The news isn't good in the Big 10. A recent survey concluded that the once mighty Big 10 ranked only fifth among the nation's leading football-playing conferences, even behind the basketball-happy ACC. Remember when the Big 10 was No. 1?
Illinois' recruiting class for 2010 is rated No. 28 by Rivals, No. 29 by Scout, hardly in a class with the nation's elite programs. The Illini don't appear to be taking advantage of their Texas connection which new coach Mike Schultz was supposed to provide, as former coach Mike Locksley did in Maryland.
But it's too early to panic.
The current recruiting class ratings are based on who has accumulated the most oral commitments at this time. It means nothing at this point. Real fans realize that. For example, USC usually has only five or six commitments at this time (the Trojans have 12 this year). At this time, they rank No. 11. But they always make a late push to the top.
Why does the SEC and Big 12 dominate recruiting?
They have a lot of talent in their areas, they have big-name coaches, they are the most aggressive recruiters in the country, they are relentless, they have bigger recruiting budgets, they spend a lot of money on facilities, the two conferences are strong from top to bottom with no significant weaknesses--and they win national titles.
Why does the Big 10 trail?
Of all Big 10 schools, only Ohio State's facilities can compare with the SEC. The Big 10 needs upgrades. Academically, the Big 10 has higher standards than the SEC and Big 12. And the Big 10 doesn't over-recruit, as the SEC does. Some SEC schools sign 40 players while the Big 10 signs 25. The SEC can get players admitted that can't qualify for the Big 10. They sign them, then set them up at a junior college or military academy. It's their version of a major league farm system.
In the SEC, assistant coaches are paid more money than in the Big 10, especially at Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. Over the last few years, the SEC has hired great recruiters and paid them well. For example, former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron is being paid $650,000 as an assistant at Tennessee. And Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's father is being paid $1 million to be defensive coordinator.
The SEC isn't afraid to throw money around. They understand something the Big 10 has yet to understand and that is schools that pay a lot of money to get great assistant coaches are the ones that get great players.
That's the way the game is played today.