The Population Myth

Aesculus.'s picture
January 30, 2013 at 4:27a
71 Comments

Most people seem to think that more people equals more talent.  That is to say that talent is random.  They say if there are more people in the south than in the north then there will be more talented players to choose from in the south.  This logic dictates that not only will more people produce more overall talent, they will win more football games.

I'd like to take this time to disagree... Here's why.

Let's take hockey for example.  Most hockey players are Canadian (70%).  A bit strange eh when you consider most hockey teams are in the US.  This seemingly goes against our traditional thought that more people equals more overall talent.  But you could also argue that Canadians like hockey much more than Americans, which is........ very true.  I found that 80% of Canadians watch hockey once a week.  Wait, what? Are you kidding me?  They must all be eating pucks for breakfast.  Impressive.  If only we had that much fervor for college football.

On the flip side Americans have a much lower attention span as pro football is considered our favorite sport at only 36%.  This is followed by baseball, college football, auto racing and somewhere down the line is hockey at 5%.  Ok, so it's not our first or fifth choice but we watch the hell out of it because 23 of the 30 NHL teams are in the US. 

But how many people are actually playing hockey?  If we look at the actual pool of people playing the game (Under 18, youth leagues, ect..) we get a much clearer picture of what's going on.  USA Hockey the governing body in the US states that in 2009-10, 474,592 people were registered as players.  Compare this to Hockey Canada (governing body) 2009-10 stats of 577,077 people registered playing hockey.  These statistics show Canada actually only has 18% or roughly 100,000 more people playing hockey.  So how the hell can Canada have 70% of NHL players and the US only 14%!?! 

If the population theory was true than there would be a much similar number of Canadians to Americans in the NHL.  So what is going on here?  For one possible hypothesis lets take a look at the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  He writes "the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work."  Gladwell looks at many talented people such as Bill Gates, The Beatles, and our Canadian hockey players. But more importantly how they got to be so talented.

His conclusions assert that success depends on the selection process used to identify talent just as much as it does on the athletes' natural abilities.  In the case of the Canadian hockey players psychologist Roger Barnsley noticed that there were a disproportionate amount of star players with birthdays in January, February, and March. The reason is, kids born on January 1st play in the same league as those born on December 31st.  Because kids born earlier in the year are larger, older, and more mature than the younger competitors they are often singled out as better athletes. This leads to more coaching and a higher likelihood of being chosen for all-star games and starting positions. This phenomenon dubbed "accumulative advantage" by Gladwell.  BTW Wayne Gretzky's birthday....Jan.26th.

Accumulative advantage is interesting because it actually explains why some kids rise to the top and others don't.  Gladwell also talks about the Czech Republic having a similar system with the same results. (Jaromir Jagr Feb. 15th) In fact a vast majority of Canadian and Czeck NHL players have birthdays in the first three months of the year.  This anomaly also occurs in American baseball and in European soccer with very similar results.

Another chink in the population theory comes from the top.  Coaching.  I have a B1G problem with the B1G.  For a conference on the whole who is more financially solid than most fortune 500 companies, they act more like dime store bargain shoppers tripping over dollars to get to pennies.  A coach with the right talent can make all the difference in the victory column.  Just ask first year coach Luke Fickell who lost 6 games by a touchdown or less in 2011.  A year later UFM wins 6 games by, that's right, a touchdown or less.  Now, lets take a look at what our B1G conference pays its top men in relation to the rest of the country.


4. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: $4.3 million
6. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: $3.835 million
12. Brady Hoke, Michigan: $3.046 million
17. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: $2.875 million
18. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin: $2.64 million
38. Bill O'Brien, Penn State: $2.3 million
47. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: $1.934 million
54. Tim Beckman, Illinois: $1.6 million
72. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: $1.3 million
72. Kevin Wilson, Indiana: $1.3 million
72. Jerry Kill, Minnesota: $1.3 million
65. Danny Hope, Purdue: $970,000

22.Gary Anderson  Wisconsin  $2.7 million

67. Darrell Hazell Purdue $1.5 million

And now the SEC coaches.

1.Saban - $5.5M
5.Miles - $4M
Chizik - $3.6M
8.Spurrier - $3.6M
15.Richt - $3M
19.Pinkel - $2.8M
21.Franklin - $2.7M
24.Mullen - $2.6M
28.Mushamp - $2.5M
28.Sumlin - $2.5M
Dooley - $2M
Phillips - $1.9M
62.Freeze - $1.6M
Smith - $0.9M

Bret Bielema $3.2M

The NCAA average head coach's salary is 1.64M.  The SEC has ZERO coaches below that pay grade.  Now if I was a top coach where would I want to go?.....it doesn't take long to figure out that top down dollars equal championships.  And the B1G?  I don't know how Kirk Ferentz wins the Iowa lottery each year but aside from that, Delany must need a new off shore bank account because we pay our coaches like a the MAC.

Bret Bielema now gets paid more than the head coach of Michigan! (whoever that is?) Yes, Michigan the winningest program in the history of college football.  In fact with bonuses, 6 SEC coaches earned more than Michigan's head coach this year.  Oh and what do you know?  An SEC team beat Michigan this year to help them finish a mediocre 8-5.

As for the population myth, don't believe the hype.  Maybe the south gets to practice more hours because of better weather, maybe the advantage of getting more games in better weather has an impact, maybe they are just getting lucky?  But if we want to see the B1G as a whole return to national contention we must start with getting the best coaches, and that means paying them.  Until then.

Comments

Brutus Greyshield's picture

The hockey example doesn't really support your point. The page you linked to showed the nationality of NHL players throughout history. If you look at the numbers for the current season, you'll see that just about 50% of NHL players come from Canada.
Here's a useful chart. 
I agree that Big Ten schools should more actively pursue great coaches. But, I think, it's just really hard to determine who is going to be the best fit for your school. I'd take Pat Fitzgerald over a lot of guys who earn more than him.
But, in the end, a large portion of SEC 'dominance' can be traced back to a December six years ago when Rich Rod passed on the ALA job to stay at WVU. One month later ALA hired Saban. Then Michigan, the next year, chooses Rich Rod over Les Miles. The world could have been a very different place.
 

XUBUCK's picture

Yes, I would agree that who the "Coach" is matters the most. You bring up an interesting point. Where would Alabama be if they had RR?  Conversely, for the sake of argument, how would SCUM be, and the perception of the BIG TEN be, if say Saban went to SCUM?  Big "if" but if it happened Bama/SEC would be 3 titles less.  
I think that when it comes to Blueblood programs, or newer programs dedicated to winning (Oregon) the right coach means everything.  The same is true with basketball, where would KY be without Calipari?  They were in basketball purgatory with Gillispie.  
Great coaches tend to assemble good/great coaching staffs, that allow them to reel in the talent and then coach that talent up.
Geographical location is a variable though no doubt.  The North's population is more urban than the Southeast.  Thus, a lot of kids graviatate to basketball instead of being soley focused on football.  I had friends in highschool that were being pursued to play DI football but chose basketball instead, even though they might have had a better career in college had they chose the former instead of the latter.  It's the sport they loved.
Right now only one program in the BIG has the right man for the job, OSU.  Jabba the Hoke might be able to right the ship at SCUM but he is not in Urban's league.  The other two programs in the BIG with the potential  to be a top program with the right man are Penn State (once they get back on their feet) and Nebraska.  The BIG needs their Blueblood programs to rise from the ashes if they want to have the power the SEC now enjoys.  We shall see.
 

Aesculus.'s picture

Ah Ha Brutus, the hockey argument does prove my point!  Your chart of current nationalities proves it further.  50% Canadian 20% American.  577,000 playing hockey in Canada 474,000 playing hockey in the US.  How then the disparity?

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Chief B1G Dump's picture

The disparity comes in the fact that, in Canada, their sport IS hockey.  Therefore, their TOP athletes play hockey.  In American, hockey is at best, the 4th sport.  If you took USA's top athletes like LeBron, Adran Peterson, Kobe, RG3, Calvin Johnson, etc...and everyone here grew up focusing on hockey, we would absolutely destroy in hockey. Same with soccer.  Thats how countries like Ghanna are able to beat the US.  When you condsider that Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Track Field skim from our talent pool of athletes before soccer, those small countries are able to compete.
Population absolutely produces more talet, its just how that talent is allocated and/or focuses on.  

GoldenBearBuckeye's picture

To take it further, because of economics, regionalism (hockey mainly in NE and N Central) + the huge diversity of sports in the US hockey is more like 6th and may as well as be tied for 12th.
Hockey is super expensive here and not integrated into high school leagues except N England and Minnesota.  It requires a year round approach (unlike, say, basketball and lacrosse which dovetail into each other's season).  It is behind not only the big 3, but soccer and lacrosse as well, and is probably on par with swimming. 

DetroitBuckeye's picture

The demographics is what sets Canada apart, most of Canada is rural which allows space for many many rinks to be built.  It is also worth mentioning that it takes a special kind of an athlete to play hockey, they players who dominate in the nhl aren't the physical 6'6 250 lb physical freaks that you were referencing. 

 
Riggins's picture

That was a long post and I appreciate the research.  I completely agree on hammering the B1G's frugal coaching staff (especially at the assistant level) salaries..  However, when people say "the recruiting footprint" and "population trends favor the South and SEC", they're really just being politically correct. 
The map theyre looking at isn't the overall population map.  It's this one.   Bring on the downvotes but when 70% of the NFL is African-American, the stats don't lie.

 

buckeyedude's picture

First off: nice article AESCULUS. It looks like you did your homework here. I wish(and hope) its as easy as just hiring better coaches and paying them more.
And Riggins, I'm anti-politically correct, so let's have this debate. It's America damnit, and I think free speech is still in effect.
Your argument seems to be that the more African-Americans(or blacks if your older than 40) a team has, the better they will be? So why isn't Grambling(I realize they play in a different division) playing for NCs? I'm not totally disagreeing with your premise, but this argument has holes all over it, my friend. The B1G used to be a dominant league years ago.
I personally think the unwritten "gentlemen's agreement" f$%ked things up for the B1G.

 
 

Riggins's picture

Citing Grambling or any other historically black college for the reason that race has no effect is a bit of a straw man argument.
I didn't write that the racial makeup of a team was the only variable in a team's success.  I said that the racial makeup and high African-American population of the South's demographics is the reason that people think they have the edge in recruiting.  "Population trends" is just the politically correct way of saying they have a lot of really athletic black guys playing in their backyard.
Coaching, facilities, recruiting, university/fan support, and population demographics are all variables in the college football world.  Right now, the South has all of them in spades. 
The B1G can still become a dominant league again, but they're going to have to step up their game.  Get rid of the gentleman's agreement you cited.  Recruit harder.  Hire better coaches.  Pay their staffs so they don't get poached.  Upgrade their facilities with the boatloads of cash they're raking in.  And yes, expand their recruiting footprint to include as many athletes as they can get.

cinserious's picture

The south becoming more populated than the north doesn't mean its only black people. Whites are migrating from north to south as well.

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

Gametime's picture

I agree with you RIGGINS, it's just so happens to be a "matter of fact" kinda thing. When we look at the most popular sports among the United States, we have to factor this country's (and others) history (good & bad) in shaping this demographic. The majority of sports that an edge can be gained by raw athelticism is dominated by players of African-(American, Latino, Asian) descent (NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA BB, FB, Boxing, MMA [top heavy]).
Athletics has always been prone to subconscious segregation after physical segregation whether it was by position or sport. 
As a young black male, I can tell you that baseball, soccer, wrestling, hockey, car racing, & other things that my white counterparts excel at, or perhaps rather, are funneled to, aren't emphasized as much as football & basketball in the communities I've lived in (That includes east Ohio Valley (WV/PA), Atlanta (Tucker, GA), St. Louis, & here in Columbus (North, Westerville, & Dublin).
It's all about ACCESS, & a lot of these kids, as a matter of fact, I'd wager the majority of these kids come from below-poverty-line homes or communities where that access is either flat out denied or unavailable. Many of these kids see these opportunites in athletics as the only way out, and have a inherit determination to get themselves & loved ones out of the situation, while learning to love the game as they go.
We all know hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard - and with the rise of open enrollment & all these prep-schools - they can give access where it was otherwise unavailable, (which all ultimately leads to money), even at the middle-school level.
Ultimately in the case of the SEC, they sit in the abundance of these type of talent laden, raw-athletic kids who just need to be coached up & you've all noticed that the all the best coaches, not just now, but of all-time are from the Midwest or Northeast (NY, Mass), from John Wooden, to Paul Brown, to Urban & Saban - there's just something about being able to harness that talent & be molders of these young men which is what we've seen happen & what we are seeing happen.
The SEC especially has the advantage that it's mostly football country & some states lack ANY kind of pro team or any general success with their college basketball programs, that lends toward a super focus toward football with the sheer volume of players competing to play on a single team (45+) versus basketball (13+) or baseball (15+ not including pitchers).
Add that to everything previously mentioned, advancements in sports science, coaching, & techniques, faciilites, financial support, along with these situationally-enforced demographics & some progressive thought, and it's clear why the edge is more apparent now then it ever has been.
Does this mean that other conferences can't compete? Absolutely not, but it's clear none of the other conferences have regular access to the same pool of raw-athletic talent.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

Riggins's picture

Nice post.  I especially agree on the "access" argument.  When there is a lower barrier of entry, you see a much higher percentage of African-Americans.  What do you need for basketball?  Ball and a hoop.  Nearly anyone can meet that barrier.

cinserious's picture

I used to play b-ball in my backyard with a milk crate and a half-deflated basketball.

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

Aesculus.'s picture

GAMETIME, add racism to the list of huddles for black youth. You bring up a good point:
 "Ultimately in the case of the SEC, they sit in the abundance of these type of talent laden, raw-athletic kids who just need to be coached up & you've all noticed that the all the best coaches, not just now, but of all-time are from the Midwest or Northeast (NY, Mass), from John Wooden, to Paul Brown, to Urban & Saban - there's just something about being able to harness that talent & be molders of these young men which is what we've seen happen & what we are seeing happen."
EXACTLY!  It's the combination of coach and player. 

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Aesculus.'s picture

Riggins, so what about basketball?  78-80% of the NBA is African-American players.  It would ring true that the best college teams would come from the SEC just like football, right?  But Florida is the only SEC school in the top 10!  
1.John Calipari Kentucky SEC $ $5,387,978 
2.Rick Pitino Louisville Big East  $4,812,769 
3.Mike Krzyzewski Duke ACC $4,699,570 
4.Billy Donovan Florida SEC $3,639,800 
5.Bill Self Kansas Big 12  $3,633,657
6.Tom Izzo Michigan State Big Ten  $3,598,700 
7.Thad Matta Ohio State Big Ten $2,854,000 
8.Buzz Williams Marquette Big East $2,834,685
9.Jim Calhoun Connecticut Big East $2,700,000 
10.Rick Barnes Texas Big 12 $2,400,000  
11.Matt Painter Purdue Big Ten $2,325,000 
12.Tom Crean Indiana Big Ten $2,240,000 
13.John Beilein Michigan Big Ten  $2,225,930 
In fact the B1G has 6 of the top 15 highest paid coaches.  And this is one of the main reasons the B1G has one of the best conferences in basketball year after year.  You build a program from the top down, no matter what the sport.
Here are the current rankings and the top 5 coaches salaries.
1 Michigan (51) 19-1 1,611  #13
2 Kansas (13) 18-1 1,572     #5
3 Indiana 18-2 1,457           #12
4 Florida (1) 16-2 1,420       #4
5 Duke 17-2 1,328              #3

 

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Riggins's picture

I never suggested that race was the only issue. I agree that coaching, coaching salaries, facilities, recruiting, etc. all factor in to the equation.
But for sake of argument, let's dig into it. 
A football team allows for 82 players.  Basketball only requires 15.  That levels the playing field a bit.  If you only need 5 on the court at a time versus 22 for a football team (11 each for offense/defense), then the depth issues don't hurt as much.
The Midwest, while not having the vast African-American population across the entire region, does have a large African-American population in its biggest cities.  Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, etc. all have a strong African-American presence.
I think a lot of it is urban vs. rural.  In large urban communities, there are times when there literally isn't real estate for football fields.  But there is always room for a hoop.  You would be shocked to see some of the football fields that teams from New York City play in.  Packed between high-rise buildings, an elevated train running right behind the end zone, no bleachers, etc.
And finally...The South prioritizes football over basketball.  If you're a high school football player in the South, you're a football player year-round.  The Midwest embraces both football and basketball because, hey, we have seasons and we believe indoor sports have their place.
Now, if you look at the NBA, the states with the highest African-American populations just so happen to coincide with the home states of the players. 

Using the same data, here is a map showing just how much of the NBA talent cromes from the major cities and the surrounding suburbs.

MY GOD! Look at the talent centers that Delany just brought in to the B1G with Maryland and Rutgers. From NYC to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Washington DC.  That's what I call a recruiting footprint.  That chart also supports the urban sport (basketball) versus the rural sport (football) debate.  I wish I had a similar chart for NFL players.

Gametime's picture

Nice exchanges AESCULUS & RIGGINS, I tried to touch on that regarding the sheer volume of football players, versus basketball players, especially because of the bodytypes that allow athletes in football -- with guys ranging from 5'7" to 6'10" (160lbs to 300+lbs) with many variations in speed, quickness, & strength that don't cater to the same type of success in basketball which gives way to a much more specialized set of athleticism, but basketball is a game that's more more dependant on skills - as shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding, and position (offensive & defensive) are the staples of the game which can be supplemented by athleticism, but not replaced by it. 
This suggests why free throw & field goal percentages are generally horrible in the college game because too many players come off the AAU & Prep-School circuits which they've dominated soley because they were bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, etc. -- generally more athletic than their peers. Then all that gets filtered through college & the pros, with the guys who can at least be good at 3 of the 6 staples I mentioned able to make it to the NBA.
This is why so many basketball players washout & you rarely hear about that NBA All Star caliber player who took the hard road from some D-II school or Hofstra, or when we see these draft busts like Olawakandi, Kwame Brown, & Adam Morrison -- especially in comparison to the youth players in Europe who develop these skills early, but lack the physicality to keep up the pace immediately - but when they get it we see guys like Parker, Ginobili, AK47, the Gasol Brothers, Hedo, Peja, etc.
The skill sets simply aren't as interchangable - where we see in football we have WR/DBs, OL/DLs, RB/LBs, where the base of their skill set is the same. In basketball, it's rare that a SG can play PG or a PF can play SF or a SF can play C, etc.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

Aesculus.'s picture

Your previous chart of "Density of Blacks" was very misleading.  If you look at it you get the idea that most African-Americans live in the south.  However looking at the Wiki statistics we realize that's not true (see below).  African Americans make up 70% of the NFL.  They also make up almost 80% of the NBA.  So by the population arguement they both have to be from the SAME PLACE, while clearly they are not!  NFL players are from the south and NBA players are not (your chart above).  Nevermind that a football squad is bigger than a basketball squad.  Your missing the point.  The point is that the pool of overall players is bigger regardless of how big the team is.  You can't say just because we don't need as many, now they can be from urban areas.  Your population argument doesn't work and you just proved it.  
 
Highest African-Americans by state.
1.New York 3,073,800   --no SEC, hardly a football state.
2.Florida 2,999,862          
3.Texas 2,979,598         --no SEC
4.Georgia 2,950,435         
5.California 2,299,072        --no SEC
6.North Carolina 2,048,628   --no SEC
7.Illinois 1,866,414               --no SEC, ahhh f@#k
8.Maryland 1,700,298           --no SEC, ok they have stephon diggs
9.Virginia 1,551,399             --no SEC
10.Louisiana 1,452,396         
 
Where is Alabama on this list (15th)?  Most of their players are form Alabama.  And even regionally, the south, where most NFL players are from, only accounts for a third. 
My point is, population isn't the only factor and it's highly variable.  I've heard soooo many people complain that the south has more people than the north.  Not even because they are black but because more people are moving there.  Hopefully, we can agree that there are many variables to talent.  

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Riggins's picture

I cited in my post that I thought that urban AA populations (major cities) vs rural AA populations was a factor in this.  It's rare to find large segments of AA population outside of major cities in the North.  In the South, you see it's much more spread out on my original map. 
Have you ever been to inner city schools?  Check out their facilities next time.  Check out their budgets next time.  I think by and large the rural southern schools are football-focused and the northern urban schools are basketball-focused. School budgets and seasonal weather both play a part in this.
So as a general rule, the best AA athletes play basketball (and maybe football) in the North and football in the South.  Do we agree on this?  If so, I think this "population myth" holds some (not all) water.  The South has a higher representation of its best athletes focusing solely on football, whereas the North does not. The North is missing out on a lot of its elite talent to another sport, so you almost can't count them in the population pool of potential football recruits.  The South is getting the best of the best from their region.  These large cities still produce a ton of NFL talent due to their sheer size alone, but they're not even on the map when you adjust for population.
As far as your Top 10 list, I would consider at least six, if not seven, of those states "southern".  If you don't think the SEC competes for recruits in North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, and Texas you're crazy.  Look at the other 3 states. New York, Illinois, and Los Angeles.  How many AA in those states don't live in and around New York, Chicago, or one of California's mega cities? Those urban centers wildly skew the numbers and go back to the urban AA basketball athlete vs the rural AA football athlete.
You said most of Alabama's players are from Alabama.  Only 6 out of 24 recruits in 2013 are from Alabama. Only 7 out of 26 in 2012. Only 5 out of 23 in 2011. Only 9 of 26 in 2010.  That's 27 out of 104 over a four year period.  Roughly 25%.  85 of the 104 are from the South though.
The South has been overrepresented in terms of NFL players for the past four decades.  At times they've been over 50%.  Link. Interestingly enough, their percentage of NFL players has been trending downward due to the influx of Midwestern and Northeastern population migrations. 
Again, I haven't argued that population and demographics are the only variable.  But they're a part of it, and they're definitely not a myth. 

Aesculus.'s picture

I really think your missing the point.  If your population arguement held true then both the basketball and football players would come from the same place.  The fact is they don't.   How can you possibly not see this?  When you start to list other "factors"  those are exactly the factors that make up talent. Thats what I'm saying.  Those other factors like weather, coaching, accumulative advantage, all are big factors.  Does population matter if my high school is 150 and yours is 1500. YES.  Does it matter if I have 115,000,000 and you have 100,000,000.  Absolutely NOT.  There is a point of diminishing returns when you get into the big numbers.  
Listen to yourself:
"as a general rule, the best AA athletes play basketball (and maybe football) in the North and football in the South"  --I'll buy that.  Sure we live in a colder climate where we can focus on an indoor game.  They live in a warm climate where they can play football year round.  But don't you see!!!  This is people focusing their time on different sports, not population.
"The South has a higher representation of its best athletes focusing solely on football, whereas the North does not."-  Again, I agree.  But nothing to do with population.
And I don't by the budget argument.  Try going to INDIA and you'll see how bad poverty really is.  BTW they won the 2011 World Cup in Cricket.
Your numbers are so far off on Alabama.  SB wrote an article last spring about how Alabama's roster will dip below 50% native Alabama players for the first time EVER.  The count on the ESPN roster is 50 of 113.  
 

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

lippertini's picture

Football being an outdoor sport, weather is also a huge factor.  If the African-American population was skewed to the Great Plains, I don't think it would produce as many elite HS football players, due partially to fewer hours of organized and pickup football practice.  Probably more basketball players, though! 
 

Riggins's picture

Agreed.  I had just mentioned that in my post right above.  As well as urban vs. rural. Check it out.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I expected more in Ohio.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

acBuckeye's picture

This is all very interesting, and a great read. I also agree that the B1G needs to step up when it comes to paying top-level coaches.
However, its a little sketchy comparing American college football to hockey. Most hockey players come from Canada b/c not only is the interest in the game very high in that region, but also b/c of the climate. I would have to assume that the cold weather severely limits the different types of sports young kids could grow up playing year-round. In the U.S. there are many different climates; thus a factor in the higher interest level in multiple sports, and not one dominant sport like hockey in Canada. Look at the Olympics. There's a reason why there are a TON more events in the Summer games than the Winter games. You just can't do much outside in the winter months.
And I won't argue about who the better coach between Meyer and Fickell is, I think that's fairly obvious. But one could argue this..... look at Dantonio at Michigan State the last two years. In 2011 he wins a lot of close games and has a great record, and in 2012 he loses those close games and has an average season. Same coach, mostly the same roster, etc..... Just a thought.
There's a million factors as to why the SEC has been so much more successful than other leagues recently, but to flat out ignore the population shift to the south is somewhat naive in my opinion. You just can't argue the fact that if more people move to a location in the country that puts an emphasis on HS football and football in general, then the chance that a higher volume of very good players will come out of those regions will increase. There's way too much data that backs this to blindly ignore it. The fact that the Steel Belt became the Rust Belt is also a big factor, I believe. Families simply needed to find jobs, and had to move elsewhere to find them.
 
 

Buckeye80's picture

Population has to play a role.  The states with the highest poplulation normally are the top states in high school football.  Think about it...what states are known for high school football? Florida, Texas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania are all known for great high school football and are therefore "recruiting hotbeds".  Many kids like to stay home so......
I've explained this many times to some WV fans I know.  I tell them it's not their fault they aren't as good as Ohio State, they have such a smaller player pool in state to pick from.
Another thing I believe plays a factor is poverty.  This map is from 2008.  There seems to be a greater poverty density in the south.  I believe those kids sometimes become better athletes.  My reasoning is that mom and dad don't have the money to buy them an Xbox or PS3, and instead can buy them a football or basketball.  So they spend more time out in the yard playing than on the couch.  Just my opinion guys.... 

buckeyedude's picture

I thought even impoverished kids had X-box these days?

 
 

Codeezy's picture

Good article and write up my friend. My only problem with the hockey numbers is this. In Canada, just about EVERYONE plays hockey. Its like, let say, pick up basketball in America. Here in the US kids pay a lot of money to go to these rinks and play hockey in leagues. Up there public and backyard rinks are as popular as kids having basketball hoops in thier driveways here. So it appears that in America a greater percentage plays, but I garauntee you'll find way more people in America that have never played hockey than in Canada, even percentage wise. Everyone plays up there.

Aesculus.'s picture

Codeezy I see your point.  But if your going to be serious about hockey then your going to join a league.  That's where you'll find the talent.  From there it's all accumulative advantage.

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cinserious's picture

Higher population does give you a larger pool to choose from, which is why state high school sports is separated into divisions of large schools through smaller schools. On the other hand, New York is one of the most populous states but you won't see many top college coaches spending too much time there looking for talent.

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

acBuckeye's picture

That's b/c the urban areas around NYC don't have the money to fund complete football teams. But it only takes about 10 players to form a basketball team. That's why that area creates a tremendous amount of basketball talent b/c it's much easier for many of those kids to have access to the game of basketball than football. Football requires too many people, equipment, etc.

Aesculus.'s picture

Yes this is true in high school where we are looking at 1500 vs. 150 people.  Sorry but this doesn't scale up to millions and millions.  When you hit those levels, its more about coaching, time spent practicing and selection.

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mclovin's picture

Since 1988, they've been keeping tracking of where drafted NFL players come from.  The numbers are very telling:
SEC states: 2516
Big 10 states: 1418
Both of the above numbers include the states that are involved in the expansion, so the Big Ten gets NJ, NY, MD, NE.  SEC gets TX and MO.
When you take those states out, however, it gets even worse for the Big 10:
SEC states: 1818
Big 10 states: 985
I think the obvious conclusion is that the talent pool in SEC states is richer than Big Ten states.  You could argue that Big 10 coaching isn't able to realize talent to the extent that SEC coaching is, but that would be a very hard argument to make and ultimately, no matter how you do it, it wouldn't be very convincing.  The better question is, why is the talent pool so much better in the south? 
Population trends do show that more people are moving to the south, but the overall population isn't vastly different one way or the other.  Talent pools are better when there are more to choose from and where there is more competition, but because population levels are so close, I don't see that as being the case.
I think the data that Riggins provided might offer one of the better explanations of the talent gap between the Big Ten and SEC, which ultimatley explains why the SEC is superior to the Big Ten. 

STRAWMAN's picture

Just to add to your argument a bit. I don't understand why people try to argue against the fact that the population demographics are against the BIG. It's not like this is a new thing. BIG schools have always been at their best in the past couple decades when they've been able to successfully recruit outside of the Midwest. Drew Brees? Texas. Tom Brady? California. Denard Robinson? Florida. Taylor Martinez? California. Chad Henne? Eastern PA. Terrelle Pryor? Central PA.
Are there some BIG QBs that have been really successful that are in the footprint? Sure. But you need to do a good job recruiting nationally to be good in the BIG or anywhere really. Ohio State, USC, Texas, LSU, and Miami (FL) are the only schools I can think of that have ever been able to be elite with a dominant majority of in-state talent. 
Look at Northwestern today. They have been killing it in Texas and California with their recruitment under Fitzgerald. 

Aesculus.'s picture

Nice statistics, got a source?  Like this question "The better question is, why is the talent pool so much better in the south?"
Good luck.  There are tons or supposed reasons but you would have to do an entire thesis on it. Perhaps an even better question is "Are there any in depth papers on why the talent pool is so much better in the south?"
I don't claim to know why I just don't think it's population.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

mclovin's picture

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/draft-history-graphic.htm
Any thesis on the subject of the southern talent pool being better in football would include a lengthy discussion on population.  Not that it's a myth but how and to what extent it contributes to the phenomenon.

Aesculus.'s picture

I would disagree.  At a certain point population is a factor.  Lets say under a million people or the how states separate high school's by size.  Sure.  My high school of 1500 is going to destroy your high school of 150.  But were talking about millions and millions.  The advantage goes to diminishing returns after a certain point.  
Besides what about coaching.  You put up the numbers that more talent comes form the south.  I put up the stats that the best coaches are from the south.  You don't think that is a major relationship?   Think classrooms and teachers.  The best teachers produce the best students.

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acBuckeye's picture

Aesculus..... Maybe I'm reaching here, but I'll just throw it out there. I bet if you asked every SEC football coach if they think that there is more talent in their region of the country b/c more people are living there, the majority of them would say yes, if not all of them.
Nobody is saying that more population is the sole reason why the South has produced a higher volume of better players recently. But it is certainly one variable that you just CAN'T ignore.
The data and articles i've read on the topic are too overwhelming and convincing to not accept as an almost certain factor.

Aesculus.'s picture

yes there is more talent in the south and thats why the coaches recruit there.  Look at the Georgia crew coming in next week.  I'd like to see the data you have directly relating population to talent.  What about accumlative advantage and weather and coaching.  Those factors have far more effect on talent than the sheer number of people.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

buckeye4life050233's picture

I feel the OHSAA has an impact on why ohio football players are behind the 8-ball so to speak going to college football, all because of not allowing spring practices like most southern schools and the regulated limitations on the 7-on-7 events and such that most of the coaches go to and is where people get ranked and become noticed nationally.
As well lets look at money discrepancy and/or tax payer revenue for amenities and facilities.  Take for instance http://espn.go.com/dallas/story/_/id/8323104/allen-texas-high-school-ready-unveils-60m-football-facility
No where in Ohio would you find tax payers being ok with a 60 million dollar football stadium for high school football.  Up here we get all worked up over a school getting a turf field yet alone a whole new stadium.  That is one thing in which we can't match and facilities and time spent training whereas up in ohio once the winter comes kids switch and play multiple sports and don't always just focus on 1 sport. 

Killer nuts's picture

As for the hockey argument, I'd point out the same thing I do when we discuss why the USA isn't better in soccer than MUCH smaller countries with a fraction of our population: our best athletes play football or basketball, then probably baseball, then somewhere down the line hockey/soccer. I imagine that Canada's best play Hockey just like Portugal's best play soccer

Aesculus.'s picture

Great point.  Countries with much smaller populations kick our butt in soccer.  Just because you have a larger population doesn't mean you will be better.  Yes Canada's best play hockey no doubt but what determines the best is what's interesting.  

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

steensn's picture

You can't focus on one variable, that is it. It is a combination of:
1) population density
2) demographics
3) poverty
4) athletic program focus
its pretty easy, there is a large population density of blacks, living in poverty, who's athletic programs are focused on football. There is really nothing more to the whole thing... Pair that with good coaches and you have a recipe for domination. There is nothing more to this...

lippertini's picture

Like I say above, I think weather plays a factor, too.

steensn's picture

Weather helps pick he athletic focus yes. It limits what you can do in the winter, ala basketball instead of 7-on-7 football.

Brutus Forever's picture

I gave him a helmet sticker just because he said 'eh' and 'Canadian' in the same sentence.

"I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.” – Urban F. Meyer

Aesculus.'s picture

how bout hoser eh?

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Gray Box's picture

Steam roller, eh. No way, take off, eh.

Gray Box's picture

Really well written, extremely thorough and all around great stuff Aesulus!Thank you!
 I think that experience is a huge factor in how well talent ultimately develops.  The weather seems to help support that, were down south they produce a lot of great outdoor sports players and up north has a lot of indoor sports, like basketball and wrestling, due to the fact the kids in the south can get more experience playing those sports when it's nicer out longer where kids in the north are forced indoors and getting more experience that way.  However, we all know that kids do well in all sports from all regions, especially when looking at Ohio and being a consistent top  five states in high school football recruits year after year.  
I think the coach's salaries are a great example of this too.  The high paid ones seem to get kids more experience on many levels.  They seem to be able to recruit kids that have more experience before getting to school and they seem to get them to utilize their time more when they do get on campus.  Where they do more drills and such in the same amount of time as a lesser paid coach may get their kids to do.  Experience and the "accumulative advantage" seem to be huge factors in how kids will turn out.  There are many many other factors, like natural abilities and body size, but the population size seems to be a lesser factor.  Unless maybe you argue that in larger populated areas it maybe easier to get to facilities and play against others more often, so you can gain more experience, but that again goes back to experience more then population.

Aesculus.'s picture

Thanks Gray Box, I think you get the point.  How talent develops is not an easy answer.  I was just not satisfied with more people equals more talent.  There are much more complex forces at work that shape the faces of college football.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Gray Box's picture

Like nutrients in the soil, you can't just put in one and expect things to grow, it is much more complicated.  Also, the amount of different nutrients in the soil, even trace elements, will allow different plants to grow and others not to.  It's much more complicated then the Liebig's NPK world.  So is what makes these kids grow and blossom into athletes.  There are much more then just one element that makes it happen and I think that the correlation between population and great recruits is a flimsy one like you put so well earlier Aesculus!

Aesculus.'s picture

Population does not guarantee talent.  Black or white.  Just because you have more people than I doesn't mean your going to win.  If that were true why doesn't China just win everything?  You have to have people to play but give me a well trained army of a few and I will destroy an army of thousands.  That's the point.  People don't equal success.
All these other factors have to happen, like accumulative advantage or Florida kids playing year round or a burning passion for the game or he's just born with talent or whatever........you tell me, what makes the population talented?
Think Spartacus.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

Gray Box's picture

If population was the sole, or even a large factor in producing sports talent, they would just stop holding the Olympics and instead; every four years they would just award the nations with the highest populations the coinciding medals.  The U.S. wouldn't have the most Golds and we couldn't claim a "World Series" or any type of global champions for our major sports as China and India would completely dominate us at every sport ever.  Sorry Michael Phelps, go back to smoking pot, there are no gold medals here for you!

acBuckeye's picture

Let's put it this way..... you take 1000 families from Ohio (a state that is known to produce great football talent, and a state that puts a strong emphasis on football from a young age) and move them all to, let's just say, Georgia. Georgia is another state that produces great talent and puts a stong emphasis on the game.
Now, the likelihood that a higher volume of good football players will now come from Georgia than Ohio has just tipped in Georgia's favor. Is it a guarantee that it will happen? No. But from reading your past comments, it seems that you aren't even considering this scenario as a possibility, when in fact this has been going on for decades now.

steensn's picture

You are also not qualifying WHO those players are. Those canadien players are some of the nations BEST players, while the US players are mostly leftovers who didn't play football, basketball, baseball, soccer... and on and on. Populations plays a huge role in giving a larger pool of talent. Yo ustill have to put that talent intoo athletic ability bins so to say and ask yourself where the best talent is playing. Hint, the best US talent is NOT playing hockey, so those 400k odd players are simply not the same caliber players at the 570k odd Canadien players. Those 400k players, and I know many of them, frankly are not that awesome athletes. Sure, some are because they picked hockey over other sports, but most simply are not. A kid with athletic talent in the US is going to play 4-6 other sports over hockey every time pushing the mediocre talent back down to the "leftover" sports.
This is simple and easy to understand, it doesn't dismiss the population reason the least bit. It only qualifies that there are more variables/factors to look at to figure out where is this larger pool of talent coming from. Everyone wants a silver bullet, but there is none. It is one factor, stacked on another, stacked on another.
Further, to suggest that Gretski was so great because he was a little older in his program seems a little intellectually dishonest no? I know you would say that is NOT what you are saying, but you did hint at it even if you really don't believe it.

Aesculus.'s picture

Yeah really good point.  Exactly.  Those Canadian player are the cream of the crop and the US players are the left overs.  Good example of the population myth.  Just because I have an almost equal number of guys from the US, they arn't as talented so not as many make it to the NHL.   
Thanks Steensn
 

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

steensn's picture

I actually dont think we agree. There is a difference between the population "myth" you speak of and having more people doing things. Population from a general sense gives you an advantage, more chances that more talent is going to exist. It is an advantage and a one input for SEC success. But it isn't the only factor, as in that advantage now has to be used in such a way to be an advantage. And in football, basketball, etc. the US hasa dazzling advantage. But after so many sports, the talent pool runs out, it doesn't mean population is not an advantage and basis for the football success of the SEC. It actually supports the fact as such. But what it does mean is that if you want to fill all pools of talent for every sports with elite talent, you need an extrodinary large talent pool to select from. Just because the US runs out before we get to hockey doesn't mean the population reason isn't a huge part, it just means the US population isn't large enough to cover ALL sports, doesn't mean we don't have a population advantage...
Though I could just not be understanding your point...

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Canada is really spread out so it makes it perfect for rinks, plus it's very expensive to play which really destroys the population theory.  Economics have a lot more to do with it then most people would think, besides there are exceptions, COUGH SETH JONES COUGH.

 
 
Aesculus.'s picture

Please elaborate on "general sense".  With high schools they separate them because 150 person pool vs. a 1500 person school clearly isn't fair.  But expand that to 95,000,000 vs. 115,000,000 and there becomes diminishing returns.  This means the larger the population gets the less effect it has on the quality of talent.  How much more of a talent level can your really get out of the last 15 or 20 million? You've already gone through 95,000,000 million people.  That's a lot of people and remember the west gets some pretty good teams off of just 50 million people.  You are essentially arguing that the difference is in the 10% or 20% more.  Think about it.
I say no way.  I'll take coaching, practice time, selection process, passion, desire, and everything else that makes players good over more people in the pool.
"US Census as of 2010 has 114,555,744 in the south and 66,927,001 in the midwest and 55,317,240 in the northeast.  The northeast region comprises nine states: the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and the Mid-Atlantic states of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.[1]" -Wiki
I'm taking Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Part of New York, and Massachusetts plus the 55 million in the Midwest as "the North".  If I didn't the population argument wouldn't even exist because we'd have more people than them, period.
your move.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

smartfootballrankings's picture

Also keep in mind how expensive hockey is, even at a low level, compared to something like football or basketball.  Football does have some expenses, but it does not require as much "skill" training.  Someone who is an excellent athlete could pick up football at age 14 and do quite well, whereas he would be way behind in hockey if he has had zero ice time up to that point, even being an elite athlete.

Bucksfan's picture

Southern school systems are the worst in the nation.  More time for sports.

William's picture

I take it you've never been to Cleveland? Or Chicago? Schools suck everywhere in the US, not just in the South. 
This study was released in 2001, so some of the stats have changed, especially Columbus, but the point remains.
"Cleveland was one of five districts among the 50 largest in America to manage an overall graduation rate below 50 percent, joined by Memphis (42 percent), Milwaukee (43 percent), Columbus, Ohio, (45 percent) and Chicago (47 percent)." 
http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_arizrep-cleveland.htm

DetroitBuckeye's picture

I had friends who attended Detroit Public Schools, I don't recommend it quite terrible indeed.

 
buckeyedude's picture

The same could be said of most inner city schools in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Gary, In., Chicago, etc.

 
 

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Detroit schools are on a different level, a member of the school board didn't graduate middle school and ran a prostitution ring.

 
Ashtabula's picture

Is there a graph that shows the hometown of 4 and 5 star recruits for football over the last decade?  I'm guessing you will see a huge cluster in SEC country with other clusters in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.  Also, if you compare this to a college basketball recruit graph, you would see clusters in the mid-atlantic, Chicago, New York, and few clusters over other major cities. 
It is not as much about coaching or population or facilities or whatever...it is about where the best talent for that particular sport lives. 

Gray Box's picture

When they asked actual recruits from four top recruiting states, not one of them said population is what makes them such good states to recruit.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMMp80r60W8

Gray Box's picture

If population determined athletic ability then the Northeast and Midwest would dominate the South.  These would be your top states in order:
1 California 
2 Texas 
3 New York 
4 Florida
5 Illinois 
6 Pennsylvania 
7 Ohio 
8 Georgia 
9 Michigan 
10 North Carolina
11 New Jersey 
12 Virginia 
13 Washington
14 Massachusetts 
15 Arizona
16 Indiana
The full list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population

smartfootballrankings's picture

There still is a genetic component and certain people are more likely to be better athletes at different parts.  There's a reason why almost all elite long distance runners are Kenyans, Samoans have a disporportionate numbers in football, etc...  You can't just look at every person and assume they have an equal chance of being an elite athlete.  Look how many second generation stars there are.  It's not good coaching that got them there.  It's raw talent.  Give me the best coaches in the world, starting at birth, and I will never run a 4.5 40 or have a 40" vertical leap.  I believe I read somewhere that every winner of the 100 yard dash in the last X years is descended from a limited few people who lived in a very small village in West Africa.  Some people are blessed with freak of nature genes and that plays a gigantic factor in sports where talent is more obvious to spot without great expense.  Hockey is much different (and similar to auto racing, which is even more extreme), where parental dedication and expenses of even finding who is talented is gigantic.  Sports that are more "raw physical talent" oriented, like basketball, soccer, track, football, etc... makes it much more likely that the best talents are discovered at a very young age.

buckeyedude's picture

I agree with you, even though what you said is not PC to do so. Genetics also play a factor, like it or not.

 
 

nickma71's picture

Jim Tressel's achillies heel for a decade was not developing offensive line talent. The line this year was decent, the best since Cooper, but still not dominant. They just didn't get run over for a change.