There is a number of states that we generally consider to be the “pipeline” states of college football and historically those states have been Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and California. There has been a change in the old guard in recent years with teams (MAC teams in particular) going out of the Midwest to focus on recruits in Georgia and the Carolinas. You can see the effect this is having on recruits in the Midwest via Mark Porter’s tweet on Ohio commits over the last five years.
Ohio FBS Division 1 football commitment numbers by year. pic.twitter.com/FE9rJ9f96u— Mark Porter (@Mark__Porter) February 8, 2018
This information is very interesting in that there is a variety of factors in play with these numbers. The state certainly isn’t lacking in quality coaches as the high school powerhouses in Ohio have remained mostly the same over this period of time (although teams like Minster and Wheelersburg have won state titles in recent years, with WHS’s win in 2017 being an absolute classic if you haven’t seen it yet). It seems that Division II and Division III schools are doing well in recruiting Ohio as there were 246 commits to those schools in 2018.
A theory that might be able to explain this phenomenon is the idea that parents are moving out of the state and are taking their talented kids with them. However, this theory doesn’t hold any water because the opposite has happened: the state has experienced a 1.1% growth in population from 2010-2017. Clearly, the decline in Ohio commits has nothing to do with the state’s population but it is interesting how the decline happened even though there are more people in Ohio.
Another possible explanation for these numbers is the fears that parents have regarding concussions in football. Football coaches and fans can pooh-pooh this all they want; the fact of the matter is these fears are very real and can (and do) lead kids away from the opportunity to play football in order to participate in other sports where the risk of injury is still present. However, John Harbaugh was right when he talks about the value of the game and what it means to the men who have played, and it would be a disservice to our kids if we were to rob them of those lessons (especially since we don’t have a clear understanding of how the brain and concussions work). That being said, Ohio is still very much a football state and I don’t feel that these concussion fears are the cause of the precipitous drop in Ohio commits.
The biggest reason that I believe is the cause of the low numbers is that the MAC (and other college programs in Ohio) have been going out-of-state to do their recruiting, and one could argue that the on-field product has suffered for it. 42 of the MAC’s 237 commits in the 2018 class cam from the state of Ohio, which is not even 18%. One can also argue that the decline in Ohio commits correlates with the gradual decline in the MAC East, but we’re not advocating that our schools should recruit Division VII kids in Ohio that physically can’t play big-time college football.
The good thing about this decline is that it can be fixed. The college coaches need to make the effort to recruit the state and the kids need to be able to help themselves with how they present themselves whether it’s their social media, their highlight tapes, or when they go on their official and unofficial visits. There’s a lot of talent in Ohio and there is no reason to pass that homegrown talent up if it’s a fit with your program.