Posted by: marcmwm | January 21, 2009

Recruiting demographics . . . a numbers game

Andy Staples, of, 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 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:

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’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.



  1. Saying Iowa and Iowa State split players isn’t really accurate though, is it? Iowa has dominated in-state recruiting for a few years now, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up anytime in the near future. Aside from the occasional top prospect from the Ames area (Arnaud), Iowa State isn’t getting many of the upper-tier Iowa prospects.

  2. I agree, Adam. Andy was assuming that with all the states that had two BCS schools fighting over a small number of recruits.

    One thing, I believe the number of BCS recruits in Iowa is climbing. I think character and work ethic are becoming desirable traits in recruiting, after the essential and accidental genetics, of course.

  3. “Accidental genetics”. I love it! Finally a legitimate excuse I can use for my failings.

    ISU has an upward battle when it comes to getting the top-tier recruits from the state. First, for better or worse, there are more Iowa fans in this state than ISU fans. Second, and more important, Iowa has been a more successful program over virtually any time span within the last 25 years. Top tier recruits are more likely to be interested in a program with recent successes. Sure, there are some who will buy into the whole “build something special here” idea but I’m guessing they’re in the minority and it takes a special kind of coach to sell that. So, it becomes a vicious cycle of the best programs getting the best recruits which keeps them at the top of the heap.

    It’s a lot easier to fall from the top than to get up there in the first place.

  4. That stuff about character is probably true to an extent, Marc, but I think it under-sells the athleticism of the recent Iowa prospects quite a bit. We’re never going to be Florida or Texas, but with more kids getting started with modern strength in condition programs earlier, there are more great athletes coming out of Iowa recently too. Kids like Bernstein, Wegher, Davis, Cotton, and, looking ahead, Derby and Dawson are all incredibly gifted.

  5. I had an interesting conversation last night with Iowa sports info’s Steve Roe.

    He brought up a great point about opportunities for true freshmen to crack the lineup in 2009. It won’t be on the OL. It won’t be at LB. It will be at “playmaker.” The WR corps could use a boost. Keenan Davis, Jordan Cotton and Brandon Wegher could find time there. Wegher could be a prime candidate for kick returns.

    Then, we tried to come up with the last true Iowa prep who was a playmaker for the Hawkeyes. Kahlil Hill, I mentioned, but he was more like an import from NY. Then, you go to Banks and Dwight.

    Strong point, Adam. With Derby and Dawson in the pipeline, the arrow is up on Iowa playmakers.

  6. MF, Iowa State desperately needs to win a Big 12 North title. That’s a giant gorilla on ISU’s back.

  7. Great read, Marc.

    iowa St could get it done. Kansas St did it when they were THE worst team in D-1 football for so many years. But, man, what a task. At least for K-St, their main competitor, Kansas, wasn’t a great team when Bill Snyder took over in the 90’s and he could get the few in-state talents. Now, Kansas is quite a bit more attractive.

    Same for new ISU challenge. The Hawks are on a roll again and picked to challenge for the Big 10 title. It’ll be tough for the clones to beat us for in-staters.

    But when Danny Mac was building ISU up, the Hawks were saying goodbye to Hayden and hello Kirk. And, as you recall, we had some pretty bad records in those years. So… good luck with that.
    But, not really.

    Man, I’m glad I’m a Hawk fan!

  8. So many monster schools in ISU’s region.

    Iowa used to do more business in Texas under Fry, but that’s slowed to a trickle. So many other schools recruit the state and Iowa doesn’t have the strongest ties there, though Dick Olin sure helped in Baytown (Drew Tate and Charles Godfrey).

  9. […] other way. It’s got to be a factor in a lot of transfers. Remember the Andy Staples’ story on Recruits don’t go that far away from home. Cole was a long way, physically and […]

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