Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gem State Joys....

There are a few things that the month of February brings....it brings Groundhogs Day (commemorated with Punxsutawney Phil), Valentine's Day (commemorated with hearts and chocolates), and President's Day (sadly commemorated with a Mattress Sale at J.C. Penney's). The other thing February brings is National Signing Day, and for Idaho State, the requisite argument over Idaho athletes.

Now, as I delve into this, I can't really comment on certain things due to NCAA regulations (remember, the Bible gave us 10 commandments, and people struggle with those...the NCAA gives us 440 pages of commandments...you do the math).

Anyways, John Zamberlin signed five Idaho kids to scholarships, upping his total on his tenure to 18. California led the way this year with 12, and then it went Washington with 7, Idaho with 5, Hawai'i, Arizona, and Utah each with 1. The comments I always hear can be broken down into a select few, and I'll go through each of them....

Why don't we sign more Idaho athletes?
The answer is we try. I'm not allowed to say who we offered to and who we didn't, but we offered many Idaho athletes....they don't all chose to go to Idaho State. John Zamberlin's summer camp includes so many Idaho High School teams now, and that helps recruiting tremendously, just in the relationship aspect of things. Larry Lewis had a very good commitment to Idaho, and John Zamberlin has taken that vision and expanded it.

If Montana can win with all Montana kids, why can't ISU just get Idaho kids and win with them?
This is an apples and oranges argument. First of all, the University of Montana is the largest school in their state in terms of athletics (sorry Bobcat fans). In Idaho, the Bengals are #3, behind Boise State, and then Idaho (sorry Bengal fans). Montana doesn't have to deal with the issues that ISU does in relations to the pecking order in the state. Start adding in the facilities argument, the desire for many Idaho athletes that are LDS to either play in Utah or attend BYU (don't underestimate that), and the fact that last year Idaho State had 29% of the roster as Idahoans is solid.

Compare it this way...in 2008, Boise State and Idaho had 203 roster slots, and a grand total of 28 went to Idaho kids (mostly walk-ons) ... that's just 13.8%. At Idaho State, 23 of 81 roster slots went to Idaho kids, with well over half on scholarship I believe, and that percentage is 28.4%, more than double the other two institutions.

Why so many kids from California?
This is easy....according the census.gov, the population of Idaho in July, 2008 was1,523,816 people, spread out over 83574 square miles. The same census pegs California's population at 36,756,666 people, and Washington as 6,549,224 people. Let's stay with California though. Say you wanted to recruit just the Sacramento Area and a 15-mile radius around the city center. According the the census, there are over 2.12 million people in that little area, compared to just 1.5 million in the entire state of Idaho. There are just so many kids in California looking for places to play...it's only natural to go there. Look at it this way combined with the above stat...the population of Idaho represents 0.4% of the entire population of the United States, and yet, the football roster is made up of 28.4% from the state...that's a heck of a ratio for us.

My tax dollars go to ISU, so I want scholarships to go to Idaho kids.
Actually, tax dollars (mine included) go to ISU for the programs, but the scholarships are fully raised on donations and contributions to the athletic scholarship fund.

Anyways, all of that is to basically say that John Zamberlin and the football program are going a great job of showcasing the school to in-state kids, and trying to get them to stay at home and play for Idaho State. Sorry if this sounds like something from the high-horse, because really it's not, but I know there has been some internet discussion of this topic, and I thought I could do more justice with a blog-post, plus, my brain is currently fried dealing with softball, so this was a welcome diversion LOL.

Wanna Help? Buy a Locker!
The locker dedication project is in full swing....for those of you that read the Journal's piece on Holt Arena (which my name was spelled wrong and I didn't like the articles anyway, because they were basically negative and ill-informed. Really...the only fan they could interview was one who said they don't go to the games because their son doesn't think the team will win? That's your source? The journalism teacher in me bristled....), they mentioned a wooden stand alone locker in the middle of the locker room. This is why it was there. Seriously, you can attach your name to a piece of ISU that will last for a long, long time...your own personal legacy. (NOTE: That web page went live around 10:30 am, and within three hours Donna Hays had several phone calls from ex-players wanting the contribute!) Hey, if you can't afford the $500, five people can join in, and dedicate a locker together as well.

Jay McMillin, Live in Your Living Room
If you watched the Altitude game on Sunday (we were traveling back from Greeley so I missed it), but former Portland State Viking Rashad Floyd did the color commentary, and all in all, he held his own. This week with the game at Idaho State, ISU's own Jay McMillin will be the color analyst for the ISU/EWU game, which is at 4:07 pm. Jay's Big Sky knowledge is excellent, and he did a great job on the radio for ISU against Boise State earlier this year, so I think Jay will be a star on Saturday.


Patrick said...

Great posting, Frank! You should hang onto this and re-run it next year, and the year after that, and the year after that... ;)

Seriously, this should be required reading for anybody who has questions about in-state vs. out-of-state recruiting.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points I would add to your presentation, Frank, which I think is dead on:

1. When I did my master's thesis two years ago on "Determinig Factors in Fan Loyalty For Idaho State University Football," I surveyed all 647 season ticket holders, and interviewed non-season ticket holders at a football game. I received a total of 506 responses to the survey from season ticket and non-season ticket holders. Here are the results:

a. The top rated factors that most influenced people to be fans of ISU football were: Schedule (fans love playing the other Idaho schools and Big Sky schools) and 2) the opportunity for success. Local players was far down the list -- No. 13.

These results make sense to me -- for example, the Montana and Weber State games typically are the best attended of the home season. The opportunity for success tells me that if fans think the Bengals have a chance to win, they are much more likely to come to games. So not surprisingly, when ISU has a good team, attendance goes up.

The study shows fans do like to watch local players -- 30 respondents to the survey mentioned it as a factor. But it is not a primary factor -- rooting for a winner was mentioned by 93 respondents, for example, and was the No. 1 category by far mentioned by respondents.

b. Here's something else to ponder. I had the opportunity to help with a football coaching search at one time back in the 1990s, and I was asked to approach a potential candidate about his interest in the ISU job. He said ISU was the only job in the Big Sky he would not consider, because it did not have a natural recruiting base. When you look at the signings of Big Sky schools last week, you get an idea of what this coach was saying.

Eastern Washington: 22 of its 33 signees were from the state of Washington.

Montana: 9 of its 19 were from the state of Montana.

Montana State: 11 of 22 from Montana.

NAU: 11 of 14 were from Arizona.

Northern Colorado: 8 of 14 from Colorado.

Portland State: This is an anomaly -- only 5 of 25 signees were from Oregon.

Sac State: 15 of 16 were from California.

Weber State: 8 of 24 were from Utah.

By contrast, ISU had 5 in-state signees out of 27. Other Big Sky schools signed four Idaho players (Weber State took 3 of them), and Boise and Idaho took five in-state players combined.

Of all the Idaho players who signed LOIs with either in-state schools or Big Sky schools, only two were skill position players -- Skylar Morgan, the Minico RB who signed with ISU, and Quaid Morris, a QB from Nampa who Weber intends to convert to a safety.

The point is not that Idaho doesn't produce any football players worth recruiting. Rather, it is that it produces a smaller percentage of D-1 quality athletes, who are then divided up among BSU, Idaho, and the Utah schools, as well as ISU. And Idaho produces an even smaller percentage of "skill players" capable of playing at the D-1 level.

Are there "sleepers" out there in Idaho schools that might be able to contribute at this level? I'm sure there are, but I know Coach Z and his staff are working hard to identify them. No coaching staff is perfect when it comes to identifying potential football players, but it's not because this staff doesn't want Idaho players. That simply doesn't make sense.

--Brad B.