What has caused the sudden tide change in the powers of college football in Texas?

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Texas is the state that comes to many minds when people are asked about the biggest football state in the nation.

Whether it be college, or high school, football is a major power in Texas. The Longhorns logo, the burnt orange, these are iconic images that come to mind.

Recently however, there has been a power shift in college football in Texas, and I for one think that recruiting has something to do with it.


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In this article, I’ll first go over the records of the six main college football teams in Texas from the years 2000-2007, and 2008-2014. Then, I will speak about recruiting and the impact it may have had on these results.

The six main college football teams in the state of Texas are the Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs, Houston Cougars, and Texas A&M Aggies. These are their records, including bowl records, from 2000-2007.

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Bowl Games

Texas Tech 2000-2007: 65-37 (.637) 5-3
Texas 2000-2007: 85-17 (.833) 6-2
Texas A&M 2000-2007: 53-44 (.546) 1-4
Baylor 2000-2007: 27-66 (.290) 0-0
Houston 2000-2007: 42-55 (.433) 0-4
TCU 2000-2007: 72-26 (.735) 4-3

These numbers conclude that based on winning percentage the order of these teams, from best to worst, is Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Houston, and Baylor. These numbers would dramatically change between 2008-2014 however.

Bowl Games

Texas Tech 2008-2014: 53-36 (.596) 4-1
Texas 2008-2014: 61-30 (.670) 3-3
Texas A&M 2008-2014: 54-36 (.600) 4-2
Baylor 2008-2014: 55-34 (.618) 2-3
Houston 2008-2014: 57-34 (.626) 3-2
TCU 2008-2014: 70-20 (.778) 4-2

These numbers show that the order is now TCU, Texas, Houston, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.

Now, the order may not have changed much, but notice that the win percentages are a lot closer to each other, with the exception of TCU, a clear outlier much like Texas was previously.

The spread is much smaller, meaning that there is a tighter in-state competition than there was previously amongst these schools. In my opinion this is due in part to recruiting, but do the numbers show this (in terms of strictly in state talent)?

According to the 2008 ESPN 151, ranking high school football prospects, 23 players from the state of Texas ranked among the top 151 players in the nation, 15.2%.

Of these 23 players, seven went on to play for the Longhorns, and ten went on to play out of state, with one not playing at all. This left five players to be split amongst the other teams in Texas, showing a clear disparity and the power that the Longhorns could wield. 

In 2009, the state of Texas placed 19 players in the top 150, with nine of them declaring to go play for the Longhorns. Additionally, another eight players went on to play for teams out of state, leaving only two of these players to play for other in state teams.

In 2010, Texas placed 24 players in the top 150, with 13 of them choosing to play for the Longhorns.

This shows the power that being in the national championship game can have, because that is where the Longhorns were in 2009, in a game they would lose to Alabama.

Another six players decided to play out of state from that group of 24, leaving five players for the rest of the teams in Texas to fight over. The Longhorns at this point truly seemed to have a stranglehold on recruiting the state.

In 2011, Texas placed 18 players in the top 150, less than the previous year but still an astounding number. Only six of them though decided to stay and play with the Longhorns, while 11 went on to play out of state, leaving just one to play at an in state school that wasn’t the Texas Longhorns.

In 2012, the number of players that Texas put in the top 150 rose up to 23, and of them ten decided to play for the Longhorns, and only five went to play out of state, leaving eight to play at other in state schools, a record so far, and many of these players went to play for Texas A&M.

In 2013, 18 players from Texas made the top 150, and only four went on to declare for the Longhorns, with eight going to play out of state. This means that six players were left for in state teams, and again most of them chose Texas A&M.

For 2014, 17 players from Texas went on to make the top 150, and this time only three went on to sign with the Longhorns, and seven going to play out of state. This time, Texas A&M and Baylor claimed a couple of the remaining seven players.

Finally in 2015, 16 players from Texas made the top 150, and only four signed with the Longhorns along with eight singing out of state, leaving four to sign with other teams in state.

The general pattern that sticks out to me according to the recruiting data is that fewer players from Texas seem to be reaching the elite ranks in terms of the ESPN 150, and even fewer of them are signing with the most well known in-state team, the Texas Longhorns.

More and more players are signing with teams out of state, and with other in state schools such as fellow Big 12 team Baylor, and relatively new SEC member Texas A&M.

In recent years the Longhorns have struggled, and some of the other teams in Texas, such as the Aggies, the Baylor Bears, and the TCU Horned Frogs have gotten better.

Therefore, two big questions remain; is recruiting truly that big of a reason for the sea change in Texas, and will this trend continue?

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