Recruiting and the BCS conferences.

Every fan of college football knows that the Division IA playing field is far from level. Boise State's improbable victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl served as a motivation for all underdogs in the mid-major conferences. But do BCS conference schools all have an equal chance to hoist the coveted national championship trophy.

A look at the last five national champions would seem to indicate that something as simple as geography may well play the prominent role in determining who has a legitimate chance to win a national championship.

By analyzing the five national champions from 2002 to 2006, some interesting facts emerge. Let's begin by listing each of the respective winners:

2002—Ohio State

When examining the rosters provided by, one finds that the overwhelming majority of the players on each of these champions hailed from their respective home states. LSU checked in with the lowest percentage of home state roster players with 63.8% while Texas led the way with 92.9%. Florida's national championship team drew 69.6% of its players from the Sunshine state while USC's roster was 82.0% home grown. Finally, Ohio State's 2002 national championship team was composed of 72.0% Ohioans.

Do these statistics mean that only schools from talent-rich states can win a national title? Of course Irish fans hope that's not true since only 6% of its roster hails from Indiana. However, in the last eleven years, only the University of Tennessee won a national championship without residing in a traditionally talent-rich state. Even Tennessee borders many very production states, including Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.

When looking more deeply at the numbers one finds that these five schools have not only won the last five BCS national championships, but also that they have been extremely successful even in their non-championship years. Florida has the lowest five year winning percentage among them at .703 (45-19) while USC has compiled an amazing .908 (59-6) winning percentage during this same period. Both Ohio State and Texas have won at an .859 (55-9) clip and LSU finished at .800 (52-13).

Recruiting also paints a very telling picture. Over the five year period the average end of year recruiting rankings are as follows:

Ohio State—11.8

Since scholarship availability plays a huge role in determining end of year rankings, perhaps even more significant is the average star value of recruits. Those values are as follows:

Ohio State—3.49

These numbers, when paired with the high percentage of recruits who come from within each respective state, clearly indicates that each of these states are not only producing a significant number of Division IA players but that they are producing very good Division IA players.

For the sake of comparison, I chose two schools from states that do not traditionally produce a large number of Division IA football recruits. The two schools that I chose were Notre Dame (of course) and my home state University of Missouri Tigers. By analyzing Notre Dame and Missouri on the same criteria, one sees some very dramatic numbers. As previously stated, Notre Dame's 2006 roster drew only 6% of its recruits from the state of Indiana. Missouri did much better with 42.7% of its 2006 roster coming from the state of Missouri. However, that's not necessarily a good thing. Missouri's recruits over the last five years have only averaged 2.46 stars and their average end of year recruiting ranking is only 48. Predictably, their won-loss percentage has been far lower than those of the five national champions. Missouri has won 54% (33-28) of their games during this period.

Notre Dame has certainly fared better than Missouri but not nearly as well as the five champions. Their end of season recruiting ranking has averaged 16.0 with an average star rating of 3.39. Both their end of season ranking and their star average is lower than any of the five champions. Their winning percentage, .629 (39-23), has been significantly lower than all but Florida's.

So what does one infer from these numbers? Clearly there's far more than just location to building a national champion. Each of these five national champions have benefited from outstanding coaching, tremendous institutional support and top-notch facilities. With the exception of Southern California, each is the most prestigious public school in its respective state. But the reality is that there are many other football programs across America that also fit those criteria yet they've failed to win it all.

So, what can Notre Dame do to overcome the inherent deficits that it faces when it comes to building a football program? There are three things that the Irish must do to produce a national champion.

1. The coaching staff must build effective pipelines into traditionally talent rich states and schools so that they can "cherry pick" the best talent year in and year out. Unlike the five previous champions who recruit their home state and cherry pick the rest of the nation; Notre Dame must take that approach with each and every recruit.

2. Notre Dame must continue to maintain a first-rate coaching staff and state of the art facilities.

3. Most importantly, Notre Dame must consistently play well on both sides of the ball, using their weekly national television exposure to become the "in" place for recruits. Recruits want to come to a winner.

In the final analysis, it is very hard to argue that the luxury of recruiting a football team from a talent-rich state does not play a huge role in winning a national championship. By no means does that mean that some day Wisconsin, Purdue or Notre Dame won't win a title but it does mean that doing so will prove to be even more of an uphill climb than previous champions have had to make. Top Stories