*I loathe national letter of intent day.
For me it represents the hypocrisy of young athletes feeding the sports industry and that industry clearly being interested in them and those athletes generating revenue but not gaining any profit for themselves.
But national letter of intent is becoming more and more instructive in another way. In college football 7 of the top 10 recruiting classes were committed to a school located in a warm climate; in college basketball the number goes up to 9 out of the top 10 were going to warm weather schools. This led me to the following thought experiment.
Coach Smith is highly respected as a great coach; he has won a national championship; a long list of his former players are now professionals; but his school is located in New England or the upper Midwest. Coach Jones has the same credentials but his school is in the South or Southwest. With everything else being equal, don’t the warm weather schools have a decided advantage? I think so.
I posed this question to some acquaintances and they thought I was exaggerating. Yet I have not been moved from my original position.
One of the objections to my statement was that I was overstating the difference in temperature between northern New York state and North Carolina. Someone argued that if the differences could be as little as 6 degrees. I don’t doubt that it is possible for the thermostat to say 40 in North Carolina and 34 in the Catskills on the same day. But my point was that it is highly likely that on most days throughout winter the difference in temperature would be much greater. According to the weather channel North Carolina is likely to experience temperatures in the low 40s while NY would see the high 20s. In addition New England towns can expect 9-10 times more snow over the course of the year than Southern towns that happen to get snow because of course for some snow is not an option at all.
I’m not making this up. A family friend who lives in Massachusetts says it’s reasonable to have snow from October until April. What guy is going to choose that over co-eds wearing midriff tops in February?
The other wall I ran into was that there are multiple issues that factor into a young man or woman’s decision to go to one school or another – family ties to a geographic area for instance. This makes sense. It is likely that if I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, the weather would not be such a determinant. But upon further examination this objection to my position actually makes it stronger.
The fact that it would take emotional ties to an area to overlook the cold weather proves that the cold weather location is inferior to the warm weather location. In other words if my family wasn’t from the cold locale, I would not choose it. But this concept works both ways, does it not. The same can be said of the star athlete from a warm weather area; he/she will usually think of staying close to home. But again when the star does think beyond their options that are a short bus trip home, the warm weather school is still more attractive than the cold weather.
This is why Mexico makes more money off of tourism than Canada; why Caribbean islands have multiple resorts on them while there are only a few tourist hotels in Iceland (I don’t know this for sure about Iceland and someone should feel free to prove me wrong about it); This is why despite the language barrier and threat of danger Mexico remains more of a spring break destination than Vancouver for Americans.
At the end of the day why does all of this matter?
Well to a degree it doesn’t. We’re talking about collegiate sports that usually have a passionate following among current students, a tepid following among alumni, and almost no following among the rest of the population. But on the other hand this goes along with the demographic shift in the country overall. When recruits choose to go south, those southern cities are fed more than their northern counterparts. Eventually the northern cities will wither. This is the recurrence of the problem of the rust belt (when the industrial opportunities shifted south or overseas and Midwestern cities like Detroit and Cleveland experienced crises) on a smaller scale.
There is almost no scenario in which Urban Meyer (Ohio State University in Columbus, OH) or Jim Boeheim (Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY) would lose a recruit they target, unless the kid chooses Nick Saban (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL) or Roy Williams (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC).
And the people who rank incoming recruiting classes seem to agree with me.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.