FORT WORTH, Texas • Among the many marketing angles the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl has unleashed, one left Air Force running back Cody Getz a bit annoyed.
Suffice it to say, Getz will not be among those calling Saturday’s matchup between the Falcons and Rice the “Academic Bowl” because of the schools’ shared rigid standards when it comes to the classroom.
“I respect them as a football program, but as an education program I feel like we have to go through a lot more stuff,” Getz said. “It’s kind of hard for people to ask us if we respect a school because of its schooling just because of all we do. But I have the utmost respect for their football team and everything.”
Rice’s academic reputation is beyond reproach. Fewer than 19 percent of its applicants are accepted, 75 percent of its students were in the top 5 percent of their high school classes and U.S News and World Report ranked the Houston private school No. 17 among U.S. colleges — just below Cornell and in a tie with Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. Among Rice’s alumni are an Olympic gold medalist, a Nobel laureate, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the former presidents of Texaco, Coca-Cola and Eastman Kodak.
Air Force and Rice both rank in the top 10 in Academic Performance Rate. The Owls are sixth at 986, while Air Force is 10th with a 980.
As Getz and other Falcons pointed out, the military component of the academy changes the equation into something other than a 1-to-1 comparison; and that doesn’t even account for the two-year postgraduate commitment to serve in the Air Force.
“I feel like this place is on a different level,” Air Force linebacker Austin Niklas said. “I know they go to a tough school academically, which I congratulate them for because I know not a lot of football players do. A lot try to go to the easier school to just get through.”
Clearly neither school attracts the kind of players looking to solely pad an athletic resume. As a result, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said he often collides with Rice on the recruiting trail.
“There is some crossover,” Calhoun said. “We tend to be in some similar schools.”
Rice’s roster includes a pair of Air Force transfers. Texas natives Trevor Caswell and Ryan Pollard each began their careers with the Falcons before leaving for the Owls. Pollard saw action in four games as a freshman in 2011 at Air Force.
Academics were a major point of discussion early in the buildup for the game, with executive director Brant Ringler making several references to the topic in a press conference early in December.
“Their football players are going to make great contributions to society long after the football game,” Ringler said.
So what was a marketing campaign that drew no arguments? The Battle of the Birds (Falcons vs. Owls) ruffled not a single feather.