Once the final whistle blows in the Super Bowl matchup between the Broncos and the Seahawks on February 2, die-hard football fans will have to wait nearly seven months for their favorite sport to begin once again – and that’s including preseason. While offseason football may seem uninteresting to some, it allows fans to take a step back from the action and gain a deeper understanding of the sport at both the NFL and college levels.
Benn Stancil, chief analyst at newly founded analytics startup Mode Analytics, recently released the Github project “Where Football Players Call Home.” The interactive map compares ESPN data from 25,000 Division 1 football players against the US Census, while matching players’ hometowns to their home counties via the Google Maps API. The result is a simple but detailed county-by-county breakdown of college football talent. Players can be sorted by conference, school, and position, and can be viewed by both simple count and per capita.
Stancil began exploring the hometowns of college football players in the lead-up to this year’s BCS National Championship Game between Auburn from the SEC and Florida State from the ACC. While an Auburn victory would have secured the SEC’s eight straight BCS title, “the national title didn’t travel far: Florida State is only three hours from Auburn and five from the University of Alabama,” Stancil noted on the Mode Analytics blog. “Is the SEC so good because it recruits the best players from across the nation,” he asked, “or because players from the south tend to be better? In short, where do college football players come from?”
The project doesn’t quite provide a definitive answer – while both Auburn and FSU are slightly more diverse than average, both recruit chiefly from their home states. Some may argue that this points to the Southeastern United States’ dominance in producing football talent, but teams such as the Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans and the Sugar Bowl champion Oklahoma Sooners both build their teams from largely local prospects.
Perhaps the most interesting conclusion that can be drawn from Stancil’s project lies in his list of the top ten teams with the most geographic football diversity:
- Princeton Tigers
- Harvard Crimson
- Dartmouth Big Green
- Army Black Knights
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Navy Midshipman
- Georgetown Hoyas
- Holy Cross Crusaders
- Columbia Lions
- Yale Bulldogs
Aside from Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Holy Cross, the remaining seven schools in the top 10 do not offer athletic scholarships (Army and Navy are service academies that all students attend free of charge if offered an appointment). Additionally, all of the schools in the top ten have a stellar reputation for academics.
Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the Visual.ly marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at about.me/salm.jon and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R.