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Schools achieve top-20 rankings

Andrew Owens | Friday, October 12, 2012

Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson was benched for part of the first series against Miami last weekend after not communicating he would be late to a team meeting because he was with a professor.

Such is the life of a student-athlete at institutions blending superb academics and elite athletics like Notre Dame and Stanford.

Although Saturday’s gridiron matchup is the 27th between the academics peers, it also marks a first in the series – and in college football history. Notre Dame is ranked seventh in the AP Poll and 17th in the 2012 U.S. News and World Report university rankings, while Stanford is 17th and sixth, respectively. It’s the first-ever matchup between schools in the top-20 of both rankings.

Irish coach Brian Kelly is emphatic that it is possible to blend top-notch academics and football at major universities.

“It doesn’t get enough attention,” Kelly said. “You have two outstanding academic institutions that are ranked so high in terms of graduation rates … I know that’s one of the reasons why I came to Notre Dame. I wanted to make sure that everybody knew that you could do it in the classroom and you can certainly do it on the football field.”

Notre Dame ranks first nationally with its 99 percent graduation rate of all athletes, while Stanford is seventh at 94 percent.

“I think it makes for a great showcase,” John Heisler, senior associate athletic director, said. “Where you have your share of naysayers who don’t think that it’s possible to combine great academics and athletics, I think you’re talking about two institutions that would disagree with that and think you can do it.

“As Brian Kelly said in his press conference today, that’s part of the reason why he’s here, because he absolutely thinks that you can do that, that you can have the highest graduation rates or very high graduation rates and be a BCS team on a regular basis, and that’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what Stanford’s trying to do.”

Sophomore safety Matthias Farley said the academic achievements of the schools provide an interesting storyline in the annual matchup.

“Notre Dame’s a great school and Stanford’s a great school, so it’s a huge testament to both programs in accomplishing good things on and off the field. The fact that we’re both playing, you know there are going to be a lot of smart guys on our team and a lot of smart guys on their team. It’s a good matchup.”

Because Notre Dame and Stanford recruit from a similar pool of athletes, it’s Kelly’s task to prove to recruits that the University is ultimately different from its West Coast counterpart, despite the similarities.

“We think we have many, many distinctions that are unique to Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “We make sure that recruits that are looking at Stanford and looking at Notre Dame understand what we believe to be those distinctions. We clearly see them, and we make sure the recruits understand that there are some clear distinctions between Notre Dame and Stanford.”


Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu