When looking at the roster of most schools throughout the country, it seems that in many cases, the state that the school is in usually ends up having the most players on that team. While there are obvious exceptions to this, it usually is true in the majority of sports. And it doesn’t matter a whole lot if the state is smaller or large. The numbers usually work out where there are more in-state kids when compared to other states.
A quick example of this is the University of Wisconsin football program. While the team is rated among the top 25 this year and are undefeated at this point, the roster is chalk full of in-state prospects. At last count, there are 51 players on the Badger’s roster that are listed from the state of Wisconsin. And while some are obvious walk-ons who grew up dreaming of playing for UW, the coaches have made protecting the borders of the state a top priority.
The reason that coaches and schools like getting all the most talented in-state kids is simple. No matter what school you are at, there is a recruiting budget that the administrators at the college wants you stay under. While there are schools like Tennessee, USC, and others who spend ridiculous amounts of money recruiting, a major way to keep down those costs is to secure verbals from in-state athletes.
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The reason that it is so much cheaper to recruit these athletes is pretty obvious. If the coaches from Wisconsin drive to Milwaukee to see a football player on Friday night, the budget is rather limited in the amount that they are spending. If there is a quarterback recruit in California that they go visit on the following Friday game day, the cost rises rapidly. And because coaches at these schools are not working hard to find the best deal, the costs will continue to get higher with travel, a car, a hotel, and anything else that comes up.
The same can be said for bringing athletes on official visits. If the Badgers have a prospects from Appleton, Wisconsin that they have received a commitment from and are having him for his official, the cost is rather limited. If they are bringing in that quarterback recruit as mentioned above, the cost of travel for him is going to be much more expensive. That is just the way things go.
That is why it is so much easier for schools like Texas, USC, and Florida to recruit their own state hard and then pick and choose out of state prospects that they are interested in. The Longhorns of Texas are the best example of that. There are currently nineteen known prospects committed to Texas right now. Eighteen of those athletes are based out of Texas (And the nineteenth is all the way from Arkansas).
What makes it easier to end up getting commitments from these days is three things. The first is that it is much easier to bring these athletes on visits. The closer they are to the school, the easier it is for them to get on campus and check things out. For the coaches, it is much easier to evaluate them because they either can see them more often because of the distance or they might have some people they trust who can pass along how the athlete is doing. And the third and final thing is that in some states, kids grow up dreaming of playing for an in-state school. If a kid wants that scholarship from Wisconsin and they are good enough, it is usually much easier to secure a commitment from him rather than a defensive end from Florida.
The place where in-state recruits really is essential is at the Division I-AA and II levels. These programs have smaller budgets so they are limited on the areas that they can go see during the year. They have to be on the ball with local recruits because the last thing that they want to do is make a mistake on an athlete who could be killing them the next four years in conference.
Anyways, in-state recruits are essential because of the money factor. It is much costlier for these colleges to be finding gems across the country unless they have the resources and the time to keep up with it. And considering the sheer amount of football players that schools need to land, getting these football recruits close to home is a big time and money saver for the budgets.