Every player hometown from the top ten NCAA football programs (except those that fall outside of the map, in Hawaii, American Samoa, Australia, and England. Yes, England).
So I came up with a rating system that looked at the hometowns of all the kids on the team and how far away they were from school and called it the...
Air Miles Index.
You take the distance between a player's hometown and his school (then the square root of that, for lots of reasons), and average it out across the whole team. That resulting unit-less number is a simple quantifiable way of comparing the reach of recruiting between schools, which might then give us fun clues or insights about the programs and their regions.
If a top-ten program had a really tight local footprint of player hometowns (a low Air Miles Index), that would be pretty interesting. And if a top-ten program drew kids from all over (a high Air Miles Index), that would be interesting, too! But why? Here are the ten best programs in the country right now, in order of their Air Miles index.
Impressed, I asked him why and he said, "Oregon is really famous because they're so good. And they look really cool." He may have nailed it. When hot-shot high school players consider schools, I wouldn't underestimate the draw of looking cool. Their partnership with Nike, and the parade of uniforms, might be a talent-attracting vortex.
ND has some interesting clusters. The team, which is wholly devoid of locals, pretty much comes from LA, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, and Boston. Talk about spread out. Also, the Air Miles Index has remained pretty consistent across all of the classes.
What about by position? Since I had the data and had figured the distances (the hard part), it was a quick pivot table to get the average Air Mile Index per position. Of course I would expect punters to be really distantly recruited (given US football's tendency to court foot-familiar kids raised on soccer and rugby), but I thought marquee positions like quarterbacks, wide receivers, and middle linebackers to be recruited from greater distances, but the top-ten programs tended to stay relatively local for those positions. They also apparently have a hard time finding local Centers. I thought that was weird.
|Position||Air Mile Index|
Ok, that's it for the ten top-ranked teams.
The following schools are not currently top-ten AP poll ranked programs (of course I'm confidently holding out for CMU -just a matter of time, really), but I was curious about them so while the process was fresh in my soft soft mind, I thought I'd crank out Air Mile Indexes for Penn State, Michigan, and Central Michigan.
Joshua Stevens was curious about PSU. The Nittany Lions draw a lot of kids from New Jersey and their Air Mile Index is higher than Michigan State and lower than Ole Miss. The freshman class' Air Mile Index dwarfs those of the other years, indicating a recent drive to recruit at greater distances. Also, the number of players across the classes is similar to the trend seen at Notre Dame (above).
The wolverines have had some struggles in recent years, but the Air Mile Index across the four classes is pretty flat -no indication of growing or shrinking reach.
Understandably, Central's Air Miles Index is much lower than the rest of the teams in this list. As a regional state university, the players come almost entirely from within Michigan except for what looks like a well-traveled recruitment turn in western-suburban Chicago (and a few in Miami).