As somebody who graduated from what felt like Football High, it was a dramatic change to attend Northwestern in the late 1980s. The football team was terrible, so much so that we would literally throw marshmallows at each other during home games, in order to distract ourselves from what was transpiring on the field. And lots of people would snicker when I told them where I went to school. Never mind that it was a top flight academic school, then and now. The football team sucked and, in some people’s minds, that was more important.
But who’s laughing now? Not only is the Northwestern football program among the top ones in the country on the field, but it’s ranked at the very top where it matters most: in the classroom. Colleges and universities are academic endeavors first, and sports programs second (at best). So to read that Northwestern bests all other schools in areas that matter like graduation rates, it’s enormously heartening.
The best thing about this news is that no other school was even close. I will repeat that: Northwestern came out on top, comfortably ahead of every other school ranked in the Top 25 in the polls. So while the Wildcats won’t be playing in a BCS bowl game this year, they now have a recruiting chip that no other school can match, at least for the players and their families who give a fig about education. And that’s very gratifying for everyone affiliated with Northwestern.