Football fans are pretty savvy. They have taken advantage of the modern advances in technology to keep connected with what is happening at colleges from coast to coast. They watch videos of the top prospects. It doesn't take a course in nuclear physics to determine if a player is a big-time prospect or not.
But recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has been evaluating high school players for 31 years, insists most fans don't understand there is a pecking order that has been built up over 100 years. Even if your school does well, it has trouble overcoming Michigan or Ohio State or Notre Dame in the Midwest when it comes to recruiting 5-star players.
Lemming points out there are 16 schools--the Super Sixteen--that have a distinct advantage in recruiting. They are Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Miami and Florida State.
You may argue that some of them are in a down cycle, that they haven't done well on the field in recent years, but they have recruited well. They have an edge over the other 103 Division I schools. The Super Sixteen recruit nationally. Others occasionally strike gold but they aren't big-time players in the game on a season-to-season basis.
Tradition and history speak for the schools. They put more money than anyone else into upgrading their facilities and hiring the best coaches and recruiters. Kids are looking for top-flight facilities and a school's track record in putting players in the pros. Name value is important to people who influence kids.
No one has done better in recent years than Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who has four top 10 finishes in the last seven years. But Ferentz still doesn't have the name recognition of Michigan or Ohio State or Notre Dame, even though neither of the three schools has enjoyed much success since Ohio State won the national championship in 2002.
Fans just don't understand it, especially if they aren't fans of Michigan or Ohio State or Notre Dame.
Auburn moved into the Super Sixteen in the last 10 years as Texas A&M was eased out. UCLA and Washington also were removed from the elite list. In the meantime, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are on the verge of breaking in. The Big East, mostly a basketball conference, is the only major conference without a Super Sixteen representative.
It may have a lot to do with perception. But it takes more than a few winning seasons in a row and a few good recruiting classes to earn a spot in the Super Sixteen.