Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Herzog, Charles
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Exercise and Sport Science
  • In the world of college athletics, recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Prior research has firmly established better recruiting can mean more success on the field (Caro, 2012; Herda et al., 2009; Langelett, 2003). Team success, particularly in the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball, can lead to greater donations (Goff, 2000; Rhoads & Gerking, 2000; Tucker, 2004) and national notoriety (Caro, 2012) for a university and its athletics program. As such, the recruitment of elite high school football players is not only followed and scrutinized by rabid fan bases, but can have a major impact on entire athletic departments. Several researchers have examined the reasons why college sports recruits choose to attend particular institutions (Doyle & Gaeth, 1990; Huffman, 2011; Massey, 2013). The results of these studies have revealed a variety of factors influencing the college selection process for student-athletes, such as head coach, school location, level of competition, potential playing opportunities, and desired academic program (Gabert, Hale, & Montalvo, 1999). In addition to academic research on the topic, numerous college athletics administrators and coaches, media members, and even fans have made assumptions regarding what factors influence the college selection process of high school recruits. Several of them have publicly suggested things like winning, academics, successful recruiting, and professional alumni are persuasive to recruited student-athletes (Dienhart, 2003). While anecdotal evidence might suggest schools which draw capacity crowds, have apparel contracts with particular companies, or produce more National Football League (NFL) players will land better recruits, little empirical evidence exists to support such claims. Much of the prior academic research on the college selection process of student-athletes has adopted an approach of surveying current student-athletes in order to ascertain which factors were personally most salient to them. Such methodology is susceptible to social desirability bias (Winrow, Reitmaier-Koehler, & Winrow, 2015); a theory suggesting subjects will give researchers desired or politically correct responses. The purpose of the current study is to examine factors impacting the college selection process of student-athletes by developing a predictive regression model, using football recruiting rankings as the dependent variable, and university or athletic department related factors as the independent predictor variables. Such an approach will enable an empirical investigation into whether factors such as winning, athletic budget, and academic reputation have any relationship to the level of recruits enrolling at a particular university. Specifically, the independent variables examined in this study included: (a) team performance, (b) university academic reputation, (c) prior recruiting success, (d) department budget, (e) apparel contracts, (f) alumni playing in the NFL, and (g) spectator attendance. Team performance was measured in several forms; previous season winning percentage, historical success measured as the lifetime win percentage of the program, and bowl game appearances and success. All team success data was collected from college football statistics websites. Academic reputation measures were derived from Forbes Magazine and The Center for College Affordability and Productivity rankings of academic reputation. Teams acquiring high-level players may attract other high-level talent. Thus, previous year recruiting rankings were utilized as a predictor variable for current recruiting rankings (recruiting ranking variables are explained below). It has been suggested overall athletic department budget positively impacts recruiting (Jessop, 2013). For the current study, budget figures were collected from the Equity in Athletics Database. Media accounts also suggest recruits can be influenced by the brand of apparel their program is contracted to provide (Sato, 2015). Apparel vendor contracts were obtained from the WinAD database and online news reports. NFL alumni are a very visible part of a program’s success and a team being viewed as a “pipeline to the pros” might influence a recruit’s decision, thus the number of alumni who play or have played in the NFL were collected from team and national media websites. Finally, attendance numbers were obtained from the NCAA’s statistical database. To conduct the study, three years of secondary data were collated from 118 Division-I FBS schools for each of the independent variables listed above. The dependent variable in the model was current recruiting ranking. This measure was also collected by averaging the recruiting ranking of three of the industry leading websites on college football recruiting:,, and
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Popp, Nels
  • Shields, Edgar
  • Cooper, Coyte
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

This work has no parents.