PROVO — An NFL team that wins the Super Bowl for a fifth time is said to have so many championship rings that it has won "one for the thumb."

When it comes to being ranked the nation's most "Stone-Cold Sober" school, Brigham Young University has plumb run out of fingers and thumbs.

The 2009 edition of the Princeton Review's "Best 368 Colleges" goes on sale today and has BYU on top of its list of stone-cold sober schools for the 11th year in a row.

So, BYU, how 'bout one for the pinkie toe?

Called the "academic epicenter of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" by the Princeton Review, the university's annual recognition for abstemiousness regularly sparks derision from some drinkers who look down their long-neck beer bottles at the dry campus. But the stone-cold sober label is considered an honor by nearly everyone involved with the university, from students to faculty to members of the board of trustees.

Last year the chairman of the board, late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, again praised students for the Princeton Review ranking, calling it proof they live up to the school's Honor Code, which proscribes smoking, drinking and extramarital sex.

BYU has so dominated the category that it has entered the consciousness of pop culture. In 2006, BYU's long run of notable sobriety was the answer to a question on the hit television game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

University spokesman Michael Smart toasted Monday's news.

"We continue to be proud to defend our title as the nation's most stone-cold sober university," Smart said. "It's become a source of pride and a fun item for students who choose BYU for the unique environment they want to enjoy."

The Princeton Review rankings are based on a survey of 120,000 students around the country. The sober category is based on answers students provide about the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class and the popularity of fraternities and sororities.

BYU abolished fraternities and sororities in 1924 and social clubs in 1962.

Nationally, the rankings get more publicity for the opposite end of the drinking spectrum. The Associated Press story on the release of "Best 368 Colleges" led with the University of Florida being named the No. 1 party school this year, a first after 15 years in the top 20.

"We know our students like to have a good time," Florida spokesman Steve Orlando said.

Stanford University is No. 1 for best classroom experience, according to the book.

BYU made the top 20 in 14 different categories, including first place for most religious students and for training future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution, a category that reflects the conservative, religious bent of the student body and the popularity of student government on campus.

BYU placed third for low usage of marijuana, sixth for best college library and 16th on the lists for happiest students and best quality of life.

"We maintain that the top-20 rankings for happiest students and best quality of life go hand in hand with being considered stone-cold sober," Smart said.

BYU was eighth on the list of most conservative students, led by Texas A&M, and 10th on a list of schools with low acceptance of gays, which was topped by Notre Dame.

Princeton Review editors say the value of a survey of students' opinions about their own schools is the perspective they provide to prospective students trying to select the college or university that will be the right fit for them. The editors don't claim the survey is objective or scientific.

For example, Maryland students rated their university's sports facilities so highly that they are listed No. 1 in the country on the Princeton Review list. Among the rest of the top 10 is one school that wouldn't make an ESPN.com or CNNSI.com study of the subject: Texas A&M, Wabash College, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Clemson, West Virginia, Penn State and Georgia.

Wabash College is a small, private, liberal arts college for men in Crawfordsville, Ind., that plays Division III football quite well — in a stadium with 5,000 bleacher seats.

The University of Utah appeared on two lists, placing third for least-accessible professors and 20th for most religious students.

Westminster College finished two spots behind BYU at 18th on the list for best quality of life. Both had a quality of life rating of 98, while the U. earned an 82.

All three schools have two-page profiles in "Best 368 Colleges."

The Princeton Review launched a "green" rating for the first time this year. Eleven schools, including Harvard, Yale, Arizona State and the universities of Oregon and Washington, earned perfect scores of 99.

The U. earned an 89 and Westminster a 76. BYU was unrated because it did not provide complete information to the Princeton Review.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com