Wharton gets in the game with football state ranks
By Michael Gulinello Daily Pennsylvanian

September 13, 2006

Philadelphia, PA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- If you are looking for a poll concerning football, you might go to ESPN, USA Today or The Associated Press. But here's one name you probably wouldn't think of: Wharton.

But Penn's business school has suddenly gotten into the business of football rankings, publishing a study over the summer.

They're not ranking teams or players, however. The report put out by the Wharton Sports Business Initiative evaluated the 48 contiguous states by their penchant for all things football.

Coming in at No. 1 on the list was Mississippi, while Pennsylvania came in 14th.

The survey was organized by USA Football, an organization that supports and promotes youth and amateur football, as part of their Governor's Cup initiative.

Jason Wingard, the senior fellow who published the report, said USA Football developed the criteria for the rankings and approached the Initiative for help in evaluating the data. Wingard's group got the nod because of the work it had done in the past with other football initiatives, such as the NFL executive education program.

For the rankings, Wharton used five components: the percentage of professional and college football fans (both as determined by an ESPN poll), the percentage of varsity high-school football players compared to the state's population, and the number of Division I college players and NFL players compared to the number of high-school players in the state.

The rankings, from 1 to 49 (including Washington, D.C.), for the five categories were then averaged to determine the final list.

For example, Mississippi's fan rankings were 21 and 15, but the state ranked in the top 10 for percentage of players in all three levels of football.

Pennsylvania performed the best in percentage of NFL players (ninth) and NFL fans (tenth).


One surprising result was that the traditional hotbeds for player development - Texas, Florida and California - ranked sixth, tenth, and 24th, respectively, in the overall rankings.

"We surprised a lot of people," Wingard said. "Many people would have guessed that Florida or Texas would have been No. 1."

While the top-ranking state is awarded the Governor's Cup, the rankings will not likely spur coaches to turn their backs on states such as California when recruiting players.

"The big three in terms of where everybody recruits are Florida, California and Texas," Penn football coach Al Bagnoli said.

He said that even if the average player in Mississippi were better, the fact remains that California has 30 million residents. California has more total players, and that makes it easier to find the right player efficiently.

According to Bagnoli, if Penn were to recruit intensely in sparsely populated states like South Dakota, it would take too much away from the program's resources.

Penn's 2006 squad features 18 players from California and 10 from Florida. That ranks behind only the 19 players each from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Penn also faces an additional concern of recruiting in a not-so-strong football state.

"To spend all your time in an area that doesn't have great high schools academically speaking is counterproductive, because regardless of how good the player is, you can't get him in school," Bagnoli said.

But while the rankings will not likely affect recruiting directly, they could potentially affect player development in the future.

Although USA Football has not yet contacted Wharton about a follow-up study, Wingard said that there more work that can be done.

"The natural next step will be to explore the implications of why each state ranked where it did and what the states can do about it," Wingard said.

After analyzing the results, Wingard said, the program could provide recommendations to individual states about how to improve the status of football programs in their state.

And if the states at the bottom of the list take those recommendations, then perhaps the nation's football powerhouses could change.

(C) 2006 Daily Pennsylvanian via CSTV U-WIRE

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