11 Colleges With the Smartest Athletes


The dumb jock might not yet be a thing of the past, but it definitely appears that more and more student athletes are realizing only about 1% of them are going to go pro and they’d better hit the books whether it be medical billing and coding, nursing, public administration, history, game design, or a variety of majors. Both the NCAA and the federal government put out stats on college student athletes’ graduation rates, and although it’s not at all our intention to downplay the incredible achievement of graduating from college, we thought we’d try to pinpoint the schools with the most athletes who not only pass, but do it with flying colors.

  • Baylor University:BU’s on-field reputation in the Big 12 has been growing in recent years, but its athletes have been dominating the classroom consistently for a while now. The Spring 2012 semester was the 11th in a row for its teams to produce a record number of Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll members (which requires a minimum 3.0 semester GPA), at 304. Sixty-five earned a perfect “four-oh.” Across all sports, the Bears’ cumulative GPA was 3.14, the eighth consecutive term the number topped 3.0.
  • American University:It’s not unusual for cumulative GPAs for all Eagle athletes to end up at 3.3 for the term, or 3.37, or, as happened last spring, 3.42. The school regularly fields teams that receive the best average GPA for their sport and division in the entire country, and it’s always at or near the top for schools with the most students making the Patriot League Honor Roll.
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln:Husker sportsters pay the school back for providing them with some of the nation’s most amazing athletic facilities by killing it grades-wise. No school in the country has more Capital One Academic All-Americans or NCAA Top Eight Award winners to its name. The school has also been quick to jump onto the leaderboards of a relatively new NCAA educational achievement program called the 1A FAR Academic Excellence Award (for recent grads with at least a 3.8 cumulative GPA), turning out 10 recipients in 2011 and 17 more last year.
  • University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:Draw your own conclusions about the fact that this perennial home for scholar athletes has no football team. All we know is you’d have to go back nearly to the turn of the millennium to find a semester UWGB’s sports teams didn’t combine for at least a 3.0. The 3.27 cumulative GPA scored in Spring 2012 was the 25th time to put up at least a triple. The lady’s basketball team deserves a special shout-out, being 31 semesters into a 3.0 or better streak.
  • Winona State University:This public school in Minnesota was recently named one of the best regional universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Warrior athletes are certainly doing their part to make that so with their streak of six semesters breaking not the 3.0 but the 3.2 GPA mark. Their Fall 2012 marks were their best ever, with an average of 3.28. Sixty jocks earned perfect 4.0s and 135 made the Dean’s List.
  • University of Toledo:Of the 15 sports teams UT fields, 14 put up GPAs of at least 3.0 in Spring 2012, good enough for a personal best 3.266 GPA for all the athletes combined. It marked the seventh consecutive “winning season” for the sporty guys and girls in which they earned at least a group 3.1, and the 12th time in 14 tries they received at least a 3.0. Nearly 71% of individual athletes scored a 3.0, also a school record.
  • Idaho State University:Although the Bengals probably couldn’t be considered a powerhouse in anything other than men’s track and field, these athletes punch above their weight when they’ve got a Scantron in their hands. The 3.18 GPA the players pulled off in Fall 2012 was the sixth consecutive and 12th in 14 semesters that they collectively broke the coveted 3.0 mark. More than a third of the school’s 315 student athletes grade points of at least 3.5.
  • University of Montana:As happens with many of the schools with dual threat athlete-braniacs, the Grizzlies and Lady Griz routinely notch better scores as a group than the rest of the student body. Such was the case in the Fall 2012 term, when the athletic department’s 3.09 GPA stomped the general population’s 2.83. The semester was the players’ 15th straight of a 3.0 or better.
  • Montana State University:In-state rival Montana might have twice as many wins in their head-to-head football matchups, but MSU holds its own in the gradebook. In the fall of 2012 semester, varsity teams assembled a solid 3.15 collective GPA, continuing an incredible streak of 22 semesters reaching at least the 3.0 level. The Fighting Bobcats also snagged their second-ever Big Sky Conference Presidents’ Cup — “the ultimate reward for all-around [academic] excellence in the Big Sky Conference” — joining Montana and Weber State as the only schools to win at least twice.
  • New Mexico State University:There’s nothing wack about the Aggie athletes’ academic performances (they’re in the WAC … OK, so that was bad). The school was tops in the conference in 2011-2012 on the strength of their 184 all-academic ballers, runners, and swimmers, who together racked up the department’s 14th consecutive semester of 3.0 GPA or better. Eighty-four individual athletes managed at least one perfect 4.0 semester in the 2011-2012 academic year, and all the athletes even chipped in for 5,000 total hours of community service.
  • University of Central Florida:For six years running, UCF has been at the top of the heap in the C-USA conference for athletes landing on the Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll. For Fall 2012, the jocks’ tallied a 3.11 GPA, more than enough to keep their 10-time streak of 3.0-or-better terms alive. Fourteen Knights earned four-point-ohs and five teams broke their previous records for single-semester GPAs.

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