Inside the Elite 50 College Rankings

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To arrive at our final Elite 50 College Rankings, we weighed statistics in several categories and researched the top programs in football, volleyball, baseball, softball, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling—plus men's and women's soccer, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis, track & field and cross country. Here's what we looked at and why:

2012 U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges in AmericaWhy: U.S. News' rankings are the most widely read and respected guide to academic excellence. They factor in endowment, tuition and fees, faculty salaries, library resources and a host of other statistical indicators.

Academic Progress Rate (APR)Why: Instituted in 2005, the APR measures how well student-athletes in each program move towards graduation—a key barometer for a team's degree of focus on academics.

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Elite 50 College RankingsTo arrive at our final Elite 50 College Rankings, we weighed statistics in several categories and researched the top programs in football, volleyball, baseball, softball, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling—plus men's and women's soccer, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis, track & field and cross country. Here's what we looked at and why:

2012 U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges in America
Why: U.S. News' rankings are the most widely read and respected guide to academic excellence. They factor in endowment, tuition and fees, faculty salaries, library resources and a host of other statistical indicators.

Academic Progress Rate (APR)
Why: Instituted in 2005, the APR measures how well student-athletes in each program move towards graduation—a key barometer for a team's degree of focus on academics.

National Rankings
Why: Using USA Today, ESPN, the Associated Press and other respected sources, we collected national end-of-season rankings in each sport, properly crediting all the top teams for a great season.

Games Over .500
Why: For each sport, teams earn points for winning more games than they lose. Lots of factors determine our Elite 50, but teams that don't win are not on our lists.

STACK Factor
Why: Our "secret sauce" is an intangible measure that gauges the overall atmosphere of a campus for student-athletes. Among other things, it includes the school's number of top 25 rankings in all sports.

Sanctions
Why: Because a school on probation or under investigation by the NCAA will be knocked down the list.

Check out our Elite 50 Big Board to learn about schools that lead the pack across the nation. Then take a deeper dive into our sport-specific rankings below to discover which programs might be best for you.

Football Softball Men's Swimming Men's Cross Country
Volleyball Women's Track Women's Swimming Men's Golf
Men's Basketball Men's Track Hockey Women's Golf
Women's Basketball Men's Soccer Wrestling Men's Tennis
Baseball Women's Soccer Women's Cross Country Women's Tennis
Lacrosse

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