Demographics and long term competitiveness in college football

Article in today’s WSJ about “Fasting Dying Cities” and Ohio is all too well represented (though Canton is growing, what is the story there??).

So let’s look at the big picture — college football competitiveness. It is not so much that Ohio and neighboring states are losing population — in fact they are staying pretty constant. So on the one hand, there is no reason to think that the talent pool will get any worse for the recruiting grounds that OSU tends to dominate.

However…the population in Texas, Florida, California continues to grow significantly and therein is a problem. Assuming that physical skills and coaching quality is distributed similarly in both sets of states, the top of the bell curve in the southern states will just continue to have even more great candidates while the midwest states will be flat.

Thankfully we are in a scholarship cap regime, so the leading schools in the southern states just can’t sweep all these kids up — OSU has 8-10 kids on the roster from Florida this year, a couple more from Georgia and Texas. And as population countrywide grows, while scholarship limits stay flat, you have to believe that talent will continue to spread out as it has done in basketball, creating greater parity throughout Division I in the long run.

Also, the southern states are not dominated by a single school the way Ohio is — Florida has UF, Miami, FSU, and all the up and comers like FIA, FAU, UCF, etc; Texas has UT, A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, SMU; California has USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, SJSU, Fresno State, etc. And every neighboring state is trying to poach from these states — Oklahoma and OSU and LSU poaching into Texas, Arizonas and Oregons and Washingtons poaching into California, etc. This happens in Ohio too of course, Michigan and ND and PSU poach into Ohio, and increasingly Pitt and MSU and Cincinnati. Thankfully IU and Kentucky are kind of moribund.

So long term — I suspect OSU can hold its own; however, you have to assume that the lead institutions in the fastest growing, high population states will have a builtin advantage due to a greater talent pool around them — UF, UT, and USC. OSU will have to work hard to maintain at this level — continuing to dominate Ohio recruiting, picking up great talent from neighboring states, and having a healthy flow of kids from Florida, Texas, California, etc. The pipeline from Florida seems to be working, and there is some representation from Texas though we could do better there. California is thin, and boy that is a long way culturally and geographically for an 18 year old to travel.