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Governor Jay Nixon recently said the University of Missouri would enhance its academic excellence by dropping out of the Big 12 athletic conference and becoming the 12th member of what would still be called the Big 10. According to Governor Nixon, Mizzou would be in better academic company with schools like Northwestern and Wisconsin than it is now with schools such as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Measuring the academic quality of colleges and universities is a controversial process that depends on arbitrary and subjective criteria...a lot like the BCS system for determining the best college football team. While no measurement of academic excellence is universally accepted, the rankings most commonly cited are those by U. S. News and World Report.
These rankings would support Governor Nixon's contentions that Northwestern and Wisconsin are superior to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State; and that the Big 10 is generally ahead of the Big 12 when it comes to academics. U. S. News ranks all 11 schools in the Big 10 ahead of all but two schools in the Big 12. Mizzou, which would be at the very bottom of the Big 10 were it to join the conference, is ranked 8th in the Big 12.
The U. S. News and World Report rankings would suggest that the University of Missouri does not need to join the Big 10 in order to improve its academic reputation. It could move up significantly in the rankings by simply catching up with the better schools in the Big 12. Maybe that should be the priority instead of changing conferences.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Tom Schlafly is an attorney in St. Louis.