - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#15)
10. Washington State - Public - Academic top 20 - No
11. UCF - Public - Academic top 20 - No
12. Kentucky - Public - Academic top 20 - No
13. Washington - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#20)
14. Michigan - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#4)
15. Syracuse - Private - Academic top 20 - No
16. Texas A&M - Public - Academic top 20 - No
17. Penn State - Public - Academic top 20 - Yes (#20)
18. Fresno State - Public - Academic top 20 - No
19. Army West Point - Public - Academic top 20 - No
20. West Virginia - Public - Academic top 20 - No
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If i were to go outside the South and flash my diploma, the impression would be that I graduated from a very good school.
In the field of engineering, Is UF in the same league as MIT, or Stanford, or even Georgia Tech? No. It is certainly not perceived that way. When I graduated in my discipline, Florida was considered.one of the top two programs in the country. Shortly after my graduation 80% of the faculty exited the building.They went to either one of the three schools mentioned, or in the case of one professor started a company and went on to make millions in the process. It's difficult to compete with the truly elite. They pay more and their reputation means more to a fist class professor.
Can really good football and really good academics coexist? Yes, but it is a difficult marriage. If football lightning strikes in a bottle, you may find yourselves in the top 5 or even at the top of the heap occasionally. Academically there is no such thing as lightning in a bottle. With effort and funding, It's a slow grind from very good to very very good.
It seems to me that the administration's goal is to continue marching up the list of really good schools. Label "really good" however you wish. I'd bet, but cannot prove, that football is not the first part of an early morning discussion in the President's office. And that's OK with me. I'll hope for lightning and reasonable support.
I have three sheepskins from the joint. My son graduated from UF as well. The absolute last thing I want is the perception that UF is a school where football is first and academics is second or worse.
I don't think the question is "can you be," the question is really, "Why would you *want* to be a football powerhouse when you are already an elite academic school?"
In our case, we have a very difficult reality: The UAA contributes a laughably small amount of money to the University itself. About $6 Million, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what gets added to the UF endowment every year through private donations. UF has a $2.0 BILLION endowment, (more than three times that of FSU) and the UF administration and board of trustees have a unified ambition to double or triple that very soon. The donors they are seeking are not necessarily people you'll find sitting in the football bleachers. Al Warrington has donated over $100 million to the UF endowment alone, mostly to the business school. Herbert Wertheim has donated $50 million to the endowment and it's been directed mostly to the engineering school. Believe it or not those guys aren't even big fish when compared to donors at other prestigious schools like Harvard and Stanford. Donors like these are industry titans and inventors. They want their names on buildings and schools, not sports facilities.
So our last two presidents have been focused primarily on building the endowment through private donations. The football program is a distant afterthought. Their biggest concern when it comes to football is some potential scandal that could bring disrepute to the University. An academic scandal like the ones at FSU, North Carolina and Auburn would be a setback to them and a hindrance to their fund raising efforts. We are adding $400 Million + to the endowment every year now and that number is expected to grow substantially. As long as the football coach isn't disgracing the University through scandal and keeps winning 8-9 games a year, everything is hunky-dory to them.
In other words, we have more in common with Vanderbilt than we do Alabama or Clemson. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but that probably won't change any time soon.
Other problems are is Chicago "elite?" They have some of the finest graduate programs in the world. They maybe have produced more Nobel winners than any other university. But as an undergrad school they are a bit more Vandy like, ie top regional private school rather than national.
As for your particular opinions, I would not call UND elite academically, but of course it is very good. I would call Stanford elite academically. I would consider UMich elite if that is what your UM stands for (hence the abbreviation controversy that some small minds can not let go of here.) There is not one ranking for colleges and universities and VP's offices try to game the system in those rankings. In football there are fewer rankings that matter and it is probably easier to determine who is elite in football than academically.
UF 2017 research spending: $801.4 million
UF research spending reaches record $801.4 million in 2017
UGA 2017 research spending: $410 million
UGA advances in national research ranking - UGA Today
The thing to keep in mind is that the odds of being academically elite are, by definition, rare. And the odds of being athletically elite are, by definition, rare.
So even if there is no causal link between being athletically and academically elite, then we would still expect schools that are both to be extremely rare.
So it shouldn't be surprising or concerning that there aren't many schools that manage to be both.
GT is rated #4 among ALL schools for engineering. Which is what it does. I would call GT an elite engineering school. I would not call UGA an elite school.
One other thing is I suspect GT student's English scores lag behind UGA's, dragging down the overall standardized testing scores.