Black Knights beat Old Goats 1-30

In its annual ranking of top colleges, Forbes magazine ranked the U.S. Military Academy at the top. Number one. Two? Princeton. Harvard? Five. The Air Force Academy clocked in at seven. The U.S. Naval Academy just squeaked in at 30.

What is more interesting than the rankings are the telling (and hilarious) comments posted by service academy grads.  Our favorite:

“… Any honest USNA graduate will admit that most of us spent our first year (or more) after graduation pouring grain alcohol on our head, lighting it, and running around drunk with our hair on fire. The school breeds social misfits. Education isn’t all about how far you can beat down the mids. I find it comical to have a Submariner Superintendent pontificating about combat when his idea of ‘combat’ is cold coffee. …”

We love the above respondent. Of course one’s perspective hinges at least in part on one’s era. We’ll carry the drinking binge scene a step farther and place it inside the sprawling dorm, Bancroft Hall, mother to many an alcoholic. The commenter appears to be Class of ’92, so he or she missed the drug scene a la 1980 – dealers as well as doers. Life at the Naval Academy went through periods that could be called wild and out of control. It had more in common with “Animal House” than the armed forces of the United States. The administration turned away from its “Fort Apache the Bronx” and let the inmates run free. The result? Social misfits.

But we digress. Forbes based its rankings as follows: 25 percent on student course and instructor evaluations, 25 percent on graduate success, 20 percent on student debt after graduation, and then graduation rates and numbers of Rhodes Scholars Nobel Prize recipients and the like.

Put all that info in the martini shaker (USNA style), shake, and pour. Since the information is based heavily on student and alumni participation and on success stories, the survey is skewed against Navy. Midshipman and Annapolis grads are not the most cooperative, giving sister academies an advantage.

Last year’s numbers are impressive, too. In 2008, West Point marched in at 6th, Air Force landed at 16th, and Navy sank at 36th.

It is remarkable that a public college came in first and three ranked in the top 30. Navy has the academics, profs, and training programs to rank first. It’s just heavy on unpleasant cynics.

What will 2010 bring?

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