If anyone ever tells you that it is too hard to get good grades and win football games, take a look at Rutgers.
For the fifth year in a row, the football team has been publicly recognized by the NCAA for its academic performance. Rutgers ranks in the top 10 percent of all FBS schools with its academic performance, the only Big East school on the list.
What's more, Rutgers is the only public school to make the list five straight years. In those five years, Rutgers has won four bowl games.
"It speaks to a couple things: the quality of the student-athletes we've been able to bring here to Rutgers, and the quality of the support system we've been able to put in place around them," coach Kyle Flood said on a conference call Thursday. "We're very proud of the education all students receive here at Rutgers University. In a semester where there's been a lot of changes for our players, it's obviously very important to them as well."
The complete APR listing comes out next week. If the past few seasons are any indication, Rutgers should be right at or near the top. Last year, the Rutgers football team ranked No. 2 among all schools in APR and ranked No. 1 in 2010.
Obviously, the academic turnaround began under former coach Greg Schiano. But Flood served on the staff for six seasons before he became head coach, so he is clearly aware of the legacy he must continue. In fact, Flood pointed out that the football team's collective GPA in the spring semester was the highest its been in 10 years.
That was with all the turmoil that surrounded Schiano's departure and Flood's entry as head coach.
"I know at Rutgers, our athletic department, with Tim Pernetti at the top, they've devoted resources to us," Flood said. "Our players devote time and discipline to getting their academic studies done, and that makes a difference. It's something we stress as a program. When I say that, I mean from the coaches all the way down. That's why we've had the success we've had."
The academic track record is something that Rutgers emphasizes during the recruiting process, as it should given its terrific credentials.
"At some point, the parents and the players and the people close to the prospects, they always ask about it and it's something I encourage them to ask about, just like they compare facilities and depth charts," Flood said. "This is a piece of the puzzle. There's no reason why you can't have a national championship football program and also get a great education while doing it. That's the formula we try to use here at Rutgers."
It is a formula that every single player should be proud of, and brag about to anybody who will listen. Excelling in academics is finally getting its long-awaited due.
Because the reality is this -- most every player who has helped Rutgers achieve this unparalleled success will never play a down in the NFL. But they will have a degree worth something in their hands.