Colleges are the lifeblood of sports across the United States. In fact, many organized college games predate their professional counterparts with American football being a notable example. In the present day, established draft systems now supply professional franchises with the best crop of new talent from the many universities.
Meanwhile, colleges maintain their own divisions within football, basketball, baseball, hockey and other sports. Along with these inter-collegiate battles, there is a separate quest to provide the most successful athletes into the pro leagues. Some colleges have a greater history of success than others but which ones are at the top of the table?
Leading the way
Ranking the best colleges in US sport shows that the University of Florida may be at the top of the tree. The Gators have enjoyed great success over the years and, in 2016-17 they achieved a notable landmark. By the end of that school year, Florida became the first college to claim all three of the Southeastern Conference All-Sports titles.
Collectively referred to as the Gator Nation, Florida has earned success in many sports, most notably football, baseball and basketball. It has been ranked inside the top 10 NCAA D1 programs in every single season since 1983-84.
Among the many world class athletes that the Gators have produced is Emmitt Smith. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1990, Smith went on to win three Super Bowls before finishing his football career with the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
Most notably, Smith finished as the NFL’s record holder in terms of both rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. He completes an impressive list of Gators’ alumni that also includes David Eckstein and Ryan Lochte.
Up on the Rails
Among others equal to or superior to Florida is Stanford University, which supplied more athletes to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio than any other college.
Among the most notable individuals were Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Both won gold medals in swimming, which has traditionally been a productive sport for Stanford students over the years. Further success came in the water through diving and water polo but this is a great all-round college. In fact, Stanford produced an unprecedented 23-year run of success in the NACDA Directors’ Cup.
Among the best Stanford alumni are many true greats in their individual sports. John McEnroe won seven Grand Slam tennis championships in his career, quarterback John Elway guided the Denver Broncos to two NFL Super Bowl victories, Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers ever and volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings may be the best-ever in beach volleyball.
Home of the Rose Bowl
Casual followers of college sports may know that the University of California (Los Angeles) plays host to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. This is college football’s equivalent of the Super Bowl and it’s the one amateur game that all football fans tune into.
UCLA is among the former winners of the Rose Bowl and every highly reputable online sportsbook will rank California highly in outright markets moving forward. On a wider scale, UCLA has enjoyed great success in other sports and the college has claimed over 100 NCAA titles.
Sustained victories have been gained in so-called fringe sports such as volleyball and water polo but previous alumni have made great careers in the mainstream. Among them is one of the star names of the NBA with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar winning six MVP titles. There’s also Jackie Robinson in baseball, Jackie Joyner-Kersee in track and Arthur Ashe in tennis.
Over in the NFL, UCLA has also produced champions such as Troy Aikman and Jonathan Ogden, both of whom are in the division’s Hall of Fame.
Flying the Flag
In terms of women’s sports in the US, there are few to match the success of the University of Connecticut. Women’s teams have been dominant in certain college disciplines and the basketball section has 11 NCAA titles to its name.
With returns such as those, it’s no great surprise that Connecticut has supplied a number of top professionals to the WNBA. Included in that list are four-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird, who has enjoyed domestic success with the Seattle Storm. Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore is another product of the multiple-trophy winning Connecticut college sports program.
Stanford University may have supplied more US athletes for the 2016 Olympics but the University of Texas produced a more noteworthy record. Statistics show that, had the university competed as a separate nation in Rio, it would have finished seventh in the overall medal table.
That’s a stunning achievement for a single college but it’s one that builds on a long history of success. Medals were gained in basketball and swimming, which have traditionally been strong disciplines for Texas. Other notable wins have been gained in volleyball and golf.
Like all of the great colleges on this list, the University of Texas has produced some world class athletes. Basketball’s Kevin Durant now has two Olympic Golds and was an NBA Champion in 2017 and 2018. It’s a legacy that is set to continue thanks to a promising new crop of athletes.
College sports offers the chance to aim for prestigious silverware in its own right but it also provides a legitimate pathway into professional sport. Most fans are aware of the draft systems that exist in football and basketball and this is one lucrative way in which college athletes can make the leap to the professional stage.
Individual sportsmen and women have also prospered at the college level before forging careers in golf, tennis and other sports. The college scene is the lifeblood of American sports and its legacy marches on.