One writer ascribes the Big Ten’s recent football woes to basic problems of geography and shifting populations:
The main problem seems to be rooted in the population growth of the South and West, and the greater zeal for high-school football in those regions. Historically, Pennsylvania and Ohio rank third and fourth all-time in terms of the number of NFL players born within their borders. Florida is fifth. But today, Florida has nearly twice as many active players as Ohio and more than three times as many as Pennsylvania. The South and West continue to benefit because of the national population trend: 47 of the 50 fastest-growing metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2008 were in those regions, according to the Census Bureau. Playing football also is just not as important to Northerners. In the last school year, more high schoolers in Georgia played football than in Pennsylvania, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, even though Pennsylvania has nearly three million more residents.
Where this is hurting the Big Ten is with elite, one-of-a-kind players who can dominate a game. None of the top-25 recruits in this year’s freshman class, as ranked by recruiting site Rivals.com, were from a Big Ten state or chose a Big Ten school. Besides Michigan, which is coming off a 3-9 season and has been sidetracked by a report of possible NCAA violations, the conference’s pillar programs aren’t significantly changing their recruiting patterns. Ohio State’s 2009 roster lists a combined 12 Floridians, Californians and Texans, compared to 14 in 2002. Penn State is only slightly less reliant on its region: 59% of its current players are from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, down from 65% seven years ago.
“It’s become apparent in the Midwest that the rare guys who can change the game on a dime are few and far between because of the talent pool,” says Jeremy Crabtree, a recruiting editor at Rivals.com. “The Big Ten schools have to go to new territories. They have to go to Florida.”
Of course, if they do that they’ll be competing against Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama…….you get the idea.