Back in March, SB Nation’s Jason Kirk took a look at an interesting question: Where would you place a college football program if you were starting one completely from scratch? The considerations included current program geography, potential fan bases and to some degree, recruiting as well. Using these factors, both Jason and the commenters (myself included) recommended a flurry of current and hypothetical universities, with no clear choice above the rest. As it is the offseason, this is quite the entertaining exercise.
But taking that idea a step further, what if we decided to start the whole thing from scratch? Blow up the current college football landscape — structure, traditions, records, existing programs, etc. — and just completely start fresh. The only hard-and-fast rule? We’re choosing 120 schools, all of which either currently sponsor Division-1 or -II NCAA athletics and/or have an institutional endowment over $1 billion. Additionally, to narrow the consideration pool down a bit, I avoided all schools with less than 5,000 students, since it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to support football from a talent or fan standpoint (at the collegiate game’s highest level anyway).
Using these factors as guides, I built an available pool of 318 schools, and compiled the following information for each:
- Endowment: In many cases, endowments are a nice measuring stick of a school’s ability to raise money. Since college football programs cost money and need similar fundraising to function, this should certainly come into play when considering a school’s ability to sponsor the sport.
- Enrollment: It’s not the end-all, be-all of whether you can sponsor football, but fan support usually starts with students. If you don’t even have 7,000 students on campus, how are you supposed to draw more than 20,000 to Saturday’s game?
- State Recruiting Ranking: This is a big one, because it examines how sustainable football is from a local recruiting level. If you’re a big school, but have no local base, that means you’re utilizing a national strategy. Likewise, if you’re a mid-size school, but exist in a large local base, you still have a significant chance of recruiting success.
- Public/Private: Obviously, there are more public schools than private schools at the FBS level today, and in our setup, that’ll still be the case. Private schools won’t be eliminated from consideration at all, but if a decision must be made between a private school and public school, the public school will win out. Public institutions have an easier road toward attracting local talent, and in many cases support too, so that was taken into consideration on a few choice occasions.