SEC versus Big 10 Recruiting

Here’s another post from my good friend Phil.  Interesting breakdown of recruiting in the Big 10 vs the SEC.  He’s a longtime Boilermaker and has watched with interest as the SEC has risen to total dominance in college football while the Big 10 has virtually collapsed.  Most blame the recruiting disparity between the two conferences, as the majority of the “talent” lies in the southeast.  With that in mind, Mr PAB decided to do a little research.  Interesting to me that Urban Meyer isn’t getting the Florida talent like we originally thought he would……

A Few Good Men:

How Do SEC and Big 10 Teams Recruit from the Other’s Territory?

The question

While it hurts this particular blogger to acknowledge it, this is a down year for Big 10 football. This fact hurts, but does not surprise: the trend has been pointing down for some time. Over the last decade or so, if the Big 10 vs. SEC were a prize fight, it would have been stopped with the Big 10, gloves down, pretty much defenseless on the ropes.

If we accept the premise that recruiting is a cornerstone – some argue it’s THE most important single factor – of every strong football program, then a possible cause-and-effect suggests itself: relative lack of talent is hurting Big 10 teams. (I use the word “recruiting” broadly. Walk-ons count as well.)

What do current rosters tell is about where SEC and BIg 10 teams find their personnel? How many players from Big 10 states make SEC rosters, and vice versa?

The nitty-gritty

Identify the states that are home to Big 10 and SEC schools. Check the official Web site of every school in both conferences, count the number of players that come from the other’s territory.

Big-picture demographics

The fourteen Big 10 universities (does “oxymoron” come to mind?) are located in the following 11 states, shown here in order of population per the 2010 US census:

Illinois                   12,864,380

Pennslyvania       12,734,905

Ohio                       11,568,495

Michigan                 9,911,626

New Jersey             8,807,501

Indiana                   6,501,582

Maryland                 5,789,929

Wisconsin               5,698,230

Minnesota               5,314,879

Iowa                         3,053,787

Nebraska                 1,831,625

Total: 84,076,939

The SEC also has 14 member institutions spread over 11 states, and here are those population figures:

Texas                         25,268,418

Florida                      18,900,773

Georgia                     9,727,566

Tennessee               6,375,431

Missouri                   6,011,478

Alabama                   4,802,982

South Carolina         4,645,975

Louisiana                   4,533,962

Kentucky                   4,350,606

Arkansas                   2,926,299

Mississippi               2,978,240

Total: 81,741,730

These populations are really close. The SEC states’ total is 97.2% of that of the Big 10 states.

Players from Big 10 states in SEC programs

Although The University of Maryland and Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey only entered Big 10 competition this season (2014), I have included players from Maryland and New Jersey in the count.

Kentucky Wildcats: 26; most from one state – 20 / Ohio

Missouri Tigers: 11; most from one state – 5 / Illinois

Vanderbilt Commodores: 10; most from one state – 4 / Illinois

Alabama Crimson Tide: 9; most from one state – 5 / Ohio

Tennessee Volunteers: 8; most from one state – 4 / Ohio

Florida Gators: 6; most from a state: 2 / Pennsylvania, 2 / Michigan

South Carlina Gamecocks: 6

LSU Tigers: 5; most from a state – 2 / Illinois

Arkansas Razorbacks: 4

Texas A&M Aggies: 4

Auburn Tigers: 3

Georgia Bulldogs: 2

Mississipp State Bulldogs: 2

Ole Miss Rebels: 2; most from one state – 2/ Illinois

Total number of players: 99

Most players from one state: 32 from Ohio (32.3% of the total)

The NCAA allows a maximum of 105 players on a football team’s roster. So that’s a maximum of 1470 possible roster spots across the 14 SEC teams. 99 players from the Big 10 states is 6.7% of that number.

It can be noted that the two teams with the most players from Big 10 states border at the Big 10, with one of them a relative newcomer to the SEC: Kentucky (26) and Missouri (11). That’s 37.4% of the 99-player total. Perhaps, as in real estate, this is a “location, location, location” phenomenon.

Finally, be aware that there are three Australians, one Canadian and one player from Germany on SEC rosters. Five players from foreign nations. That’s three more than hail from Minnesota, The Land of a Thousand Lakes.

Players from SEC states on Big 10 teams

Purdue Boilermakers: 42; most from one state – Florida, 19

Minnesota Golden Gophers: 34; most from one state – Texas, 12

Indiana Hoosiers: 30; most from one state – Florida, 9

Nebraska Cornhuskers: 28; most from one state: Texas, 13

Illinois Fighting Illini: 24; most from one state: Florida, 15

Northwestern Wildcats: 22; most from one state: Texas, 11

Maryland Terrapins: 19; most from one state – Florida, 8

Ohio State Buckeyes: 18; most from one state – Georgia, 7

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 17; most from one state – Florida, 16

Wisconsin Badgers: 14; most from one state – Florida, 11

Iowa Hawkeyes: 13; most from one state: Texas 6

Michigan State Spartans: 10; most from one state – Florida, 6

Penn State Nittany Lions: 9; most from one state – Florida, 4

Michigan Wolverines: 8; most from one state – Florida, 2, and Missouri, 2

Total number of players: 288

Most from one state: 128 from Florida ( 44.4% of the total)

Players from SEC states hold 288 out of a 1470 maximum possible roster spots; that’s 19.6%. (Recall that there are only 99 players from Big 10 states on SEC teams.)

Some observations

When Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State, one assumption was that he would recruit successfully from southern states, Florida in particular. But there are only 18 players from SEC states on the Buckeye roster at this time.   Ohio has the third-highest population among the Big 10 states, and recruits from Ohio make up a good portion of many Big 10 teams. With so much local talent, perhaps Coach Meyer is being highly selective in his out-of-state recruiting. Then again, a winter along the Olentangy River might not be all that appealing to players from warmer climes. (Navel oranges – yes! Buckeyes – no!)

Big 10 states with smaller populations rely pretty strongly on recruits from SEC states. Looking at population ranks and number of players, we see:

  • Indiana – 6th in population; 42 at Purdue, 30 at IU
  • Wisconsin: 8th in population; 14
  • Minnesota – 9th in population; 34
  • Iowa – 10th in population; 13
  • Nebraska – 11th in population; 34

There are only 10 players from Alabama playing in the Big 10. These players can be found in four programs: Purdue (2), Penn State (3), Minnesota (3) and Nebraska (2). So nine Big 10 teams have no players at all from the Heart of Dixie. That was a surprise.

If Florida were to somehow be cut off from the rest of the Unites States, people in Big 10 states would suffer terribly. Their primary source of out-of-conference football talent would disappear and massive traffic jams would ensue when Winnebagos, crammed with “snowbirds” get turned back just short of the Sunshine State.

By the way

The United State Marine Corps used “The Marines are looking for a few good men” as its primary recruiting slogan from 1971-1984. The play “A Few Good Men,” about a Marine’s death at the base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, debuted on Broadway in late 1989. Movie of the same title was released in 1992, starring Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore. It received two Academy Award nominations: Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson).


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