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Blending academics and athletics

Notre Dame's home game against Stanford on Saturday can be seen as proof that it is possible to mix high academic and athletic standards.

Saturday's game will mark the first time two universities ranked in the top 20 in the U.S. News & World Report survey "America's Best Colleges" and in the top 20 of the Associated Press Top 25 will play each other, according to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame (5-0) is ranked seventh in the AP poll and No. 17 in the U.S. News survey. Stanford (4-1) is No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 6 in the U.S. News survey.

"It doesn't get enough attention," Kelly said of the two programs being able to mix academics and athletics. "You have two outstanding academic institutions that are ranked so high in terms of graduation rates and I think there is a report on 'U.S. World and News Report' in terms of the top institutions as well as on the football field.

"I know that's one of the reasons why I came to Notre Dame. I wanted to make sure that everybody knew that you could do it in the classroom and you can certainly do it on the football field."

Stanford and Notre Dame are at the top in the graduation rates of both the overall student bodies and student-athletes.

Overall, they are tied for third among national research universities, each graduating 96 percent of their students, and among student-athletes, Notre Dame ranks first at 99 percent and Stanford is seventh at 94 percent.

Even though the Irish have won their first five games for the first time since 2002 and have generated plenty of BCS bowl discussion, Kelly said the program still has plenty to prove.

"We haven't validated anything yet," Kelly said. "I would say that I am not frustrated that you can't do it at Notre Dame. There is hard work just like there is anywhere else in building a program, but in no way do I believe that you can't, after my close to three years here at Notre Dame, that you can't be a competitive BCS football team year in and year out."

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