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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 2

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 2: Why does Michigan produce less D-I talent than Ohio?

Michigan and Ohio have been at odds throughout modern history. Beginning with the Toledo War and continuing through the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, there has always been a certain degree of animosity between the two. While Ohio State has the recent edge in the rivalry, Michigan holds the overall record. Despite this, more Ohio-born players have won The Game than have Michigan natives. This is because the University of Michigan has to use the state of Ohio for recruiting, while the Buckeyes don't need to return the favor to build their team.

Prove It
To illustrate the point that Ohio produces better football talent, let's take a look at the recent Scout player rankings. While many players ranked lower than 3 stars will eventually sign with Division I schools, let's look at the highly-ranked players. For a sample size, we'll consider any prospect who could feasibly be on a roster in Fall 2008 (2004-2008 recruiting classes).
2008 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
6
13
20
5
0
Ohio
3
11
33
47
7
9*
2007 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
2
11
6
19
5*
1
Ohio
2
10
31
43
0
10*
2006 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
1
8
10
4*
1*
Ohio
3
17
30
50
3*
10
2005 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
3
12
16
6*
0
Ohio
2
13
16
31
4
11*
2004 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
0
5
10
15
6
1
Ohio
2
4
27
33
1
15***
(* Indicates players that were 2-stars that are included in the signing numbers).
It is clear that Ohio produces more talent than Michigan. Over the past 5 recruiting classes, Ohio has produced 204 3-star or higher players, while Michigan has produced 80. Michigan signed 26 Michigan players (including three 2-star players) and 14 Ohio players (including a single 2-star). Ohio state has signed 3 Michigan players (including one 2-star) and a whopping 55 Ohio-bred players (including six 2-star players). It is plain to see that the state of Ohio produces far more Division I players, in addition to more UM/OSU caliber guys.

Distribution of Population?
The two states produce a significant difference of players at pretty much all levels of analysis here. While this would initially lead one to believe that it was simply a higher population in one state accounting for the difference, this is not the case.
Population Statistics
State
Population
Density
Michigan
9,938,444 (8)
179/sq mi (15)
Ohio
11,353,140 (7)
277.26/sq mi (9)
Population density may be something of a factor (are there enough people in one location in the UP to muster up an 11-man football game?), but the differences aren't that great, especially if you eliminate the ridiculously sparse UP (32% of Michigan's land, but 3% of its population).

Ohio doesn't produce more football talent just because it has more people. More nefarious mechanisms are at work here.

Economics
While it is free to go around whacking people, and cheap to get a football to toss around, playing actual organized football does have some significant costs. Individuals must incur costs to join youth leagues, and buy a fairly significant amount of equipment. Schools must invest in equipment, jerseys, staff, and other expenses, which can be a financial burden that is difficult to bear.

However, is Michigan's economy that much worse than Ohio's? I wouldn't presume that this is a major factor, since Ohio has been producing much more talent seemingly since the beginning
of time. Even when the auto companies in Detroit were thriving, Ohio was producing more football players.

Passion
Perhaps the reason is simply a difference between the citizens of the two states in terms of how much they care about the game. There is no way to accurately gauge this, but I honestly believe that it is the case. While there are places in Michigan where football is very important to people, it borders on religion in most of Ohio. Part of this may be the culture of Ohio State hegemony (check out part I in this series), and there are likely other factors adding to it, but no concrete explanation.

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“State of Michigan Football, Pt. 2”

  1. Anonymous a2matt Says:

    UM B-Ball news, Benzing to UM official, per mgoblue.com

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Interesting thought with the passion argument.

    I think geography can play a big role in football as well. Ohio, from my experience has more compact clusters of cities within close driving distance of each other. Outside of Detroit-Metro and Lansing, Michigan comes off as fairly spread out. The added travel cost to play quality opponents may also hamper school's spending on program development. It's something I've seen in Southeast Texas as well. Suburbs around Houston/San Antonio/Dallas all tend to produce the top teams as they have a larger selection of competitive programs within 30 minute drives. As I travel further out, the teams are less competitive as they play to to beat their competition, which may be nothing than a group of 30 farm boys with no football skill at all. Meanwhile out in West Texas, there just is nothing else but football to do. It's taken on the religion-type following as showcased in every football movie ever.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    "Part of this may be the culture of Ohio State hegemony..."

    Hegemony? Sounds like someone listened during Dr. Andrei Markovits' lectures on Sports in Society (Soc 212). Bravo!

    -Jhills

  4. Anonymous footymcgavin Says:

    I don't know about Ohio, but I do know here in Michigan, athletes often abandon some or all-but-one of their sports in favor of their favorite, partway through high school.

    Several of our football players stopped playing football to concentrate on soccer, baseball, and particularly hockey, which played a prominant role in our town's fandom. Are other sports as big of a deal in Ohio? I don't know about others, but I can't imagine hockey being as prominant.

    It may be that other sports are robbing more of Michigan's talent more than it's happening in Ohio.

  5. Blogger kowisja Says:

    Coming from Texas we have the same problem. I didn't get to play football because at my school I had the choice of baseball or football, not both. Trevor Rees, the center for Northwestern the last few years, had to drop baseball because the coaches in both sports were cutting his playing time despite being a D1 prospect in football and batting over .400 in baseball.