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Recruiting and Conference Realignment

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Does changing AQ conference realignment help recruiting?

Recruiting.  It is the heartbeat of a program*.  At The College Football Matrix recruiting defines success and failure as a team and as a coach.  Without it your team will win less.  You need it to make a National Championship Game.  Winning starts with recruiting, recruiting does not start with winning.

All too often fans try to find reasons for optimism in their future recruiting.  They know it is important, but frequently deny it’s value for fear of sacrificing emotional belief that college football cannot be that simple.  The fact is, for recruiting, most programs are range-bound in their year over year efforts to attract talent. While there are highs and lows over a decade, for most teams they are stuck oscillating between a range of class rankings.  When averaged out over the 4-5 years of player eligibility, this talent level smooths and becomes very consistent (see Arkansas – the black line).

There is only a finite amount of talent in the U.S. every year.  For one team to improve, another must decline.  It’s the yin and yang of college football.  There are so many piece to the recruiting puzzle that need to be improved before a team can break out of range bound recruiting.   Going above your average for year is good, two in row, very good, 3+ rare and great (see Stanford) .  It just doesn’t happen easily and it certainly does not happen overnight.

But some fans (many) think that a change of conference from one AQ to another AQ can make an overnight difference in recruiting.  If Texas winning 5 games still means a top 10 class and Boise State can’t break the top 50 in recruiting, do you really think going from the Big East to the Big 12 to the SEC is going to help?  Let’s take a look.

In my constant search for simple answers to college football myths, legends and understandings I turn to my constant trend and playing field lever, statistics.  It’s really easy.  Just compare the years leading up to and years after switching conferences.  There might be other factors like new facilities but overall those will average out to give us a good profile.

Since 2002, when I started by talent ranking composite classes for recruiting, there have been 8 schools change from one AQ conference to another.  Miami ’04, Virginia Tech ’04, Boston College ’05, Colorado ’10, Nebraska ’10, West Virginia, Texas A&M and Missouri ’12.  For the last 3 teams, I only have 1 post move recruiting class and 10 previous years of class rankings.

Here is a breakdown of the totals for this group.

Average Class Two Years Prior to Move: #32.68 (w/out ’11 teams #33.69)
Average Class Two Years After the Move**: #32.69 (w/out ’11 teams #33.93)

Average Class of all Years Before Move: #32.92
Average Class of all Years After the Move: #31.77

Team History:

  • Miami Two Year Ave Before: #5.5    Four Year Ave After: #9.75
  • Texas A&M 4Year ave Before: #20.5    First Class After: #17
  • Nebraska 4Year ave Before: #25    Three Year Ave Class After: #26
  • Virginia Tech 2Year ave Before: #38.5    Four Year Ave. After: #27.25
  • West Virginia 4Year ave Before: #34.75    First Class After: #36
  • Missouri 4Year ave Before: #40.25    First Class After: #32
  • Boston College 3Year ave Before: #41    Four Years Ave. After: #43
  • Colorado 3Year ave Before: #50.7    Three Years Ave. After: #58.7

When you look at each school, the more trend history, the closer it reverts to the range bound recruiting and average class expectations.  The only school with a pattern of potential improvement was Virginia Tech.  However since the move, they have been range bound with 9 of their 11 classes falling between #22 and #38. Miami, Boston College, Colorado and Nebraska all stayed near or below their previous class averages.

Overall, the averages show that simply making a change of venue for your AQ conference does not make a positive change in overall recruiting for any program.  While the first year may show a slight bump, Texas A&M and Missouri both had slightly above average classes.  To date, the odds of anyone maintaining higher levels of recruiting such that it significantly impacts their program appears to be very low.  Only time will tell if this trend is maintained or fails with increased TV revenues for facility improvement.  Since everyone gets money and everyone is trying to improve I say stick with the current trends.

- Dave Bartoo – The College Football Matrix
Your CFB Anti-Homer

*except KState, that guy is pure football magic
**Includes just one year after for Mizzou, A&M and WVU

CFB Maven. National Radio Show Guest. The 1st word on CFB thru The Wide-Angle Lens of CFB. Attrition Analytics Consultant & owner of #UpsetAlert & #PaceOfPlay

1 Comment

  1. ncaa2014playoff

    February 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    One commentator claims realignment is College Football’s form of relegation used by soccer. Realignment should only be done with the permission of the other members of the FBS and for the strict purpose of equalizing Conference strength, size and standing.
    See the Perfect Playoff Plan 16 and the realignment that is based on the Power 5 conferences at:

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