Are Recruiting Rankings Biased Towards the South?

Are recruiting rankings biased towards the South? That's what Heisman Pundit says. Is he right? Let's take a closer look.

I'll be the first to admit that recruiting rankings are bogus to an extent. It's fairly common knowledge that one of the most important elements of a Rivals or ESPN evaluation is who a kid is getting offers from. If he's getting offers from Florida, Alabama, Southern Cal, or Notre Dame, he's going to get a little higher evaluation from the ratings services. The idea here seems to be that if a player is good enough to play at one of the name-brand schools, he's good enough for a high rating. Let's leave aside the fact that there oftentimes seems to be something to that logic--clearly Nick Saban knows how to evaluate prep talent as well as any Joe Schmoe working at Rivals--and admit that it's slightly problematic. The rankings can't be perfectly accurate if two players of equal skill get different ratings based on where they are receiving their offers.

The more insidious element to this, of course, is that the ratings services may be feeding phony rankings to feed the fandom of the minions of some popular, media-beloved teams. Heisman Pundit is right to identify the fact that the SEC is hot right now and that its best teams--particularly Florida, he's suggesting--receive overly favorable rankings. Are these two points connected, though?

Continue reading after the jump. 

What I will take issue with here is his assertion that the media is biased towards the SEC, which is the real basis for his criticism of the recruiting rankings. First of all, I don't think the rankings are biased towards particular conferences but rather towards particular teams. In the SEC, those two teams are Florida and Alabama. (And again, I'm not sure that there's not good reason for the rankings favoring these two teams; obviously they're pulling some major talent. But let's leave that point aside for now.) Those aren't the only teams, though. Look at the case of Notre Dame. Notre Dame consistently receives high recruiting rankings, but it has failed to produce a team capable of competing on the national stage over the past few years. Heck, that's putting it lightly, as we all know. Are Notre Dame's players really as good as they've been rated? I'm thinking not. You could make similar arguments about other non-SEC teams receiving favorable rankings. Perhaps that means the problem isn't SEC bias, but rather name-brand program bias.

Second of all, I simply don't think the media is biased towards the SEC. In fact, for a long time, the SEC was complaining that the media and national championship picture didn't take into account the tougher schedules SEC teams play. It was only a few years ago, remember, when Auburn was snubbed for an Oklahoma team that got waxed by Southern Cal. Or when Florida was almost left out of the national championship game for an Ohio State-Michigan rematch. The rest is history, of course, and things have changed a good bit since then.

Is that change bias, though? It's true that the media likes to talk about SEC supremacy. It's also true that the SEC has dominated OOC, bowl, and national title games over the past few years. Is it bias when the media recognizes the SEC for winning four straight national titles? For having the best overall bowl record of any BCS conference over that span? Those questions should answer themselves. It should also be clear that the media continues to fawn over programs that have largely become irrelevant (*cough* Notre Dame *cough* Michigan *cough*). If bias exists, I'd say it exists for those programs, because they're the ones that aren't proving it on the field yet are still getting lots of attention.

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