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* Sunbelt universities with winning traditions on the gridiron are moving up in another league: academics.

One major force: Texas oil money, which up to now has gone into well-equipped campuses and immense football stadiums.

Now the push is on to recruit scholars as well as signal-callers. A sign of the change: Texas A&M University has chalked up the largest net increase among US colleges in the number of National Merit Scholars enrolling. A&M ranks 12th this year among 3,000 colleges and universities.

Sunbelt university spokesmen say their schools plan to pump more money into hiring top faculty members to attract and keep top students.

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