Five weeks into the signing period for NCAA Division I men’s soccer programs and slightly more than one-third of the universities have confirmed their incoming classes for the fall.
Generally, every NCAA Division I football program has its incoming class announced within five hours on the first signing day!
OK, we all know that college soccer is not on the media awareness level of college football, and the pulling together of a soccer class that likely includes some combination of transfers, partial scholarship recipients, international students and walk-ons is far more complex and time-consuming than full-ride sports. But still, to have only 76 out of 205 programs in position to confirm their signing classes after five weeks seems embarassingly low for a sport that desires greater media attention. The signing period seems the perfect time to capitalize on easy local exposure for college programs and incoming players.
Perhaps someday, college soccer will offer the same signing-day excitement as football. That day, of course, is nowhere near.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
For years I have been tracking verbal commitments and college signings for men’s soccer. Beyond the obvious interest in where the projected “big-time” players end up, I find fascinating recruiting stories -- be it a state on the rise, a state having a special senior class, a shift in regional recruiting or simply interesting recruiting relationships between college programs and clubs.
For example, Ohio had one of its strongest graduation classes ever in 2009 and that played into the hands of Akron, which tapped that talent pool to produce a national runner-up finish in the fall of 2009 and a national title in 2010.
Here are few observations from the Class of 2012:
• I’ll call this the “Five-hour South” rule. “Better weather” is a response from many players when they discuss reasons behind their verbal commitment. It seems this year that reason played a major part in the recruiting at several ACC programs. Wake Forest landed four of the top prospects out of Maryland. Meanwhile, Maryland snatched three top-tier players from the northern New Jersey-New York region. Half of Duke’s class hails from areas north of Durham, N.C., and all but two of Virginia’s commitments are from states located north of Charlottesville, Va. Even soon-to-be ACC member Syracuse got into the act by luring a pair of Canadians to its northern New York campus. The only ACC to keep its entire recruiting class in the South is defending national champion North Carolina with four in-state signees, three players from Georgia and one each from South Carolina and Texas.
• The top 10 NCAA Division I-producing states (California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia and Florida) account for 62 percent of all Division I commitments this year. Those states also include 55 percent of all Division I programs. Add the next 10 states on the list and that accounts for 86 percent of all commitments.
• Two states on the move this year are Iowa and Minnesota. Last year, Iowa produced five Division I players, but the Class of 2012 has already hit 10. In Minnesota, eight members of last year’s senior class went to Division I programs, this year that number has swelled to 14. (Note, the Minnesota number is not inflated by the soccer academy at Shattuck-St. Mary’s since those players are tracked based on their actual hometown.)
PER CAPITA LEADERS:
PER CAPITA: The state with the most NCAA Division I-bound players relative to its population (with at least two commitments) is Virginia. The state has 45 signings/commitments at this point, which equals to one for every 178,616 people living in the state. The entire Per Capita top five are eastern states with New Jersey second (1:187,393), South Carolina third (1:201,998), Maryland fourth (1:206,783) and North Carolina fifth (1:207,951). The lowest ratio per capita belongs to Louisiana, which has only one confirmed signing in a state of 4.5 million residents.
EXPORTING TALENT: Last year, ESPNHS devised a base formula to show which states are exporting the most talent relative to the number of in-state opportunities for its players. The theory here is that large states with several NCAA Division I programs obviously will produce more Division I boys’ soccer players simply because the recruiting classes tend to be locally or regionally driven. By comparison, states that have few instate opportunities force its students to look beyond its borders. Last year’s runaway winner was Texas, and the Lonestar State remains No. 1 in the Class of 2012 race. For every player who commits to one of the two NCAA Division I programs in Texas, the state ships 23 players elsewhere in the country. No. 2 on the list is Georgia followed by Colorado.