Can The Heat Be Beat?

Submitted by Elno Lewis on March 14th, 2010 at 12:32 PM

As if winning national championships was hard enough as it is, Michigan, along with all other cold weather teams, have an even more difficult row to hoe.   This aspect of winning championships has been somewhat addressed on this blog before. (See:  While recruiting might weigh heavily into this equation, it is not the main thrust of this article.  This is just a
comparison between Warm Weather Teams and Cold Weather Teams.  The results seem to be quite significant.

First of all, my comparison for the most part involves teams from 1940 forward.  Prior to 1940, Warm Weather Teams won only 8 out of a possible 64 titles (12.5%).  I don’t know if this date is the Official Demarcation point.  Its just the one I chose.
I also made a somewhat arbitrary choice when it comes to categorizing the teams. 

The following are the teams I designated as Warm Weather Teams:

Florida State

Maybe Texas should be in that bunch, but I figured it gets cold enough in Texas for enough of the season to qualify as a Cold Weather Team.   Ditto, Oklahoma.

The following is a list of the Cold Weather Teams:

Michigan State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Penn State

In ten year increments since 1940, this is how it pans out:

30     Since 1940 Warm Weather Teams
39     Since 1940 Cold Weather Teams
40.6% Since 1940 Percentage of National Championships
30     Since 1950 Warm Weather Teams
29     Since 1950 Cold Weather Teams
47.5% Since 1950 Percentage of National Championships
26      Since 1960 Warm Weather Teams
23   Since 1960 Cold Weather Teams
53.1%  Since 1960 Percentage of National Championships
21    Since 1970 Warm Weather Teams
18 Since 1970 Cold Weather Teams
53.8%  Since 1970 Percentage of National Championships
18   Since 1980 Warm Weather Teams
11   Since 1980 Cold Weather Teams
62.1%  Since 1980 Percentage of National Championships
13   Since 1990 Warm Weather Teams
6    Since 1990 Cold Weather Teams
68.4%  Since 1990 Percentage of National Championships
7     Since 2000 Warm Weather Teams
3    Since 2000 Cold Weather Teams
70.0%   Since 2000 Percentage of National Championships

Shared titles, as represented below, is a wash.

2003 USC (AP)*
1997 Nebraska (ESPN)
1991 Washington (CNN)
1990 Georgia Tech (UPI)*
1978 USC (UPI)*
1974 USC (UPI)*
1973 Alabama (UPI)*
1970 Texas (UPI)
1965 Michigan State (UPI)
1957 Ohio State (UPI)
1954 UCLA (UPI)*
1947 Notre Dame (Because, fock ND)

    *Designated Warm Weather Teams.

So, we are left with the following:

Warm Weather Teams Winning Championships

1940   1950   1960   1970   1980    1990   2000
40.6%    47.5%    53.1%    53.8%    62.1%    68.4%    70.0%

(had trouble getting the above to line up)

The above would not appear to be the result of coincidence.  So, assuming this trend is true, it does not bode well for any and all Cold Weather Teams, including Michigan.  Will this trend continue?  Who knows, but it could. 



March 14th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

in a few hundred years, if Al Gore's prediction turns out to be

Also, IMHO, I think al least Texas should be a warm weather state and Oklahoma is on the fence in either direction. It is hotter then a hell in Oklahoma in the summer!!!! Which makes this analysis even more weighted to the warm weather teams..

Elno Lewis

March 14th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

i left texass and oklahomo cold because they do play a few games in bad weather i.e. nebraska, iowa state, kansas, missouri, and the like.--and it CAN get cold in both those states.

but, yeah


March 14th, 2010 at 7:51 PM ^

Most Dixie teams didn't allow African-Americans to play. This shrunk their athlete pool considerably, and forced African-Americans to go to the North or the West Coast to play football, unless they wanted to go to "black colleges" such as Grambling.

When de-segregation finally happened, the numbers started to turn around. It just seems that it is a lot easier for warm-weather athletes to not only keep in shape during the off-season, but keep improving. That is why I am so glad that UM and RR are recruiting a lot of warm weather kids.


March 14th, 2010 at 10:08 PM ^

Since 1940, and especially since 1960, the fastest growing states in the nation in terms of population have all been in the Sun Belt, stretching from CA to FLA. Combine that statistical fact with Tater's point about African-Americans finally being allowed to play for southern schools in the 60s and 70s, and you have a collection of advantages for warm weather schools. In addition to the warm weather itself, which doesn't hurt for all kinds of reasons.

I don't care—you couldn't get me to move to the deep south for anything.


March 15th, 2010 at 1:08 AM ^

But as a critique of your conclusion I'd echo the sentiment Don alluded to--while you have found that there is a positive correlation between teams playing in warm weather and an increasing share of championships, this does not show a causal relationship. What would be really neat would be to do some further analysis on demographics or whatever it is that warm weather coaches are doing to be successful and figure out how to replicate it up north.
The difficult part of this is that there are so many variables. Relative academic strength over the years will change the attractiveness of a school to talented athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators (and each group might have an overall preference for weak or strong academics, and that preference may change throughout the years), economic strength of the surrounding region affects funding for the university and therefore its overall attractiveness, scoring one talented coach or athlete or administrator by dumb luck may attract more talent in a domino effect, or maybe weather has had a direct effect on success--but again, weather might theoretically attract a good AD who wants to be somewhere warm, who discerns and hires a good coach, and the coach is then effective at recruiting and coaching talented athletes. Or maybe the whole trend is entire coincidental. The possibilities are basically endless.


March 15th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

is due to the fact that in all sports - pro and college - the season and the off-season are getting more and more blurred.

It use to be when the season ended - it ended. Kids went and played another sport (basketball) or nothing at all. Now kids are more "specialized" to a sport.

Warm weather kids can simply play their sport of choice all year long. How many Northern kids were playing pick up football or baseball in 4 feet of snow and a blizzard? Or going for a run?

4-5 months of more practice and keeping in shape have to be an advantage. Now multiply this by 6-7 years and the Southern kid has a lot more development time under his belt. This is why Northern schools are recruiting down South.


March 16th, 2010 at 5:39 PM ^

I fail to see why 1940 is the demarcation point. I though you were using the end of single platoon football as the point but that was 1941 (when substitution was allowed freely). Why not do CFB history as a whole or use a date that signifies a change or a leveling of the playing field?

Tater's thoughts on post segregation CFB are as good a start as I can come up with. I was thinking of any of the years that the NCAA began implementing scholarship limits ('73, '78, or '92).

Finally, I certainly appreciate you doing the work for this and have always appreciated your posts since your famous woody hayes explosion on the sackcarr?!?!.com boards. I just thought a little constructive criticism was in order.


March 16th, 2010 at 9:36 PM ^

Demographic shifts. Industry collapsed in the "cold states" (see Rust Belt)and the cold population has shrunk. Population has grown in the southern states. More population = more players, period.