Historical powers have changed leagues, mid-majors have jumped into top-tier affiliation, and longtime rivalries have been cast aside in the name of the almighty dollar.
Those dollars allow a program to build new facilities and market itself to a broader base, but as we all know, major programs aren't going to reach college football's mountaintop with out excellent recruiting. Joining a new conference and traveling to face new opponents in new locales certainly affects a team's recruiting footprint, but is it guaranteed to be a change for the better? Not necessarily.
Below, we've chosen to focus on the nine biggest realignment moves of the last five recruiting cycles: the nine schools that have signed classes since joining a new top-five conference. While it's obviously too early to be able to say the trends below will hold indefinitely, we're able to get an early picture of how things have changed. (And next year, we'll be able to add looks at how teams like Louisville, Maryland, and Rutgers have altered.)
The rankings impact
First, let's look at the quality of classes each school has pulled in. Recruiting rankings over the last nine years (long enough for each team to have five pre-realignment classes):
|Texas A&M (2012)||17||27||16||24||18||35||16||9||5|
|West Virginia (2012)||59||31||49||23||33||49||36||31||36|
* Ranking via Rivals; no 247 data available for Utah in 2007 and TCU in '07 and '08.
And here's the average of each school's recruiting classes for the handful of years on each side:
|Texas A&M (2012)||22.83||10||+12.83|
|West Virginia (2012)||40.67||34.33||+6.34|
* Including the transition year, since incoming recruits would be sold on the idea of playing in the new conference.
Of the nine programs, seven have seen boosts in their recruiting following realignment, led by the two Texas schools and one that's gained access to Texas via the Big 12. TCU's uptick, however, appears to be in danger of disappearing, likely due to the rises of Baylor and Texas A&M.
The two that haven't at least held steady, Pitt and Colorado, have each undergone multiple coaching changes, apparently offsetting any conference-related recruiting gains.
From this we can conclude that, for the most part, joining a new power conference usually provides a recruiting upgrade. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, but include better competition and championship chances, bigger coaching and facilities budgets, and greater television exposure.
But we can also conclude that coaching stability, on-field success, and having skilled recruiters on staff continue to matter at least as much.
The geographic impact
When a school changes leagues, its national profile isn't the only thing that changes. That school also ends up spending more time in new parts of the country.
Here are two ways of looking at how the recruiting map has been reshaped.
First is a map of each school's incoming players on each side of the switch, thanks to the fine interactive recruiting map created by Paul Dalen at Corn Nation. (Full state-by-state numbers included at the bottom of this story.)
After that is a line graph for each school. It shows each school's signees by location over time. Some states overlap conferences (like Florida being in both the ACC and American/Big East, for example), so they are counted in both the old and new categories.
So, what does it all mean?
Upgrading conferences means changing turf, but the real boost is exposure.
This chart combines the signees for all nine of these schools. It shows programs that change conferences recruit their new conference territories slightly more and that they're forced to pay a little less attention to old territory.
But the clearest increase comes in the "Elsewhere" states outside of either conference's footprint. That's likely due to increased national visibility. Bigger TV deals mean more TV games, which makes it easier to be a known name in far-off territory.
The move to the SEC has been a huge boost for Texas A&M. The Aggies reside in one of the most talent-rich states in the nation, so they don't have to look too far outside their borders to bring in a great class. They've always done most of their recruiting at home, and that hasn't changed.
But the top-tier talent from the Lone Star State has begun to head toward College Station in droves. Texas is historically the premier program, but A&M has caught up over the last couple of years. A large part of that should be attributed to the Ags' move to the SEC, but it's impossible to overlook the decline of the Longhorns in the final years of the Mack Brown era.
Playing in the SEC hasn't done much for Missouri yet. The Tigers compiled their best class in recent years back in 2010, ranking 21st in the nation. After a dip in 2011, Mizzou hauled in the 31st-best class in 2012. That was the last recruiting cycle before the Tigers officially joined the SEC, and they've seen a decline since becoming a part of the country's premier conference.
But after a successful 2013 season, could Missouri be in line for easier recruiting with another good year in 2014? Maybe so. And they've absolutely moved into traditional SEC territory, which should yield a boost in overall talent. More on-field success in the SEC could also lead to more top talent in Missouri staying home.
Moving to the ACC has allowed Syracuse to get out of New York. Some programs can be content with doing a majority of their recruiting in state and drawing a large number of top prospects to campus. For a school like Syracuse, that isn't the case.
In the class of '14, the state was home to just three prospects rated as four- or five-stars. For comparison, the ACC's Florida and Georgia were home to 65 four- or five-stars.
Since jumping to major conferences, Utah and TCU are going in the wrong direction. Along with Boise State, the Utes and Horned Frogs were the best mid-major programs for years. The Broncos were never able to move up to a power league, but many assumed Utah and TCU would become major players when they joined the Pac-12 and Big 12, respectively.
In the three years prior their move, the Utes were 23-6. In the three years since, they're 18-19. TCU won at least 11 games in six of the seven years before its change in affiliation, but in two years as a member of the Big 12, the Horned Frogs are 11-14.
Both programs' struggles have extended to the recruiting trail. While both schools saw recruiting boosts amid realignment, neither was able to hang onto that momentum.
Bonus material: state-by-state data
Finally, the following tables show recruits by state for each of these programs over the last nine years:
|2006 (23)||2007 (18)||2008 (24)||2009 (28)||2010 (35)||2011 (23)||2012 (29)||2013 (32)||2014 (21)|
|TX: 18||TX: 15||TX: 22||TX: 24||TX: 29||TX: 15||TX: 15||TX: 23||TX: 15|
|CA: 2||CA: 1||CA: 1||LA: 3||LA: 3||LA: 3||MS: 1||LA: 3||LA: 2|
|OK: 1||LA: 1||OK: 1||KS: 1||CO: 1||CA: 1||CA: 1||CA: 2||AZ: 2|
|MS: 1||UT: 1||KY: 1||FL: 1||LA: 1||VA: 1||PA: 1|
|UT: 1||OH: 1||KS: 1||MD: 1||AZ: 1||MS: 1|
|PA: 1||KS: 1|
|OH: 1||HI: 1|
|2006 (22)||2007 (22)||2008 (28)||2009 (20)||2010 (21)||2011 (20)||2012 (17)||2013 (32)||2014 (25)|
|CA: 9||TX: 7||TX: 9||TX: 8||TX: 5||TX: 5||CA: 3||NE: 5||TX: 4|
|NE: 4||AZ: 6||NE: 5||CA: 6||NE: 4||NE: 4||AZ: 2||CA: 5||NE: 3|
|MO: 2||CA: 4||CA: 3||NE: 2||CA: 2||FL: 2||IL: 2||FL: 4||LA: 3|
|CO: 2||KS: 4||AL: 2||MD: 1||CO: 2||OH: 2||OH: 2||OH: 3||FL: 3|
|FL: 1||NE: 3||LA: 2||KS: 1||KS: 2||CA: 2||TX: 2||TX: 3||KS: 2|
|UT: 1||MO: 1||FL: 1||ND: 1||MO: 2||AL: 1||NE: 1||LA: 2||MS: 2|
|TX: 1||CO: 1||MO: 1||CO: 1||OH: 2||AZ: 1||CO: 1||MO: 2||MO: 2|
|AL: 1||LA: 1||IA: 1||FL: 1||IL: 1||GA: 1||AZ: 1||AL: 1|
|NV: 1||FL: 1||GA: 1||GA: 1||KS: 1||LA: 1||MD: 1||GA: 1|
|KS: 1||ND: 1||IL: 1||MA: 1||MO: 1||IN: 1||NV: 1|
|OH: 1||LA: 1||UT: 1||IL: 1||VA: 1|
|KS: 1||MN: 1||NJ: 1|
|2006 (16)||2007 (28)||2008 (29)||2009 (25)||2010 (17)||2011 (24)||2012 (30)||2013 (29)||2014 (21)|
|PA: 5||OH: 6||VA: 5||FL: 6||VA: 4||FL: 6||FL: 13||PA: 6||FL: 5|
|FL: 4||FL: 4||FL: 5||PA: 4||FL: 3||DC: 3||TX: 5||FL: 4||PA: 4|
|OH: 3||PA: 4||AZ: 4||OH: 4||OH: 2||OH: 3||OH: 4||MS: 3||OH: 2|
|VA: 2||WV: 3||MD: 3||VA: 3||GA: 1||PA: 3||MD: 3||OH: 3||MD: 2|
|MD: 1||VA: 3||WV: 2||WV: 2||CA: 1||WV: 2||NJ: 2||GA: 3||CA: 2|
|NY: 1||MD: 2||PA: 2||MD: 2||NJ: 1||TX: 2||GA: 1||MD: 3||NC: 1|
|MS: 2||OH: 2||AZ: 2||PA: 1||CA: 1||MN: 1||NJ: 2||OK: 1|
|AZ: 1||CA: 2||DC: 1||TX: 1||IA: 1||PA: 1||WV: 1||WV: 1|
|MI: 1||KS: 1||AL: 1||WV: 1||NC: 1||AZ: 1||DC: 1|
|NJ: 1||AL: 1||MD: 1||GA: 1||KS: 1||KS: 1|
|KY: 1||MS: 1||TN: 1||MN: 1||TX: 1||MS: 1|
|GA: 1||CA: 1|
|2006 (25)||2007 (27)||2008 (24)||2009 (25)||2010 (23)||2011 (14)||2012 (19)||2013 (20)||2014 (29)|
|TX: 10||MO: 9||TX: 12||MO: 10||TX: 9||TX: 6||TX: 6||MO: 11||MO: 8|
|MO: 6||CA: 6||MO: 8||TX: 7||MO: 6||MO: 3||MO: 5||TX: 3||FL: 7|
|CA: 5||TX: 5||OH: 2||CA: 2||AR: 1||CA: 1||FL: 2||AL: 1||TX: 3|
|OK: 2||KS: 2||MS: 1||PA: 1||FL: 1||LA: 1||KS: 1||FL: 1||TN: 3|
|FL: 1||TN: 1||IA: 1||OH: 1||IL: 1||ND: 1||OK: 1||IL: 1||GA: 3|
|ND: 1||FL: 1||AR: 1||MI: 1||KS: 1||IL: 1||CA: 1||AL: 1|
|OK: 1||IL: 1||OK: 1||OK: 1||MI: 1||GA: 1||IN: 1|
|MI: 1||KS: 1||CA: 1||OH: 1||KS: 1||IL: 1|
|IL: 1||LA: 1||IA: 1||PA: 1||KS: 1|
|KS: 1||MS: 1|
|2006 (18)||2007 (24)||2008 (18)||2009 (21)||2010 (18)||2011 (24)||2012 (24)||2013 (23)||2014 (24)|
|TX: 15||TX: 18||TX: 11||TX: 20||TX: 16||TX: 18||TX: 19||TX: 17||TX: 17|
|MS: 2||CA: 3||LA: 3||LA: 1||FL: 1||OK: 2||GA: 2||CA: 2||LA: 3|
|LA: 1||OK: 2||KS: 2||LA: 1||CA: 1||LA: 2||LA: 2||CA: 1|
|NE: 1||IA: 1||FL: 1||KS: 1||AL: 1||GA: 1|
|TN: 1||KS: 1||GA: 1||IA: 1|
|LA: 1||MO: 1|
|2006 (27)||2007 (24)||2008 (19)||2009 (20)||2010 (22)||2011 (24)||2012 (17)||2013 (27)||2014 (23)|
|PA: 16||PA: 13||PA: 14||PA: 9||PA: 8||TX: 6||PA: 7||PA: 14||PA: 9|
|FL: 5||FL: 4||KS: 1||NJ: 5||OH: 5||PA: 4||OH: 5||OH: 4||OH: 4|
|NY: 3||NY: 2||MD: 1||FL: 2||NJ: 4||FL: 4||MD: 1||NY: 2||MI: 2|
|OH: 2||KS: 1||OH: 1||NY: 1||MD: 2||OH: 2||NY: 1||WI: 2||NY: 2|
|NJ: 1||NC: 1||CA: 1||MD: 1||NY: 1||NY: 2||TN: 1||HI: 1||CO: 1|
|NJ: 1||FL: 1||TX: 1||TX: 1||AL: 1||WA: 1||MD: 1||DE: 1|
|OH: 1||NC: 1||VA: 1||GA: 1||WI: 1||MI: 1||FL: 1|
|DC: 1||DC: 1||NJ: 1||IL: 1|
|MD: 1||VA: 1||NJ: 1|
|OK: 1||VA: 1|
|2006 (24)||2007 (27)||2008 (26)||2009 (16)||2010 (24)||2011 (27)||2012 (23)||2013 (20)||2014 (24)|
|NY: 7||NY: 7||NY: 9||NY: 3||NY: 7||NY: 13||NY: 7||FL: 5||FL: 6|
|MD: 4||NJ: 5||PA: 5||CA: 3||FL: 3||FL: 4||GA: 3||CA: 3||IL: 6|
|PA: 4||FL: 4||MD: 3||FL: 2||OH: 3||GA: 2||CA: 2||IL: 2||PA: 3|
|VA: 3||PA: 3||NJ: 3||VA: 2||PA: 3||MI: 2||FL: 2||NY: 2||GA: 2|
|CA: 3||VA: 3||FL: 2||GA: 1||CA: 2||PA: 2||MI: 2||AL: 1||AL: 1|
|NJ: 1||MD: 3||DC: 1||NJ: 1||NJ: 2||CO: 1||PA: 2||AZ: 1||CO: 1|
|OH: 1||OH: 1||OH: 1||OH: 1||CO: 1||NJ: 1||DE: 1||GA: 1||MI: 1|
|DE: 1||CA: 1||KS: 1||PA: 1||DE: 1||TN: 1||MD: 1||KS: 1||NC: 1|
|NH: 1||MA: 1||TX: 1||VA: 1||NJ: 1||MD: 1||NJ: 1|
|MD: 1||VA: 1||OH: 1||MO: 1||NY: 1|
|VA: 1||PA: 1||TN: 1|
|2006 (25)||2007 (25)||2008 (16)||2009 (26)||2010 (21)||2011 (17)||2012 (27)||2013 (28)||2014 (19)|
|CA: 10||CA: 13||CA: 8||CA: 10||CA: 8||UT: 9||CA: 11||CA: 13||UT: 8|
|UT: 8||TX: 5||UT: 5||UT: 7||TX: 7||CA: 5||UT: 9||TX: 7||FL: 4|
|TX: 2||UT: 4||AZ: 2||TX: 6||UT: 5||TX: 3||TX: 3||UT: 5||CA: 2|
|MI: 1||HI: 2||NV: 1||AZ: 1||HI: 1||AZ: 1||AZ: 2||LA: 2|
|HI: 1||NV: 1||HI: 1||HI: 1||NV: 1||KS: 1|
|WA: 1||NV: 1||LA: 1||NV: 1|
|NV: 1||NV: 1||TX: 1|
|2006 (22)||2007 (28)||2008 (21)||2009 (20)||2010 (21)||2011 (19)||2012 (28)||2013 (20)||2014 (22)|
|CA: 8||CA: 10||CA: 7||CO: 5||CA: 9||CA: 7||CA: 10||CA: 13||CA: 12|
|CO: 4||CO: 4||CO: 5||CA: 5||CO: 2||HI: 3||TX: 7||CO: 3||CO: 4|
|TX: 2||FL: 2||TX: 2||TX: 3||NJ: 2||CO: 2||CO: 3||TX: 3||TX: 2|
|HI: 2||ID: 2||OH: 2||IL: 1||TX: 2||AZ: 2||DC: 3||WA: 1||UT: 2|
|KY: 1||TN: 2||ID: 1||NV: 1||AL: 1||NC: 2||AZ: 1||HI: 1|
|ID: 1||PA: 2||UT: 1||OH: 1||AZ: 1||TX: 2||HI: 1||MS: 1|
|WA: 1||HI: 2||AZ: 1||OK: 1||FL: 1||DC: 1||LA: 1|
|AZ: 1||AZ: 1||NJ: 1||KS: 1||HI: 1||MO: 1|
|FL: 1||LA: 1||KY: 1||TN: 1||NC: 1||NJ: 1|
|American Samoa: 1||KS: 1||CT: 1||OH: 1|