UC Berkeley among Pac-12’s best in academics, athletics

UC Berkeley is one of the strongest academic and athletic institutions both in the Pac-12 Conference and nationally, according to a report released Thursday by Inside Higher Ed.

The report ranked the Pac-12 Conference — which includes UC Berkeley — second out of the six conferences in the Bowl Champion Series in terms of overall academic performance.

“The studies we’ve done indicate that many of America’s great research universities support exceptionally successful intercollegiate athletic programs, including high level football programs,” said John Lombardi, one of the report’s three authors, in an email.

The authors of the report compiled several different measures of academic achievement, including research expenditures of each university, faculty awards, number of doctoral degrees awarded, endowment and SAT scores of entering students. They awarded points to athletic conferences based on how well participating universities scored in each category.

UC Berkeley tied as the second-strongest university in academics with UCLA and the University of Washington in the Pac-12 group, closely following Stanford University.

Lombardi explained in the email that a university’s academic distinction is likely to attract athletes, which in turn will contribute to the university’s athletic distinction.

“A promising student athlete would choose a strong athletic and strong academic university over a strong athletic and weak academic university,” he said. “This is no doubt something Berkeley has experienced.”

According to a 2000-03 NCAA report published in October 2010 that looked at the number of Division I student athletes who entered college as freshmen and graduated within a six-year window, graduation rates of UC Berkeley athletes are significantly higher overall than federal graduation rates.

“At a university with such high scholastic standards, it is essential that our student-athletes, coaches and administrators dedicate themselves to the level of class work expected of all students on campus,” said Sandy Barbour, UC Berkeley Director of Athletics, in an email.

In men’s sports, the rates are an average of 6.8 percent higher, and in women’s sports an average of 5.6 percent higher, according to the NCAA report.

The graduation rate of Cal athletes for the 2008-09 academic year was an unprecedented 81 percent, according to Herb Benenson, director of media relations for the athletic department.

Barbour said that this rise in the graduation rate is a clear indicator of the priority the athletic department places on academics.

“High performance in intercollegiate athletics not only emphasizes success in the field of play, but also requires a commitment to academic achievement,” Barbour said in the email. “This combination is part of what I consider ‘athletics done right.’”