Living in Michigan, weather is always a topic of conversation, mainly due to its incredibly unpredictable nature in the Mitten (which is what Michiganders nickname our State). For example, this week, twenty-four hours after being hit with an ice storm that closed all local schools, the temperature will rise to nearly 60 degrees. Even stranger, the following day will drop 40 degrees back into the teens, for a combined 80 degree temperature swing within a 48 hour period. For many in the area who dream of better weather, listening to tropical music on local radio stations during lunch hour – which they actually do here – is the only way to get through the six months of Michigan darkness. But how important is weather in the grand scheme of things?
A few years ago I spoke with a friend in the heart of winter, and he informed me he was set to take a vacation a few weeks down the line. Instantly I attempted to guess his destination, all the while daydreaming of being there myself. Hawaii? Disney World in Orlando? Las Vegas?
“No,” he said, shaking away all three of my vicarious vacations. “Toronto! I absolutely love it there!” And while he eagerly went on about all the great restaurants and tourist spots, I couldn’t help but raise a confused eyebrow and drown out his excitement with disgust. In the dead of winter he chose a vacation spot even colder than our current location. But why? This question is thrown out quite frequently when it comes to college recruiting and the importance weather plays in collegiate decision-making.
The impact of climate in recruiting became the subject of debate again when Notre Dame hosted several elite recruits from warm weather backgrounds: two from California (Rivals 5-star Eddie Vanderdoes and 4-star Kylie Fitts) and two from Texas (4-star Deon Hollins and 3-star Durham Smythe). Discussing the visits with several USC fans, the Trojan faithful came to the conclusion Notre Dame stood no chance with the California recruits due to Notre Dame’s poor weather. The USC fans claimed warm weather always trumps cold, and being from warm weather climates, the recruits won’t go out of their way to play in cold weather. This argument, while appealing in theory, contains a few issues.
While the overwhelming majority of people likely do prefer warm weather to cold, the assumption in the argument is that weather is top preference in a person’s list of priorities. While my vacationing friend may very well prefer warm weather to cold, visiting a city that he enjoyed – Toronto – was more important than its poor weather. Where, exactly, weather resides on a person’s list of priorities is entirely subjective. But is it possible to measure the influence of weather on a recruit’s college choice? One possible way is to examine recruits from a warm weather location and see how willing they are to leave their sunny skies for colder climates.
Given the abundance of in-state talent, Florida seemed a great place to select as a test subject. To get an idea of how weather factors into recruiting, I took Rivals’ list of the top 250 athletes for the Class of 2013 and examined the recruits from Florida. The athletes who had yet to select a college choice weren’t considered, as were recruits who opted to play at any university in-state.
While an argument can certainly be made that a recruit from Florida who chooses to play at a warm weather in-state school (like Miami) should be counted, it was excluded in this study due to the large sample of recruits (regardless of location) who ultimately stay in-state to play college football. To get a more accurate read, only the Florida recruits who decided to leave the State of Florida were examined. Did these recruits seek out another warm location to play football, or did they venture to colder locales?
While the majority of Florida recruits leaving the state did choose another warm location, the results weren’t as overwhelming as one would expect.
- Leon McQuay III, 5-star, DB (USC)
- Derrick Henry, 4-star, RB (Alabama)
- Tony Stevens, 4-star, WR (Auburn)
- Cord Sandberg, 4-star, QB (Mississippi State)
- Reggie Davis, 4-star, WR (Georgia)
- A.J. Turman, 4-star, RB (Georgia)
- Jayron Kearse, 4-star, ATH (Clemson)
- Greg Bryant, 5-star, RB (Notre Dame)
- Joey Bosa, 4-star, DE (Ohio State)
- Tarean Folston, 4-star, RB (Notre Dame)
- Will Likely, 4-star, DB (Maryland)
There were 11 Florida recruits in the Rivals 250 that opted to leave Florida to play college football, and 4 of them (36%) decided to play in colder weather. Now, there are still issues with this methodology. There is no way to know whether or not climate played a role with any of the 11 Florida recruits that chose to play football out of state, but it’s safe to assume weather was likely not an issue for those that left Florida to play at schools like Notre Dame or Ohio State. Also, by only studying players from Florida in the Rivals 250, recruits like 4-star tight end and Notre Dame commitment, Mike Heuerman (who is not in the top 250), fall through the cracks. If Heuerman was added to the list, the breakdown would become 7 Florida recruits who chose warm weather to 5 Florida recruits who chose cold, a total of 58% to 42% respectively.
Though a warm weather gap exists, the difference is not as gaping as the USC fans I was speaking to suggested. Ultimately, weather is simply a subjective item on a person’s priority list. And apparently a low priority for Rivals 3-star tight end Durham Smythe, a Texas native who committed to Notre Dame’s chilly weather during his visit to South Bend this past weekend.