Economics of recruiting (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday January 23, 2008 11:35AM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 5:32PM
Early in 2006, the trio presented its findings at an economics conference in New York. There, the economists reported that even after controlling for success -- throw out the megapowers -- a recruit is still almost six percent more likely to pick a BCS school over an otherwise equal non-BCS school.
"If you are a BCS school ... you still get a little bit of an additional bump when it comes to trying to land the big players," Lynch said. "It's kind of the rich get richer is what we showed in the development of this model."
But as recruitniks, the trio considered some of the paper's other findings more fascinating. Not surprisingly, they discovered that distance from a player's hometown and whether the recruit made an official visit were the two most important factors, but distance is less of a factor depending on where the recruit lives. With help from geographer buddy Juan del Valle, who used geographic information system (GIS) software to determine straight-line distances between hometowns and campuses, the economists learned that recruits in the South and the Midwest are likely to stay close to home, while recruits in the West and the Northeast seemed more willing to leave the nest.
More surprising were the factors that didn't seem to affect a prospect's decision. "There were a couple of results that had us raising our eyebrows," Lynch said.
DuMond and Lynch each pointed to the roster depth variable. Recruits often mention early playing time as a contributing factor in their decision, but the model found that prospects are one percent more likely to choose a school that a year earlier signed one or more highly touted players at that recruit's position. That could explain how USC keeps signing running backs. Meanwhile, scholarship reductions didn't seem to bother recruits. The economists surmised that the players figured they'd have less competition for exposure and playing time. Also surprising, graduation rate and the number of players sent to the NFL in recent years had no measurable effect on recruit's choices.
So what do recruits want? According to the model, they usually will pick the BCS-conference school nearest their hometown that has the biggest on-campus stadium and won the most games last season. Not the past five seasons, mind you. "You can make the argument that recruits may be a little short-sighted," DuMond said.
DuMond and his partners, however, intend to take the long view. Lynch said there are plenty of college football fans in the economist community, and many have suggested ways to tweak the model to make it more accurate. The trio will keep working, Lynch said, but the complexities of the teenage psyche will keep them from reaching 100 percent accuracy.
"At the end of the day, they're just kids trying to figure out where they want to go play ball," Lynch said. "We'll be able to accurately forecast a bunch of them, but I don't think a day is going to come where we're going to accurately pick every one of these kids."
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