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Subjective Wall Street Journal Ranks Penn State Football ‘Most Embarrassing’

The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper that primarily covers business and economic stories, took a stab at ranking all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams based on how good at they are at football and how shameful their program is on a scale of “embarrassing” to “admirable.” The rating was based on a grid, with “admirable” and “powerhouse” on the right and top respectively, and “weakling” and “embarassing” on the left and bottom.

For example, Stanford was on the top right, making it the best combination of “powerhouse” and “admirable.” The bottom left featured FIU, who is both bad at football and embarassing by the Wall Street Journal’s standards.

The Nittany Lions fell slightly above the middle when it came to on-the-field projections, leaning towards “powerhouse.” This was based on the team’s projected 2014 finish by Athlon, Phil Steele, and USA Today along with predictive models from ESPN and Football Outsiders.

But the real shocker — and by shocker I mean it was a completely unsurprising case of national media bias  was Penn State’s points on the off-the-field portion of the grid. The team came in dead last, essentially being named the most “embarrassing” program in the country by the Wall Street Journal.

The article did provide blurbs for a few teams, explaining their spots on the grid, such as a reasoning for Northwestern being named the most admirable squad for its unionization movement or Texas making a positive move on the scale because of “Charlie Strong’s wave of disciplinary moves.”

There was no explanation for Penn State’s spot on the bottom of the grid, but let’s take a look at the reasoning behind the Journal’s admittedly “somewhat subjective” off-the-field rankings:

1. Four-year Academic Progress Rate 

The football team’s Academic Progress Rate came in with a score of 954, three points above the Division I football average, so that couldn’t possibly be what counted against the program in the Journal’s expert analysis of admirability or lack thereof.

2. Percentage of athletic department revenues subsidized by student fees and state support

In USA Today’s breakdown of college football revenue and the percent subsidized, Penn State finished tied for dead last with zero dollars subsidized. Hmm, there must be something in the next four categories that explain the poor ranking.

3. Number of players arrested in the offseason

Anthony Alosi was the sole arrest for the team, so this wasn’t going to vault the team to its “most embarrassing” label.

4. Attendance at last season’s games

According to the NCAA, Penn State finished fifth in total attendance on the year, bringing in an average of 96,587 fans to Beaver Stadium each week. This isn’t adding up. I’m confused.

5. Recent history of major NCAA violations and probation

Oh, I see where this is going.

6. Overall “ick” factor

Lol. Really, Wall Street Journal?

Let’s recap what happened here. Without that sixth category, Penn State finished pretty damn high in every single category with the exception of recent history of NCAA violations. And let’s be clear that Penn State didn’t actually violate any existing NCAA rules, but that’s beside the point.

Basically, the Journal knew that it couldn’t rank the Nittany Lions as the most embarrassing team in college football using objective standards, so instead it added an “overall ‘ick’ factor” category, a basically made-up and meaningless criterium. They even added a fine print note below the grid, noting that the off-the-field standards are “somewhat subjective,” and then put Penn State all the way at the bottom.

Are you kidding me? What kind of nonsense is this? Penn State is above-average in academic progress. The team had one player arrested and then suspended indefinitely before he left the team. Beaver Stadium ranks fifth in attendance. We don’t subsidize the athletic department budget through student fees or state support.

The Wall Street Journal should be ashamed for eschewing journalistic standards and objectivity in lieu of blatant bias and partiality in the form of anti-Penn State prejudice.

You know what? Based on my “somewhat subjective overall ‘ick’ factor” rankings, I have the Wall Street Journal coming in as the most embarrassing newspaper in the country. Two can play this game, Journal.

Worst of all, the Wall Street Journal was spotted on campus Saturday, selling newspaper subscriptions outside of Beaver Stadium along Curtin Road all afternoon. You can see their tent set up outside the stadium in the photo atop this article.

It would probably be best if you didn’t show up, Wall Street Journal. You wouldn’t want to harm your reputation by associating with such an embarrassing football program.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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