I Use Science to Confirm My Barely-Concealed Biases

By analyzing all current athletes from seven professional sports and noting what colleges produced them, I have found a mathematically foolproof method for crowning the country’s most athletic college.

By Will Strecker, University of Texas at Austin


I am going to attempt to answer the question: What is the best college, in terms of athletics, of all time?

To keep this digestible, I’m going to be looking at seven professional sports: the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, PGA and Professional Swimming. For sports like the PGA and Swimming, I’ll only look at the top 10 Americans.

For one, who gives a damn about Cambridge or the University of Delhi? Second, America is the best at everything, so the best American athletes are obviously the best everywhere. Even Usain Bolt is American.

But, before I get into the meat of this piece, I’m going to give you all a table to look at. And, in this table, there will be both the names of colleges and how many players those colleges sent into the pros, as well as the names of professional athletes themselves and which school they went to. (click to expand)

The Only Article to Ever Accurately Determine the Most Athletic College

There are other ways to do this, of course, but I found the best way to order the NFL, NBA and NHL is by which colleges sent the most current athletes into the pros.

For the MLB, however, I’m gonna switch things up. For this row, schools will be ranked 1-10 based on how many players, all-time, played in the Majors. I did this because the path to actually playing in the MLB is convoluted, much more than in the NFL, NBA or NHL.

Most times, a player drafted is sent to the Minor Leagues and gets traded around before he’s brought up to the Major’s. Even then, he could be sent back down to the Minor’s, traded away to another Minor League team and it could be years after he was drafted that he actually finds a home on a team for an extended period.

And finding all that information—which is far from neatly laid out—would require me to be a cyborg. I’m not a cyborg. The closest thing I could find to a cyborg was the baseball-almanac.com, which is where the baseball stats come from.

So, what we’re looking for here are schools that are in multiple rows. Or, that have more than one professional swimmer or golfer. Narrowing it down to the five schools that appear over and over again, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Arizona are the top five schools for producing athletes.

If you don’t believe me, you can count everything out yourself, but that would be a waste of time because I already did that and gave you the answers. Now let’s dissect these schools and see where they stand.

Michigan is everywhere, which is surprising given that Michigan is an uninhabitable tundra shaped like an infant’s mitten. An astounding 77 Wolverine baseball players have gone on to play in the MLB since before anyone on this planet was alive. Also, there are 12 current Michigan alumni in the NHL, second most to Minnesota’s 13. This fact makes sense given it’s arctic climate.

In the realm of swimming, Michael Phelps is the best of all time. And guess what? He’s a Michigan alumnus, and so are fellow 4th and 5th ranked American swimmers Tyler Clary and Connor Jaeger. My aim for this this piece was to decide which college is the best in terms of athletics, but after writing this paragraph, the choice is pretty clear.

Don’t forget, either, that an argument can be made for Tom Brady being the best quarterback ever, and he went to Michigan as well. So with that, my article has prematurely climaxed, fitting I suppose, given that the writer also…

Let’s move on and see if I can make a case for these other schools. Texas, where “What Happens Here Changes the World.” So, hm, Texas has sent the second most players to the MLB all time with 105 players, second only to USC’s 109.

When it comes to the NBA, Texas has the 8th most currently active players. These players include the former MVP and perennial All-Star Kevin Durant and fellow All-Star Lamarcus Aldridge. Durant is widely considered one of the top five players in the NBA, and Aldridge can be considered in the top 20 easily.

The Only Article to Ever Accurately Determine the Most Athletic CollegeJordan Spieth, the #1 golfer in the world and last year’s Master’s Tournament champion spent a year or so at UT as well. By no means is Texas a slouch when it comes to this stuff.

Also, Jack Conger, the 8th best American swimmer, went to UT. Even though Ryan Lochte went to Florida, he still finds the time to take some practice laps at the Gregory Gym pool in Austin, melting every girl’s underwear while he stays cool in the water.

AND, you can’t forget the 2005 Rose Bowl, where Vince Young single handedly beat USC and gave us the best college football game of all time. Trying to be objective here, but maybe Texas is much closer to Michigan than I originally thought.

How about Georgia? 34 active NFL players went to Georgia, which is good for 5th on my list. Of these players, the most notable are Matt Stafford of the Lions, who is famous for inconsistent fantasy performances, driving his owners mad and for being able to get the ball to Calvin Johnson.

Rookie of the Year last season Todd Gurley also went to Georgia, and he’s going to be a very good player in the league.

Of the three PGA golfers on the list, Bubba Watson is the only name that really matters. In the past four years, Bubba’s won two Masters, something a lot of people wish they could do some day, but won’t.

In the past, however, Georgia has sent Hall-of-Fame running backs Herschel Walker and Terrell Davis to the NFL, as well as Hines Ward and Quincy Carter, the latter of whom perfectly exemplifies the kind of person an NFL team does not want to ever draft. Regardless, Georgia doesn’t quite match Texas or Michigan.

Florida is a strange place in general. When I think of Florida as a state, I think of Cabanas on the beach blaring house music and sexually ambiguous Cuban men dancing provocatively, holding martinis. Actually, if someone were to tell me that there’s a place in Florida that isn’t like this, I wouldn’t believe them.

Florida University, however, has the 6th most active alumni in the NFL, and 7th most in the NBA. As I said before, Ryan Lochte also went to school there, where he swam his way to the Olympics in pools filled with vermouth and gin and survived his “broke college kid” years eating olives out of a can and citrus fruits. Florida’s talent on the football field is without question, just watch this breath-taking play. But for real, guys, Florida is not the best overall school for college sports.

Last, we have Arizona. A beautiful place that’s home to the Grand Canyon and many other rocks. The university has 13 active players in the NBA, good enough for 6th place, and has FedExed 74 alumni to the MLB over the years, the 8th most all time.

Also, PGA golfer Jim Furyk, who is by no means a slouch—or a couch, for that matter—went to college at Arizona. Arizona’s athletics are more prominent in the professional realm than most other schools, but not enough to secure the coveted #1 spot in Study Breaks as the best sports school in America.

Now, none of this is to say that if Rob Gronkowski was standing behind me right now, my mind wouldn’t change, because I’m not so stubborn that a threat of a body slam or arm bar from Gronk wouldn’t force me to rewrite this entire article. But, fortunately for me, he’s not. So what I said stands.

Okay, okay. So which do we say is the best school for producing the rare breed of inhuman people we call professional athletes? Well, it’s definitely between Michigan and Texas, I can tell you that.

As my heart says “Texas,” for the sake of objectivity I’ve got to give the title to Michigan. It’s close though! And if I had the time and space to include volleyball into my awesome table on page one, Texas may very well be kicking Michigan off the stage. Still, hook ‘em!

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