Recruiting and geography

Submitted by dnak438 on September 11th, 2013 at 11:04 AM

In April, the Mathlete had a very interesting post about the Recruiting map in which he pointed out that

It is also amazing that other than Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver and west Texas there are essentially no FBS football recruits between the Pacific coast and I-35. It will be interesting to see what happens with this as geographical boundaries continue to overlap with the ongoing conference expansion.

In the comments I pointed out that this maps on to overall demography. The Mathlete's map of recuits

is not significantly different from the US Census' map of population density by county:

But demography can't explain everything. Some states produce more football talent per capita than others.

Football Study Hall published a blog post today about Where FBS recruits come from, in which they tracked FBS recruits from 2008 to 2013 in raw numbers and per capita (click to their article to see the raw data). Mapped using Google Fusion, the result is the following (click to embiggen): 

Map showing FBS recruits per capita by state

This map illustrates the recruiting advantage of the SEC and the South generally: Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida are all well above average in terms of the number of FBS recruits they produce per capita. Texas and Oklahoma are also above average -- and, unfortunately for UT, so is Utah.

The recruiting advantage of Michigan and Ohio State is also thrown into relief. Although Michigan is below average in the number of football recruits it produces (0.61 recruits per 100k, vs. the national average of 0.75), the state of Ohio is well above average (1.31 recruits per 100k, 9th in the nation), and is of course a consistent and significant source of recruits for UM and OSU.



September 11th, 2013 at 1:22 PM ^

Could those states produce more FBS recruits, because there are more FBS schools? I mean, if NJ only has Rutgers as an FBS school. That means that if a kid is a 2-3* that could play at a lower level FBS school (e.g. Troy), he would probably not get scouted in NJ and would possibly either not play football or maybe go play FCS or even lower to remain close to home.

I don't know how you account for this, however.


September 11th, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

But here's a first crack:

So it does indeed look like there is a correlation between the number of FBS schools (which I pulled from here) and the number of recruits per capita.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn't take into account proximity across state boundaries -- e.g., a Washington, DC kid that commits to Maryland or Virginia. So a better way would be to track the density of FBS recruits around the campus locations of FBS schools. So the question would be, are there higher densities of FBS recruits around campuses with FBS programs?



September 11th, 2013 at 6:41 PM ^

Though, of course, this may not be causation.  There may be more FBS programs in an area because there's a lot more general interest in youth football in the area.  Your current chart coud simply be showing that local interest in (non-professional) football (the proxy here being the FBS recruits) results in more FBS teams (presumably because the local support would exist for these teams.)

I suspect (but don't have the data to prove) that the rate of youth playing football in NJ is probably lower than the states where the FBS recruit index is much higher.


September 13th, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

Of course you're right when it comes to population density producing more talent, in any sport. That is a given before one even begins a study.  Hell, being one of the "Old Men" that visits this site, I can recall when the five largest cities in America, in order were NYC, Chi, Philly, LA and Detroit.  Chicago and L.A. have basically done a flip-fop but Detroit and Philly have fallen drasitcally.  Houston is a mega city that was even considered when I was a kid. Same with Atlanta, Dallas, etc.  Phoenix and cities having that climate were where people needing dry heat went.  Now I believe FL is no. 3 in population. Oh and as an aside, I was forced to spend '83 in OKC that happened to be the first year the greater metropolitan area had over 1,000,000 separate household numbers listed in the phonebook. At that time they had the 89ers, Philly's Triple A bb team, now the Thunder. Who knows what will follow. I'll have to admit though it'd take a hell of a lot more for me to live in that state than A/C.  And I'm on record as saying those that are willing to live in Stillwater, no matter whether they're pretending to give you an education, deserve something more than the average college student.  So I have to give them somewhat of a break for what supposedly transpired.  Hell, I know it did because it was going on in Norman while I was there and boosters supplying money was a source of pride, the more the better. Didn't even try and hide the fact when speaking with them.


September 12th, 2013 at 4:29 PM ^

I figure there's a little of both.  I would think minor FBS programs (Sun Belt, CUSA, etc.) would increase the numbers for a state.  Louisiana, for example, probably benefits hugely from having schools in the state (ULM, etc.) that have very little recruiting reach.  Watch Virginia's numbers jump when ODU starts to count as an FBS program.


September 11th, 2013 at 6:06 PM ^

I thought Cali would be more. 

I also heard a stat one time that said Louisiana puts more players per capite into the NFL, and I believe it. 


September 11th, 2013 at 8:21 PM ^

Much larger focus on youth football in Ohio compared to Michigan.  Contributing to this is probably a much more concentrated interest in youth football vs. other sports (Ohio produces lots of NFL talent, but relatively few NBA players and almost no NHL players; whereas Michigan develops players in all three of those sports at more balanced rates.)


September 12th, 2013 at 4:24 AM ^

While your main point is correct, I think the difference is just about entirely due to hockey as Ohio and Michigan produce very, very similar levels of basketball players. 

At the end of last season, there were 39 kids from Michigan high schools on the rosters of the schools in the top 10 basketball conferences, while there were 45 from Ohio. Similarly, of the players on current preseason NBA rosters, 10 were born in Michigan and 12 were born in Ohio. Pretty much even to me.

On the other hand, 33 active NHL players were born in Michigan, while only 3 were born in Ohio. And while I don't have the actual numbers, I would guess division one and junior hockey rosters also have a much higher number of Michigan born players than Ohio born players.

I would suspect you are spot on in saying Ohio produces more NFL talent because of a stronger focus on youth football, but it would seem to me that only hockey, not hockey and basketball, suffer as a result.


September 12th, 2013 at 7:15 AM ^

While I agree with your point on hockey, I believe you removed the per capita criteria for your counterpoint on basketball. Using your data, 1in every 296k people makes a top 10 conference basketball roster, vs 1in every 250k in michigan. Michigan is producing ncaa basketball talent at a significantly higher rate per capita.


September 12th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

Dang! You are quite right, I did indeed forget to put everything in per capita numbers!

Though now I am curious how you got those numbers/what state population numbers you used because my numbers came out a bit different (and I did put my faith in Wikipedia having accurate population data, so there is that.) 

Using roughly 11.54 million for Ohio and 9.88 for Michigan I got 1 in 257k and 253k respectively. Or 0.3898 per 100k  vs 0.3946 per 100k (both surprisingly below the national average of 0.46 by the way). I'm no statistician but that difference seems pretty much insignificant, particularly with such a small sample size.


September 12th, 2013 at 3:20 PM ^

on this [football blog] site about concussions and CTE risks of football and how no one would ever let their kid play football

- versus, well -

Ohio, where there are lots of dad's like Urban Meyer's: "son, you are walking your ass home unless you not only play football, but win"

Picktown GoBlue

September 11th, 2013 at 10:40 PM ^

including the water areas within the state borders.  Makes for some odd-looking shapes, especially for Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Almost looks like Bart Simpson hanging his head in shame for not having so many football recruits per capita.