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State Of Florida: Recruiting Doesn't Equate To Winning

by CraigStephens
Mar 07, 2014 9:02 PM EST



National Signing Day has come and gone. Recruiting sites have ranked classes and made projections. But did we actually learn anything?

Everyone knows that some heralded recruits fizzle out, while some ignored recruits blossom on Saturdays. Scouting involves a lot of guesswork and recruits don’t always live up to expectations.

So if we don’t actually know the future of these recruits, why do we care so much? The common answer is simple. Fans and media follow recruiting because good classes lead to good teams. They posit that if a coach can bring in top talent, the team should win titles. Simply, good recruiting equals winning.

When a team pulls in a great recruiting class, fans heighten their expectations. They assume that their favorite team will win more games with this influx of talent. However, when the losses come, they are devastated. The expectation is all wrong. Recruiting classes don’t guarantee wins.  

Good recruiting equals winning is a fair and intuitive argument. Only, it’s not necessarily true. You would think that recruiting the best players would give a school the best team, so the school could then win championships. However, we don’t know if these are actually the best players.

Scouting and then projecting a player’s talent is more art than science. So years after the fact, upon reviewing National Signing Days of the past, we see class rankings and prospect ratings which look like wildly inaccurate forecasting. They look unreliable because they are unreliable.

The old argument that good recruiting equals winning just can’t be proved. At least not right away. In fact, the only thing we can prove is the reverse. History tells us that the equation is backward: winning equals good recruiting.

Recruiting battles are best broken down like presidential races, on a state-by-state level. Let’s look at recruiting in the state of Florida in the last decade:

Year Florida Florida State Miami
2006 1 6 17
2007 2 25 9
2008 4 12 1
2009 5 8 7
2010 1 6 13
2011 12 1 NR
2012 4 2 8
2013 2 9 15
2014 6 3 10

*All class rankings courtesy of ESPN.com

Final Season Rankings

Year Florida Florida State Miami
2006 1 NR NR
2007 13 NR NR
2008 1 21 NR
2009 3 NR 19
2010 NR 17 NR
2011 NR 23 NR
2012 9 10 NR
2013 NR 1 NR

There’s no strong correlation to show that good recruiting classes lead to immediate winning. Only four times since 2006 has the team with Florida's best recruiting class finished that season with the best ranking. Even if you go down the line, only four times has the team with the best class won the state three years later.  

The 2008 Miami Hurricanes are a perfect example of this. That class, headlined by Jacory Harris, was supposed to bring the ‘Canes back to national prominence. However, the team's best finish topped out at 19th. (On a side note, Miami fans who are claiming the “U” is back need to settle down. Miami finished the season ranked in 2009. It's the only time they’ve finished a season ranked in the last decade.)

Now look at these tables the other way. The team that finished with the highest ranking in the state went on to have the best recruiting class seven times since 2006. We don’t know if these 17- and 18-year-old kids will win football games on Saturdays. However, we do know that if a team wins on a lot on Saturdays, high school players will sign up to be a part of the program.

Sure, I could have told you the conclusion "high school kids are front runners" at the beginning of the article but then we wouldn’t have had all this fun.

My point is good recruiting classes don’t necessarily lead to victories. The opposite is true; if your team has a good year that means it probably will have a good recruiting class.

Recruiting doesn’t equal winning. Winning equals recruiting.