By Fabian Ardaya
Tempe, Ariz.– While Arizona emerges as a state with many of the top high school players in the country (known as a pipeline state), Arizona universities have not recruited a large percentage of in-state talent. One of the reasons why this happens is because many players choose to pursue outside colleges that are known for their football programs such as USC and University of Florida.
According to ESPN’s recruiting database, of the 168 football players from Arizona’s recruiting classes from 2011 through 2013, 29 football players signed with the three state universities.
University of Arizona’s Athletic Director Greg Byrnes has said that his program’s top priority is to recruit in-state.
“We will stay focused on branding ourselves as a great experience and opportunity for Arizona student-athletes for all of our sports,” he said.
When reached for comment, ASU Associate Athletic Director Mark Brand said that the school’s athletic department could not comment on recruiting due to the potential for NCAA violations.
In the case of former Chandler High School quarterback Darell Garretson staying in-state was never an option.
Garretson said that Arizona schools miss out on in-state talent because they are “not recruiting Arizona [players] hard.”
At USC, 54 percent of incoming players stay in California. At the University of Florida, 63 percent of incoming players remain in Florida. In comparison, the three public Arizona universities have a total of 17 percent of in-state players.
According to Kyle Odegard, who covers high school football for the East Valley Tribune, a reason why in-state players leave to attend outside schools is because Arizona doesn’t have the football culture other outside schools may have.
“Many players in Arizona don’t have a built-in allegiance to the local schools,” Odegard said. “In states like Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, etc., the elite recruits are traditionally die-hard fans of the close-by universities and jump at the chance to play for them.”
According to Odegard in order for Arizona schools to improve its in-state recruiting numbers the schools must change the mentality of the talent.
“A few top recruits will remain in state, but mostly the elite ones decide to leave because they see these out-of-state schools on TV and in big bowl games a lot,” he said. “ASU and UA will have an uphill battle unless that philosophy changes among the recruits, and I don’t envision that happening any time soon.”
Arizona’s talent pool is growing, which tells Odegard that “by sheer volume, (this) should result in more in-state kids staying home.”