College football fans across the nation spent yesterday with either puffed up chests or in the shadows humiliated over the lack of new recruits signing letters of intents.
And yet recent history suggests that who the program recruits is less important than what the program does with those recruits over the next four years.
Measuring the success of each program has become very sophisticated and complex, with each team rated based on the number of points attributed to each recruit.
In the Scout.com system, for instance, points are awarded based on where each recruit is rated nationwide, in comparison to other high school players. A player deemed the 21st-best player at his position is awarded 21 fewer “points” than a player considered the best.
Rivals has a different system, where they weigh the 5-star and 4-star recruits more heavily than does Scout.com. Two-star recruits are not considered valuable, and some of Scout.com's 5-star recruits are seen as only 4-star material at Rivals.com
But does any of this really matter?
There is no way to really know if the No. 1 rated player on Rivals and Scout, are actually better than the 21st-rated player. They did not play the same high school schedules, nor did they play any of the same teams. In fact there is considerable debate as to which state, and which region of that state, plays the highest caliber football in any given season. That in itself is a debate that usually results in fisticuffs and mayhem.
Nor does being big and quick necessarily make you a great football player. Football requires other things in individuals. Many knuckleheads are quick, but are they smart enough to not rob the grocery store?
The system has long since been fraught with mistakes and misses. How, for instance, does 2-star recruit Mason Foster of the University of Washington end up being all Pac-10 four years later? How does this guy vault over all the other 5-star recruits, and become rated as a first or second-round draft pick by most NFL scouts?
If 2-star players are inferior and unworthy of rating points, which Rivals seems to think, then how did Mr. Foster achieve these lofty heights? And why doesn’t every single 5-star recruit make the NFL four years later?
Still that doesn’t keep us all from wanting precise measurements of player skills, so here we are arguing about who is best vs. who is worst, getting neurotic about it and losing sleep, while many of our pals will be online today for hours, popping off to other fans about how much better our class of guys is.
And yet we’d do just as well to rank these players by how attractive their gym shorts are, because chances are the end results would be as accurate as what these geniuses at Rivals and Scout are coming up with.
You doubt that? Well then let’s take this year’s two top teams and the preceding eight years of recruiting finishes. We have the tradition-challenged Oregon Ducks, vs. the more stoic Auburn Tigers, or War Eagles.
And just for fun, let's add several more top-tier programs, plus a couple of insecure ones that always feel left out, and one that was in the toilet only two years ago (the beloved if not misunderstood 2008 0-12 University of Washington Huskies).
The figures below refer to the Scout report, and in parenthesis is where they finished according to the final AP poll of that year. On the recruiting, it includes the caliber of player (5-star/4-star/3-star), and how many each team recruited that year.
Auburn: 11th, 0/9/10 (2006 AP ninth, 11-2)
Alabama: 37th, 1/4/5 (6-7 in 2006, finished tied for fourth in SEC Western Division)
Boise State: 75th, 0/1/1 (2006 AP fifth, 13-0)
Oregon: 31st, 3/4/0 (7-6 in 2006, finished eighth in Pac-10)
Texas: First, 5/14/4 (2006 AP 13th, 10-3)
TCU: 61st, 0/0/5 (2006 AP 22nd, 11-2)
USC: 12th, 3/8/5 (2006 AP fourth, 11-2)
Washington: 23rd, 1/6/9 (7-6 in 2006, finished tied for fourth in Pac-10)
Auburn: 16th, 1/8/11 (2007 AP 15th, 9-4)
Alabama: 45th, 0/4/2 (7-6 in 2007, finished tied for third in SEC Western Division)
Boise State: 73rd, 0/0/0 (10-3 in 2007, finished second in WAC)
Oregon: 44th, 0/2/10 (2007 AP 23rd, 9-4)
Texas: 14th, 1/7/8 (2007 AP T-10th, 10-3)
TCU: 66th, 0/0/3 (8-5 in 2007, finished fifth in Mountain West)
USC: First, 5/10/11 (2007 AP third, 11-2)
Washington: 18th, 1/5/13 (4-9 in 2007, finished last in Pac-10)
Auburn: 31st, 1/2/5 (5-7 in 2008, finished tied for fourth in SEC Western Division)
Alabama: 19th, 0/3/12 (2008 AP sixth, 12-2)
Boise State: 72nd, 0/0/4 (2008 AP 11th, 12-1)
Oregon: 15th, 1/5/9 (2008 AP 10th, 10-3)
Texas: 10th, 2/4/12 (2008 AP fourth, 12-1)
TCU: 70th, 0/1/2 (2008 AP seventh, 11-2)
USC: First, 7/6/5 (2008 AP third, 12-1)
Washington: 22nd, 0/3/10 (0-12 in 2008, finished last in Pac-10)
Auburn: 22nd, 1/4/12 (8-5 in 2009, finished tied for fourth in SEC Western Division)
Alabama: 16th, 0/4/17 (2009 AP first, 14-0)
Boise State: 73rd, 0/2/4 (2009 AP fourth, 14-0)
Oregon: 30th, 1/5/6 (2009 AP 11th, 10-3)
Texas: 13th, 1/9/4 (2009 AP second, 13-1)
TCU: 63rd, 0/0/4 (2009 AP sixth, 12-1)
USC: Sixth, 6/8/2 (2009 AP 22nd, 9-4)
Washington: 55th, 0/2/5 (5-7 in 2009, finished seventh in Pac-10)
Auburn: T-Ninth, 1/11/10 (2010 AP first, 14-0)
Alabama: 18th, 1/6/15 (2010 AP 10th, 10-3)
Boise State: 78th, 0/0/3 (2010 AP ninth, 12-1)
Oregon: 52nd, 0/2/10 (2010 AP third, 12-1)
Texas: Third, 4/12/7 (5-7 in 2010, finished last in the South Division of the Big 12)
TCU: 73rd, 0/0/4 (2010 AP second, 13-0)
USC: First, 8/12/4 (8-5, finished tied for third in Pac-10)
Washington: 35th, 0/5/8 (7-6, finished tied for third in Pac-10)
Auburn: Sixth, 1/13/10
Alabama: 22nd, 0/5/16
Boise State: 57th, 0/1/9
Oregon: Ninth, 0/11/11
Texas: Third, 4/16/3
TCU: 73rd, 0/1/5
USC: Second, 10/5/3
Washington: 29th, 0/4/14
Auburn: 18th, 1/5/13
Alabama: First, 3/17/10
Boise State: 64th, 0/1/6
Oregon: 23rd, 1/6/12
Texas: 16th, 2/11/6
TCU: 114th, 0/0/2
USC: Ninth, 4/9/5
Washington: 14th, 1/7/14
Auburn: 16th, 2/6/11
Alabama: Second, 3/12/12
Boise State: 60th, 0/1/7
Oregon: 26th, 0/6/12
Texas: Seventh, 4/8/7
TCU: 54th, 0/1/11
USC: Ninth, 4/9/5
Washington: 66th, 0/0/11
Auburn: Sixth, 3/10/15
Alabama: Fourth, 2/14/9
Boise State: 97th, 0/0/5
Oregon: 13th, 2/6/13
Texas: Third, 6/13/5
TCU: 63rd, 0/0/9
USC: Fifth, 6/11/3
Washington: 11th, 0/9/16
So in view of the above, what does all this recruiting noise mean? Well not a gosh-golly thing according to the facts.
How, for instance, do you explain the University of Washington Huskies out-recruiting both TCU and Boise State for all eight years, but finishing 0-12 during the same year that Boise State went 12-1 and TCU went 11-2?
How does USC out-recruit Oregon every single year, and yet end up 8-5 when Oregon goes 13-1 and plays for the national championship? How does the same USC lose to the hapless Huskies two straight years?!?
How does mostly the same Oregon team get pummeled by a Boise State team a year ago, when the Bronco program is consistently rated from 60th to 75th by Scout.com?
How does Auburn win a national championship with the ninth-best recruiting class?
Why doesn't USC win every single national championship, considering how Scout.com claims that program has been in the top five for the past decade, with the best overall class in 2006?
So the bottom line to fans is this: Today doesn’t mean a blessed thing. Yes, it's sort of fun to speculate, but don’t try to convince Boise State or TCU fans that today’s ratings matter a whit!
Final poll positions for the above were gathered from the below web site: http://preseason.stassen.com/final-ap-poll/2006.html