Northwestern has a stranglehold on major-conference APR

When most people think of Northwestern, they imagine a top-15 university in the United States–from an academic perspective–which also happens to have top Division 1 sports in the vaunted Big Ten conference. That’s an accurate depiction of NU, one only reinforced by it’s incredible dominance in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) annual rankings.

APR is a measure of the academic success of each NCAA member school’s student-athletes across all sports. According to’s release on the latest APR numbers, this calculation considers athlete retention and graduation rates in addition to regular academic performance.

That’s why, when this was tweeted by the NCAA a few days ago, it was no surprise to see five highly selective private schools among the six FBS schoolslisted for having over 50 percent of their teams receiving APR awards. The highest percentage on the list, which had schools like Duke, Notre Dame and Stanford on it, belonged to none other than Northwestern, with a whopping 79 percent that dwarfed the Fighting Irish’s 65 percent. (Note: Dartmouth, a non-FBS school, actually had the highest mark in the nation.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though, as NU also had 15 of its 19 varsity teams receiver APR Public Recognition awards from the NCAA. Of course, that’s a school record and–since Northwestern has led the Big Ten in APR awards since the APR’s inception over 10 years ago–a conference one as well.

Multiple teams at Northwestern have won various APR awards in each of the years since it was instituted for the 2004 season, with most schools in the NCAA struggling to come close to 50 percent in terms of overall recognition. Sure, it’s no consolation for Wildcats fans and the disappointments over the past few years, but it does show that NU has done something right in terms of educating its athletes.

APR is certainly a metric that has its faults–incidents like those involving cheating at North Carolina and Harvard in recent years aren’t effectively represented–but it provides a decent view into how the student-athletes on each team and at every school are doing in the classroom, not just out of it.

Surely, crushing it in terms of APR won’t provide an direct on-field success for the Wildcats but, if there are no national or conference championships to be competed for in Evanston, at least there’s a small consolation.

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