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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maisel on Rust Belt recruiting struggles

Good article by Ivan Maisel of espn.com regarding the population shift from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt, and its inevitable effects on Big Ten recruiting.

Feed: ESPN.com - Big Ten Blog
Posted on: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:31 PM
Author: Adam Rittenberg
Subject: Maisel on Rust Belt recruiting struggles


Jim Delany's remarks last week about the population shift to the Sun Belt drew plenty of national attention, as media types and others wondered whether the Big Ten would start looking South for expansion candidates.

While Delany might have been a bit misunderstood -- the Big Ten is more likely to solidify itself in the Midwest or the East Coast than become the SEC Lite -- his general point is a very important one. The Big Ten can't ignore national demographics or the economic situation, and it must be proactive to preserve and enhance its brand.

Colleague Ivan Maisel takes an in-depth look at the declining population in the Rust Belt -- namely Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan -- and its effect on recruiting and even the development of football coaches. There's a lot of revealing stuff in there for Big Ten fans, so give it a read.

A couple of things stood out to me:

  • The accuracy of recruiting rankings is always fodder for discussion. But you don't need a statistician to interpret the shift in the numbers. From 2007 to 2010, an entire four-year cycle of recruits, Pennsylvania had a total of 21 players ranked in the ESPNU 150. Ohio had 16 and Michigan 14. Over that four-year period, those three states had fewer than Florida and Texas had this year alone.
  • In western Pennsylvania, the home of great quarterbacks from Joe Namath to Joe Montana to Dan Marino, population is decreasing. "In the old days, they used to talk about if you could get 11 players from Johnstown to Youngstown, you'd be in pretty good shape," said Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who has been recruiting western Pennsylvania for decades. "It's just not that way. … In western Pa., you're not going to get the same amount of players that you used to."
  • "This place," Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said, referring to the iconic program where he has coached since 2001, "will change less than other places." The Buckeyes will continue to sign the best players in a football-crazed state. But, Bollman added, "Youngstown has two high schools now. Cleveland has fewer high schools. Akron has fewer high schools. Are there players? Yeah. Are there as many overall? I don't know how there can be."
  • Chuck Kyle, the longtime coach at Cleveland St. Ignatius, said he is seeing the consolidation of local Catholic Youth Organization teams even as the high school numbers increase. Other coaches are seeing parents balk at so-called "pay to play" fees across the state. If the taxpayers can't afford it, the price of football has to be paid by someone.


This is the reason why Big Ten teams must continue to look to the South, Southeast and West for players. Some teams have established mini pipelines, which is a good start.

I still don't think the Big Ten should feel obliged to add Southern schools. Besides Texas, there isn't a realistic home-run addition below the Mason-Dixon, and while Georgia Tech makes sense on some levels, it wouldn't make a huge splash nationally.

But for the Big Ten to ignore what's happening among the nation's population would be a major mistake.


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