Stanford University was triumphant this weekend over its Big Game football rival, but that was only part of the story.

The Palo Alto school can also boast, yet again, more Rhodes Scholars than UC-Berkeley as three Stanford students -- and one from Berkeley -- were named among the 32 Americans selected for the prestigious award.

The winners boosted Cal's total to 24 compared to Stanford's 96 -- in case any of the schools competitive students and alums are counting.

But Elliot Gerson, American Secretary of The Rhodes Trust, has an explanation that may — or may not -- turn down some of the famed rivalry between the schools.

"I usually discourage institutions from making these comparisons, " said Gerson. "But everyone looks for a score, even if it is almost meaningless. We're not talking football here, nor playing on a (geographically) level field.''

While it is one thing to compare the two Bay Area schools as they annually duke it out on the gridiron -- Stanford won Saturday 63 to 13 — it's quite another to determine notable differences among four gifted students from two of the region's top universities.

The 2014 winners include:

nStanford graduate Emma Pierson, of Arlington, Va.: Pierson received a B.S. this year in physics and an M.S. in computer science, augmenting her classroom work with research in cognitive psychology and biocomputation. She now works for the genetic testing company 23andMe, and at Oxford plans to use computers to study biology, with a focus on battling cancer.


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nSenior Meredith Wheeler, of Fort Collins, Colo.: Wheeler is majoring in history and political science at Stanford, and her academic work has focused on the Middle East. She has researched lslamic party politics in Egypt, where she once lived briefly, and Islamist political organizations in Morocco. At Oxford, she plans to focus on modern Middle Eastern studies, specifically evaluating levels of democracy during political transitions.

nMiles Unterreiner, of Santa Barbara: Unterreiner received a B.A. and M.A. in history from Stanford. He was a writer, columnist and managing editor for opinion at the Stanford Daily and won the Robert Novak Collegiate Journalism Award, given to one college journalist in the U.S. Unterreiner is interested in international human rights and international law and plans to study international relations at Oxford.

nUC-Berkeley graduate Zarko Perovic, of San Diego: Perovic majored in political science and classical civilizations, graduating in 2012 in the top five of his class. Since then, he's worked in the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. State Department and at the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, where he is designing a system that allows individuals to document atrocities occurring in conflict zones. He plans to study international relations at Oxford.

The Rhodes scholarships were created in 1902 through directives in the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes scholars entered Oxford in 1904. Those selected on Saturday will enter Oxford in October 2014.

The Rhodes Trust awards each winner a scholarship worth about $50,000 a year, which includes academic fees, travel and a stipend for expenses for two, three and sometimes four years. Scholars from the United States will join 48 others chosen from other countries, mostly former British colonies.

Rhodes scholars are selected in a two-stage process. Applicants must first be endorsed by their college or university. This year, 1,750 students sought their school's endorsement, but only 857 were endorsed. Of those, 208 applicants reached the final stage of competition.

Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in Rhodes' will and include high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.

As for an explanation of why Stanford has surpassed Cal in the numbers of Rhodes scholarships, Gerson of the Rhodes Trust said that the scholarships are, by the terms of the Cecil Rhodes's will, assigned to individual states, not the U.S. Rhodes applicants may apply in either the state in which they reside or the state in which they attend a university.

"As the vast majority of Berkeley students live in California," said Gerson, "they are only eligible to apply for Rhodes scholarships in California."

In contrast, most students at universities like Stanford -- or Harvard -- have a choice to apply in their home states. So because of the unusual rules of the Rhodes scholarships, Gerson notes, Stanford students have always had far more opportunities to win Rhodes Scholarships than have Berkeley students.

Gerson said that anyone who would attempt to argue that there is some significance regarding the relative numbers each has won simply doesn't understand how Rhodes scholarships work.

"Given the unique, 19th Century British-will determined jurisdictional rules of the Rhodes scholarships," Gerson said, "one could argue that Berkeley students have done as well or better than Stanford students."

Contact Tracy Seipel at tseipel@mercurynews.com or 408 920-5343 and follow her at Twitter.com/taseipel.