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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Top five recruiting jobs in college football

By Gerry Hamilton

When looking at the top recruiting jobs in college football, it’s not always about looking at final poll rankings or teams that have recently won the most games.

Yes, winning matters, but there are other factors. Location, region and in-state talent are major contributors. Revenues build facilities and pay for the modern-day arms race. National appeal, identifiable former players and recent NFL draft success also have a hand in making an impression on high school athletes.

Here’s a look at the top five recruiting jobs in the country:

1. Florida Gators

Proximity to out-of-state talent: The state of Florida probably has the most talent in the country, and the Gators also sit five hours from the Atlanta area, with talent bases from South Georgia into Atlanta. The states of Florida and Georgia combined to produce 60 NFL draft picks in the 2014 draft, one more than the states of California and Texas combined (while having less than half the combined population). Gainesville is also relatively close to three other out-of-state hotbeds: Charlotte, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans.

Dollars and cents: Florida reported total football expenses of $23,045,846 and total football revenue of $74,117,435 in 2011-12. Florida will benefit greatly from the launch of the SEC Network in August, which is a 20-year agreement between the SEC and ESPN.

National appeal: The Gators’ logo is nationally known. The Tim Tebow years are still widely talked about with prospects from California to the East Coast. Consecutive national titles in basketball and deep NCAA tournament runs only help enhance Florida’s national brand as a recruiting presence. The Gators also have three football national titles (1996, 2006, 2008); eight SEC championships; three Heisman Trophy winners (Steve Spurrier in 1966, Danny Wuerffel in 1996, Tim Tebow in 2007); and 11 College Football Hall of Fame members.

Facilities and atmosphere: While Florida has The Swamp as a nationally recognized home field, they have arguably fallen behind in the arms race in the SEC and region.

Recent NFL draft success: In the last 10 years, Florida has produced 11 first-round draft selections and 47 total draft picks. Percy Harvin (Virginia), Joe Haden (Maryland), Sharrif Floyd (Pennsylvania), Dominique Easley (New York) and Jarvis Moss (Texas) are first-round selections from outside the state since 2007.

Identifiable player: Tim Tebow. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner remains popular with many prospects nationwide.

Bottom line: Being one of the big three programs (with Florida State and Miami) in a state that has claimed nine of the last 25 national titles means something. Florida has national appeal to recruit from coast to coast because its home is in the most talented state in the country and is near the talent-rich Southeast region, and because it plays in the nation's most dominant conference.

Vince Young
Vince Young's national championship game performance still resonates nearly a decade later.
2. Texas Longhorns

Proximity to out-of-state talent: Texas has had success recruiting in the Phoenix area, which is 1,000 miles away. Northern parts of Louisiana are less than 400 miles away. With new coach Charlie Strong, Texas is putting a new focus on Florida, which has never been a major pipeline state for the Longhorns.

Dollars and cents: In 2011-12, the Texas reported total football expenses of $25,896,203 and total revenue of $103,813,684, which was easily the highest revenue in college football. Texas and ESPN are in the third year of a 20-year, $300 million agreement for the Longhorn Network.

National appeal: When done consistently, Texas’ national appeal gives it the ability to recruit nationally. The slogan “Hook 'em” is known by college sports fans nationwide. Texas recorded an eighth consecutive year atop Collegiate Licensing Company sales in August 2013. Texas is also a historical blue blood in the sport, with four national titles, 32 conference titles and two Heisman Trophy winners.

Facilities and atmosphere: In the late 1990s, Texas had arguably the best facilities in college football. Since that time, others have caught up to and passed the Longhorns. With that said, Texas’ facilities remain in the upper echelon in college athletics, and the Longhorns play in a stadium that holds more than 100,000.

Recent NFL draft success: There's been a drop-off in the past four years, but Texas has still managed nine first-round selections and 41 total draft picks in the last decade.

Identifiable player: Vince Young. Nearly a decade later, prospects still talk about Young’s national-title winning performance against USC in the Rose Bowl. NBA MVP Kevin Durant is another “lifetime Longhorn” who resonates across the country.

Bottom line: Texas is often considered the top job in college football. With seemingly bottomless coffers, access to some of the best high school programs in the country, and a location in the heart of a state that is one of the top three at producing NFL talent, everything is there to create a top program. Texas could be argued as the top recruiting program even during the down years at the end of the Mack Brown era.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

Proximity to out-of-state talent: Tuscaloosa is centrally located enough to allow close access to Atlanta, New Orleans and Monroe, Louisiana, and is 475 miles from Jacksonville and 568 miles from Orlando, Florida. Bama is also close enough to Dallas and Houston to have a presence and is less than 1,000 miles from both South Florida and Washington, D.C.

Dollars and cents: In 2011-12, Alabama led the way in total football expenses at $36,918,963, and reported total football revenue of $81,993,762.

National appeal: The Crimson Tide have become a top destination of top prospects with NFL dreams. While Alabama is a nationally known program, it’s arguable that the Crimson Tide weren’t on the same level nationally with USC, Florida, Texas, Notre Dame and a handful of others until the run of dominance under Nick Saban.

Facilities and atmosphere: The facility upgrades are arguably the best in college football, with only Oregon in the conversation, and the atmosphere is also among the best in the country. Seeing more than 70,000 fans annually at the A-Day spring game takes the environment at Alabama to another level for prospects. Bryant-Denny Stadium seats 101,821 and is among the best home-field advantages.

Recent NFL draft success: In the last 10 years, Alabama has produced 16 first-round draft selections and 53 total picks.

Identifiable player: Alabama does not have a singularly identifiable player in the last decade, but Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and names such as Julio Jones, Trent Richardson and AJ McCarron are talked about outside the region. Alabama does have the most recognizable college football coach, with only Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski arguably more recognizable in the college sports landscape.

Bottom line: Alabama historically was one of college football’s top programs before the arrival of Saban, and he has taken the Crimson Tide to even greater heights. Having won three of the last five national titles, Alabama continues to grow as a national power in recruiting. The Tide already have the advantage of being located in the most talented region in the country, and they play in the most dominant conference. Throw in the fact that former NFL general manager Bill Polian called Alabama the “33rd franchise” during the 2014 NFL draft, and the Crimson Tide are a true juggernaut.

4. USC Trojans

Proximity to out-of-state talent: The Phoenix area is 380 miles from USC and Las Vegas is 270 miles away, but the vast majority of targeted recruiting areas are more than 1,000 miles away.

Dollars and cents: USC's football expenses were $23,123,733 and reported revenues were $34,410,822 in 2011-12.

National appeal: When naming the football programs with the most national appeal, it doesn’t take long to hear USC; “Fight On” is a phrase known by nearly every prospect and college football fan. Top out-of-state prospects to sign with USC since 2000 include Brian Cushing (New Jersey), Mike Williams (Florida), Keith Rivers (Florida), Dwayne Jarrett (New Jersey), John David Booty (Louisiana), Joe McKnight (Louisiana) and Jeff Byers (Colorado).

Facilities and atmosphere: The opening of the John McKay Center in August 2012 was a shot in the arm for USC’s facilities, which had fallen way behind some of the nation’s best. While the game-day atmosphere at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum isn’t considered one of the best in the sport, the city of Los Angeles and everything it has to offer trump any concerns about the football atmosphere.

Recent NFL draft success: In the last 10 years, USC has had 14 first-round draft picks and 68 total selections.

Identifiable player: Reggie Bush. Like Vince Young, Bush and the USC Trojans team of nearly a decade ago are still mentioned among top prospects.

Bottom line: USC is one of the most storied college football programs, with 11 national championships, six Heisman Trophy winners, 36 conference titles and an all-time college football-best 483 NFL draft picks. USC sits in the middle of a talent-rich area, is the most prolific West Coast program from a recruiting perspective, and has the ability to recruit nationally (including from Georgia and Florida and up the East Coast).

Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston celebrate Florida State's BCS Championship win
Winning a national championship last season has added to Florida State's recruiting cachet.
5. Florida State Seminoles

Proximity to out-of-state talent: FSU is the closest major university to parts of talent-rich South Georgia. Tallahassee is 245 miles from Mobile, Alabama; 270 miles from Atlanta; 385 miles from New Orleans; 710 miles from Houston; and 865 miles from Washington, D.C.

Dollars and cents: Florida State reported football expenses of $22,052,228 in 2011-12, with total football revenue of $34,484,786.

National appeal: Florida State is one of a handful of football programs on the tip of the tongue of prospects from coast to coast. Florida State’s run of success in the 1990s has stood the test of time, with the 2013 national title season only cementing the Seminoles as one of the elites. The Seminoles have three national titles, three Heisman Trophy winners and 17 conference titles.

Facilities and atmosphere: FSU’s facilities and Doak Campbell Stadium might not rank among the elite in college football, but they are certainly not a deterrent in recruiting and are considerably ahead of in-state recruiting rival Miami. The game-day atmosphere is among the top-15 annually, and a nationally recognized uniform is a key asset in recruiting nationally.

Recent NFL draft success: In the last decade, Florida State has produced 13 first-round picks and 53 total selections. At the beginning of the 2013 season, FSU had 38 active players on NFL rosters.

Identifiable player: Deion Sanders has certainly stood the test of time with American youth. His work with the NFL Network and in commercials keeps him in the mainstream media, and Sanders is one player from the 1990s who remains relevant with today’s top prospects.

Bottom line: Florida State is a recruiting juggernaut. The university is in the most talented state in the country, is within driving distance from several other talented areas in the region, and is recognized nationally for its accomplishments on the field and for producing NFL players.