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Southern Comfort

When University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi announced Jerry Kill as the Gophers new head football coach, he said a key issue he was looking for was a coach who could recruit well in the upper midwest.


Don’t we want somebody who can steal kids from Florida, Texas and California?

Isn’t that where the talent is?

Looking back at the last 12 national champions, only one — Ohio State — is not from the Southeastern Conference or a place that rarely sees snow.

Maturi’s words were later repeated by Brainerd Warriors head coach Ron Stolski in the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune about recruiting hard in the upper midwest.

After reading both clips I checked the rosters of the last 12 national champions. Here is how important it is to recruit upper midwest talent.

Florida’s 2008 roster featured six athletes that weren’t from the southern part of the United States. Three hailed from New Jersey, one from Bristol, Conn., one from Illinois and the last from Pennsylvania.

The number of players from Florida or Texas on that team — 53.

The scenario was the same when Urban Meyer’s team won it back in 2006. One player each from Brooklyn, N.Y., Voorhees, N.J., and Reading, Ohio. There were 60 from Florida or Texas.

Last year’s champion, Alabama, had one student who called home in a state where a Big Ten school resides. The rest of their players were from Alabama, Tennessee or the Texas-Florida stronghold.

The LSU Tigers won the 2007 National Championship with four players not from a state that is in close proximity to Louisiana.

This isn’t just a Southeastern Conference thing. In 2005, when Texas upset USC for the title, they had one player from Denver, another from Highlands Ranch, Colo. and that’s it. Only five other players on that team were not from Texas.

USC won the year before and its roster included just six players from the northern part of the country, including two from Minneapolis. The majority of the players were from California.

The last time a Big Ten team won a national title was in 2003 when Ohio State upset Miami. That roster featured 15 players from an SEC state. You might recognize some of them: Chris Gamble, starting cornerback at Carolina, Santonio Holmes, starting wide receiver for the New York Jets and Michael Jenkins receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Two other players, Will Smith and Shane Olivea, are also on NFL rosters and they were from New York.

To the Buckeyes credit the majority of their players were from Ohio, but that was seven years ago and look how badly The Ohio State Buckeyes were beaten the last two times they attempted to upset a better team for the BCS title.

Before Ohio State, the national title went to Miami, Oklahoma, Florida State and Tennessee.

Now if anyone can answer me why it is so important to recruit in the upper midwest I’ll be amazed. Clearly the football talent is in the south. At least the talent that wins football titles and isn’t that what we want in Minnesota?

The Big Ten will feature Wisconsin and Ohio State in BCS Bowl games, but they won’t be up for the national title. Once again that honor will be from teams not in the upper midwest.