Tuesday, February 26, 2008

College Football Talent – The State of the States

Even sagacious saurians need a break now and again, as the time between this post and the last indicates. So, what shall we address in this time of sport's doldrums between the end of the football season and the beginning of March Madness?

Well, let’s statistically dissect those recruiting classes.

Conventional wisdom among college football observers holds that certain states are “rich” in football talent, and thus fertile recruiting grounds. Commonly California, Texas and Florida are cited among those states with plentiful football talent. However, how much of this is merely a function of the large population of those states, and how much reflects the true depth of football talent in any individual state?

To determine which states are really founts of college football talent (at least in 2007), we first consulted the Scout.com “Scout 300”, or the 300 top college football prospects in 2007 per Scout.

Statistically 300 provides a pretty good sample size for our analysis. What we are tying to determine is which states have an outsized number of participants in the Scout 300 in relation to the overall population of the states, and well as which states are weakly represented in the overall football talent pool.

For example California has a total share of the US population of 11.95%. Thus in a sample of 300 players, one would expect California to have 35.85 (11.95% of 300) representative players.

And California does have almost exactly that in the Scout 300, with 36 of the 300 players coming from the Golden State. Thus, California is evenly represented when it comes to football talent, being neither over represented in high school talent, nor under represented.

The following shows the states that are over represented by football talent to state population, with percentage of US population, expected number of top 300 recruits, actual number of top 300 recruits, and percentage of over representation –

To determine the percentage of over representation, we took the expected number of top 300 recruits compared to the actual number of top 300 recruits. In the example of Alabama, one would expect a state representing 1.51% of the US population to have 4.53 players in the top 300. Alabama actually had 11 in 2007, or 142.8% more than expected.

Some of the states on this list could be merely a function of sample size, such as Nebraska having 2 recruits over an expected 1.74. However the numbers for states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas are very impressive. Texas, the 2nd most populous state with 44 of the top 300 players, had more total recruits than the bottom 31 states combined.

Several states and/or provinces had no top 300 recruits, and for the most part they had populations so low that this was not outside the realm of normal probability (ranked by expected recruits).

The only state that really stands out here is Massachusetts, who would be expected per population to have about 6 recruits. Compare Washington with a nearly identical population to Massachusetts, yet 8 recruits, or even Georgia with a slightly larger population and 21 recruits.

This perhaps explains the empty seats at Boston College games.

Finally we have the underachievers.

The top 7 teams on this list are mostly a function of having less than one less recruit than expected, and not a accurate indication of lack of talent.

New York is the most startling aberration, a state that is 3rd in US population with only 2 of an expected 19 total recruits.

This perhaps explains Syracuse.

Finally, look again at the list of names that have more than their share of expected recruits, those that have about their share, and those that have none or far fewer than expected. In this political year, what “color” states do, for the most part, those look like?

Just sayin’.

Next: How the schools did in their own back yards


Unknown said...

Good stuff guys!

Anonymous said...

Man, look at that underachiever list - every Big Ten state except Ohio and Pennsylvania is on it. This really explains the gap between Ohio State and the rest of the conference: everyone else needs to do national recruiting to make up for subpar in-state recruiting, and only Michigan, Penn State, and Illinois under Zook have made any headway in that direction. Even then, only Penn State isn't playing from behind to begin with.

Nicely done, as always.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting analysis, but I'd be curious if this is simply a one-off year, or if the past few years show this as a trend.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

It's important to consider that the analysis only shows "where" talent is coming from not the "why" it's coming from where its coming.

My guess is that there's a whole host of reasons starting with demographics. States with older median ages are probably less likely to produce a lot of football playing 17 year-olds. Also, weather conditions. States in warmer climates are amenable to year-round athletic activity. My guess is that's why you see a lot of basketball players coming out of New York and Chicago and other places up north.

And of course, there's the cultural aspect. Which states is football a religion in? I think we've seen that states in the south with rural communities have used high school football as a unifying force. I don't think you are going to see that kind of school spirit in a Manhattan High School.

Mergz said...

Anon -

The analysis is for this past recruiting season only. Since it took quite a bit of time I am not eager to dive into past years. However since it is done now I will have the info going forward.

In regard to Henry's comments, some of what he says is undoubtably true. When you look at the miserable results for New York, one must imagine some of that is a function of much of the population being located in urban areas where a football field would be a unaffordable luxury.

Anonymous said...

Mergz, I'd agree about the urban area part. It explains quite well Massachusetts (where Boston has a majority of the population) and New York having very little relative to their population size.

Anonymous said...

States with more Black people and more suburban/rural areas vs urban areas are the ones on the top of the list.

Anonymous said...

Explaining New York's low #'s:

Among highschool athletes football ranks at best as the 4th most popular sport behind basketball, soccer and lacrosse. Go upstate and it drops to fifth behind hockey as well.

Couple that with the lack of a large state schools playing Division 1 football. None of the SUNY's play in Division 1 in any sport except hockey. Syracuse is NY's version of SMU, Buffalo is the equivalent of The Citadel in terms of their football team.