Yesterday we asked whether it was realistic to ever expect Missouri to consistently compete with Oklahoma and Texas in college football. The answer was...probably not. Looking at two recent examples--Bill Snyder and Gary Pinkel--showed that the best results from what I am calling a "second-tier" BCS conference school are a) the normal results for a first-tier school, and b) very hard to sustain. It makes sense, doesn't it? The top-tier schools get 90% of the big-time recruits. The second-tier schools break through when they find hidden gems and maybe one or two big-time recruits...but then those guys graduate, and they have to keep finding hidden gems to succeed...and the margin for error stays pretty high. One iffy recruiting class, and the whole thing could come crashing down.
Before we move on to the "What Should Be Expected of Gary Pinkel?" section, let's look at a couple recruiting tables. The first shows the percentage of 5-star Rivals high school recruits who have gone to different schools since the 2002 recruiting class. It includes the 19 5-star kids from the 2009 recruiting class who have committed somewhere so far, though as we know from the Sheldon Richardson saga, these 19 commitments are far from concrete.
|5-star Rivals Recruits by school since 2002*|
|School||Recruits||% of overall||Aggregate %|
|8 Schools (Arkansas, Clemson, Illinois, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas A&M)||3 each||10.9%||87.3%|
|9 Schools (Auburn, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin)||2 each||8.1%||95.5%|
|10 Schools (Boston College, BYU, California, Mississippi, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Southern Miss, Stanford, UCLA)||1 each||4.5%||100.0%|
* All the predictable disclaimers apply. 1) Racking up 5-star recruits doesn't guarantee success. Just ask Notre Dame. 2) A 5-star recruit is not guaranteed to be successful. Just ask Mike D'Andrea or Chris Patterson. 3) There are only 25-40 5-star recruits each year, so even the biggest programs have to fill out their classes with 3- and 4-star guys. This is a small sample of the overall "recruiting disparity" picture, but it offered a nice, dramatic look.
And all this said, it's all about margin for error. The more stars a recruit has, the more likely it is that they will be successful. The more big-time recruits you get, the more margin for error you have. You can succeed with 2- and 3-star recruits--Mizzou has made a living off of the diamonds in the rough, and they will continue to--but as a whole you're a lot more likely to succeed at the highest level with 4- and 5-stars.
There are 120 teams in Division 1-A (FBS). Five of them (4.2%) collect one-third of the 5-star recruits. Think about that. Eight of them (6.7%) collect half of the 5-star recruits. Fifteen of them (12.5%) collect three-fourths of the 5-star recruits.
If you look at only the last four years, the disparity is even worse. Only 27 schools have landed even one five-star recruit. USC has collected 16.0% of the 5-star recruits, Florida 10.4%. The Top 5 (USC, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame)? 46.2%. The Top 11 (Top 5 plus Texas, Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Georgia)? 72.6%. That leaves the other 109 FBS schools fighting for 27.4% of the riches.
Oh yeah, and when was the last time a school not among the Top 10 above won a national title? 1997, when Nebraska (who isn't on that list) split one with Michigan (who is). Eleven seasons ago. As our good buddy Atch said yesterday, college football is "the most dynastic of games." To say "the rich get richer" is to utter one of the most tired cliches in the sports (or overall life) vernacular...but it is absolutely true when it comes to football and recruiting.
Not to belabor the point, but let's look at the same data, but this time let's look at only Big 12 schools.
|5-star Rivals Recruits by Big 12 school since 2002|
|School||Recruits||% of overall||Aggregate %|
Not much needs to be said here. Is there any question why Texas and Oklahoma have won 6 of the last 7 Big 12 titles (and why the one that they didn't win took a massive upset)? Almost three-fourths of the 5-star recruits who chose a Big 12 school chose either Texas or Oklahoma. The other ten schools fought over the remaining fourth. Again, 5-star recruits don't guarantee success, but...aside from UT and OU, Missouri looked more athletic than every team they played this year except for maybe Oklahoma State. But from a speed and size standpoint, they didn't look like they belonged on the same field as UT and OU.
(One marginally encouraging trend: in just the last four classes, Texas and Oklahoma have only landed 66.7% of the 5-star recruits. It's the slightest of downward trends, but it's still a downward trend, right?)
(Okay, one other encouraging note. Every year, 5/8 of Mizzou's conference schedule is made up of Big 12 North opponents...and Missouri has obviously recruited at a pretty nice level in comparison to Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Nebraska. And while Nebraska's and Colorado's classes usually rank better, they haven't ranked so much better that superior coaching and player development haven't been able to far surpass them on the field the last couple of seasons.)
Now, I'm not spelling all this out to whine or cry or say that the system is unfair. To utter Tired Sports Cliche #2, it is what it is. This is the environment in which we are trying to succeed. The question at this point is, since we most likely cannot expect truly elite play on a year-to-year basis, what can we expect?
Since we're already to almost 1,000 words, and I want to keep these posts in neat, readable sections, we'll stop here for now and answer the expectations question tomorrow. I know, I'm a tease.