High school football is religion in Texas. Between being one of the quintessential football states in the country and having one of the wealthiest college athletics departments in the country, why would a top recruit choose to play out-of state?
Of the six 2019 five-star recruits in Texas (per the 24/7 Sports composite), only half signed with Texas schools. Over the previous five years, only eight out 18 have stayed in-state. Extending it out to four-star recruits, 30 of 58 have stayed in Texas over the past five years, leading to an overall trend of exactly 50% in-state vs. out-of-state. What factors are contributing to this trend in recruiting the state of Texas
Recruiting The State Of Texas
Zach Evans Status
Take for example Houston North Short running back Zach Evans, the number one recruit in the country for 2020. While he has not yet formally announced his commitment, teammates close to Evans say he is going to Georgia. The story line is that he says he’s too big-time to stay in Texas.
While some factors such as ego or family proximity may be beyond control of the schools, other aspects like facilities, conference affiliation, and coaching staff certainly play a large role. What can the University of Texas do to improve these controllable factors and increase in-state retention?
Do these players look down on the Big XII Conference and continue to drink the SEC Kool-aid, despite Alabama’s recent struggles to stay on top? In the past five years, the SEC has had twice as many College Football Playoff appearances than the Big XII. If conference alone were a major factor, then Texas A&M would be a bigger in-state option. However, a majority of the top recruits staying in-state have gone to Texas.
What Can Set Texas Apart?
In regards to facilities, Texas had the $7 million locker room renovation in 2017, with each individual locker costing $8,700 and included a 37” screen. Coach Tom Herman says that it, “Shows we have the very best tools in the country. The lockers affect recruiting because the kids we’re recruiting are the same ones that some of the best schools in the nation are recruiting. A scholarship is a scholarship is a scholarship, no matter where you go. It’s about how you differentiate yourself.” In May, ground was broken on a $175 million south end zone construction, scheduled for completion in 2021.
Personal relationships with the coaching staff are frequently cited by commits as a reason for their decision. Recent 2021 elite quarterback commit Jaden Milroe specifically mentioned Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck as a factor in his commitment to Texas. The Longhorns have improved to a top three recruiting class for two years now since Herman took over as head coach. They also have recruiting director Bryan Carrington on staff as well as the ever-popular summer pool party. A Houston-area 6A high school football coach says, “Coach Herman has a great relationship with the high school football coaches.”
Academics Or NFL potential
Some players may value the academic quality of a school. Texas ranks #49 in US News & World Report’s 2019 national university rankings, putting them below Stanford, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Florida. Others, however, may place value on a potential NFL career. Based off 2018 rosters, Texas ranked at #17 for the number of former players in the NFL.
Finally, overall reputation is that intangible factor that every school wants. It has been 14 years now since Texas has won a national title and 10 years since they played in the championship game. In spite of some low years, Texas has routinely promised that “they’re back.” The hard truth is that, in order to maintain a reputation as an elite football program, they have to play in the big games and they have to win.
The pressure remains on the University of Texas to keep the state’s top high school recruits from leaving.