Another National Signing Day has come and gone and the Longhorns have signed another excellent class that will hopefully lead us to the promised land of a Big XII title. But in the days before National Signing Day many media outlets reported stories about the SEC recruiting in the state of Texas and how, thanks to the Aggies switching sides, the best players in the state were no longer signing with teams from the Big XII (example here).
Personally, I thought this was just lazy journalism with no good data. But now that National Signing Day is over and we are a few years removed from the Aggies jumping ship, I thought that now would be a good time to actually look at the data to answer once and for all how the conference realignment has impacted Texas recruiting.
The Aggies (and Missouri) officially joined the SEC on July 1, 2012. Thus, the most logical way to determine what impact this has had on recruiting would be to compare the pre-SEC expansion recruiting classes and the post SEC-expansion recruiting classes. Using data from Rivals.com I have compiled the home states of recruits going to SEC West schools (as well as Missouri).
If the SEC was taking a greater share of Texas recruits we would be more likely to see this occur with schools in the West who now regularly play games in the state of Texas. Essentially the question is are these SEC West schools taking more Texans in their recruiting classes than they did before their conference had a foot in Texas? The graph below plots each school’s recruiting class since 2004 to the present with the dotted line representing the first recruiting class with the Aggies in the SEC.
Interestingly it does not appear that SEC West schools are taking many more recruits from Texas than they were before. Auburn and Miss State get virtually none of their classes from Texas. Arkansas and LSU, the two schools with the greatest pre-expansion Texas presence have actually stayed pretty steady. The only real movement in expanding into Texas was done by Alabama and Ole Miss who both averaged 3% of their class from Texas before expansion but now they average around 9%. Still, this is not an "invasion" of Texas as many have described it, Alabama may have gotten 16.6% of their class from Texas this year, but in 2010 11.5% of their class was from Texas (also, note how Missouri’s Texas recruitment has nose-dived!).
Ok, so it does not appear that the SEC schools are taking a greater percentage of signees from Texas than they did before, and for those SEC schools that did increase their presence (Ole Miss and Alabama), the increase has not been incredibly dramatic. But overall class percentage may not be the best metric.
Perhaps the SEC West schools are being selective; instead of signing more Texans maybe the SEC West schools are signing better Texans than they were before. To test this I again collected recruiting data from Rivals.com, this time their annual "Texas Top 100" which lists the top 100 recruits from the state. Using the Texas Top 100 I replicate the previous graph using the same SEC West schools, this time looking at where the Texas Top 100 recruits signed.
Again, we don’t see much evidence of an invasion. LSU and Arkansas have held relatively steady in their percentage of the state’s top talent and while Alabama and Ole Miss have increased their presence among the Texas Top 100, most of this movement came from Ole Miss (before expansion Alabama averaged 0.625% of the Texas Top 100 and 1.8% after expansion). So even among the best players in the state, it does not appear that the SEC has "invaded" Texas. And among the school that seems to have made the greatest in-roads in Texas, Ole Miss, they are only averaging 1.8% of the Texas Top 100 after the expansion (although their trend line is jumping up fast).
So overall, there is little evidence of the SEC West taking over Texas (aside from Ole Miss and Alabama, but their impact is not that great), but there is one last metric to examine, let’s look at the very best of the best. This time, the sample is reduced to the Texans who were listed on Rivals Top 250 recruits (the 250 list only starts in 2006). The state of Texas averaged over 30 players in the top 250 (ranging from a low of 27 in 2014 to a high of 36 in 2010). Among the very best from Texas, are more of them going to the SEC West after expansion?
Again, the same trend holds: LSU and Arkansas have remained steady, Auburn and Miss. State are nonexistent in the state, while Alabama and Ole Miss have seen a slight increase. While the increase in percentage of the state’s top talent going to the SEC has increased, it is not the invasion many have portrayed. But let’s put the rise of the SEC in Texas in perspective.
Again looking at just the Rivals Top 250 who are from Texas, what percentage of them either went to the 6 SEC West schools, what percentage of them stayed in the state of Texas, and lastly what percentage of them went to the biggest 4 Big XII schools (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State). The graph below shows these percentages and tells a very interesting story.
The yellow line for the 6 SEC West schools is clearly on the rise, but about the same percentage of Texans are staying in the state of Texas, this tells me that the rise of the SEC West is not coming at the expense of the Longhorns, but rather at the expense of other out-of state schools. Look at the line for the percentage who went to Texas, Texas Tech, OU, and OSU, the Big XII is hurting, but the state of Texas overall is not. How is this possible? The graph below may be able to answer that, again looking at the Texans in the Rivals Top 250 but this time broken down by individual school.
It becomes clear here exactly what is happening, Oklahoma State and OU are taking fewer of the top Texans (although it has been argued that this was a strategic move by Oklahoma). Furthermore fewer of the top Texans are going to Texas while the percentages going to TCU and Texas Tech are more or less holding steady. So what has changed? Baylor and Texas A&M. This trend becomes even more pronounced when we look at the Rivals Texas Top 100. The two graphs below look at the individual schools and the schools grouped by conference and the state of Texas, replicating the two graphs above but with the Rivals Texas Top 100.
Again, the SEC West schools (specifically Ole Miss and Alabama) have slightly increased their presence, but the big story is more recruits choosing Baylor and Texas A&M at the expense of Texas, OU, and Oklahoma State. In fact, looking at the Texas Top 100 graph broken down by school, every time Texas A&M gets a bump in recruiting it seems to come directly at the expense of Texas. All these trends and graphs tell me that the Longhorns should not be worried too much by Ole Miss and Alabama, but rather by A&M and Baylor when it comes to recruiting.
Why has Texas received a smaller share of the top recruits in the state lately? Well, having multiple bad seasons is probably the #1 culprit, once Texas starts winning 10-11 games on a regular basis again I suspect we will be cleaning up when it comes to in-state recruiting. But until that time comes, what should we make of in-state recruiting? While Alabama and Ole Miss are now a permanent presence in the state, their increase has not been dramatic.
Furthermore LSU and Arkansas have not increased their presence, which overall means the invasion by the SEC is not something that should really worry the Longhorns. The biggest challenges to Texas recruiting going forward is Baylor and, to a greater extent I argue, Texas A&M.
Even before the SEC expanded the Aggies were our top competition with in-state recruits and now that the Aggies are actually kind of somewhat good they are an even bigger threat. The Aggies are the biggest hurdle to recruiting the top kids in Texas; the increased presence of Ole Miss, and Alabama has complicated things and made recruiting more difficult, but I argue that the their rise has come more at the expense of OU, OSU, and possibly Texas Tech.
When looking at the data the only major hurdle I see to Texas again dominating in-state recruiting is not the SEC West setting up in the state, but rather a Texas A&M actually begin good, and to a lesser extent Baylor winning a few recruiting battles.
How do we fix this problem? First, we need to win more games, and second, we just need to wait for the inevitable Aggie self-destruction – we all know it is going to happen; it is only a matter of time. When Texas is good and the Aggies are being Aggies then Texas will clean up in-state recruiting, no matter if the SEC now calls Texas home (that said, fans of Oklahoma State, OU, and Texas Tech should be very scared about future recruiting in Texas).
Hope everyone enjoyed this post, it was my first so be kind!