Andy Staples, of SI.com, visited an Auburn practice a few years ago. Then-coach Tommy Tuberville told him “We try to get all of our players from within 200 miles of campus.”
“I thought that was interesting,” Staples said in a phone interview Wednesday. “They’ve been really successful for a long time. I thought, ‘Well, let’s see who else does that.’ ”
Staples writes the “Inside Recruiting” column for SI.com. Before that, he covered college football for the Tampa Tribune, right in the heart of college football talent central.
He started researching “The State of Recruiting” in August and just posted the story Tuesday. While crunching the numbers, Staples made Google maps to give himself a visual. You can find the story and the maps here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/andy_staples/01/20/recruiting/index.html
An FBS college football team is allowed 85 scholarships. Staples’ research revealed that the state of Iowa produced 61 BCS football players from 2004-08. You also have to factor in Iowa State. Iowa is a state with two BCS schools, and, thus, competition heats up for a talent pool that is already behind the biggies — Florida (981) and Texas (974).
“That’s tough,” Staples said. “Assume Iowa and Iowa State split those players, that’s only a quarter of a team.”
The state of Iowa has one player in Rivals.com’s top 100 for 2009, OL David Barrent from West Des Moines Valley. After initially committing to Iowa, he’s going to Michigan State.
Did you know the average Hawkeye travels 456.225 miles from home to play at the UI? The programs that drew at least 50 percent of its recruits from 200 miles won more games. Iowa had 31.8 percent and won 38 games from 2004-08. USC’s number is 61 percent and it won 59 games.
From Staples’ story:
“Mike DuMond, Allen Lynch and Jennifer Platania — rabid college football fans who met while Ph D. candidates at Florida State — found that among heavily recruited players choosing from among only BCS-conference schools, distance from home is the most important factor in a recruit’s choice. The model was published in the February 2008 issue of The Journal of Sports Economics.”
Kids who come from their school’s home state have a stronger support system. College recruiters have more established relationships with coaches they can drive an hour or two to visit. There’s a level of trust. (No, I’m not going to get into the arrest thing, but, you have to admit, this might explain a lot.)
“There’s a quote from Bret Bielema in the story,” Staples said. ” He was talking about how guys from Wisconsin when they put that ‘W’ on their helmet and it means more to them. Same thing for guys from Iowa who wear the black jersey and gold pants. It means more to them than if you’re from Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas. You grew up around it.”
Logically, these recruits are more likely to start what they finish and stay off the police blotter. Of Iowa’s 12 commitments for 2009, five are from the state. There could be more in a class that’ll likely settle in at 18.
“It’s easier to judge character when you deal with the high school coaches you deal with all the time, your instate coaches,” Staples said.
Staples went to Miami’s spring practice last year. The Hurricanes, right there in Coral Gables, Fla., are working to lock down their backyard in recruiting.
“One of the kids, someone who grew up 3 or 4 miles away from campus, I asked him what it’s going to be like to run through the smoke for the first time,” Staples said.” He said, ‘I might cry.’ That’s the kind of player you’re looking for. You’re looking for the guy who more than anything wants to make your program great.”
Does this mean it’s impossible to win at Iowa? Small population, small pool of home-state BCS talent, competition from Iowa State. Staples points to Oregon. The state produced just 44 BCS players from 2004-08 and yet Oregon and Oregon State won.
“It’s not the end of the world, but it certainly makes them work harder, just like the Nebraskas and Notre Dames of the world,” he said.
Ohio State and Penn State have the best recruiting grounds in the Big Ten, according to the research. Michigan produces tons of players, but Michigan and Michigan State battle. Plus, the Big Ten region isn’t choked by a Texas or USC.
Regionally, Iowa State has its work cut out, Staples said.
“The four Texas schools take what they want from the state (Texas),” he said. “Missouri and Oklahoma take what they want out of Texas. I would say Iowa State is in a lot worse spot than Iowa is.”
The bigger popluation shift is bad news for all northern schools. Everyone is moving south. Look outside. That’s what Iowa is recruiting against. And it’s not only Iowa, but Nebraska and Notre Dame.