Sunday, July 26, 2015

Baylor's Hidden Advantage

Art Briles said something interesting at the Big 12 media days, this from an ESPN article:
Briles on playing in central Texas: "Get your map. Throw a dart. Try to hit the middle. It's gon' be right around Waco."
Briles on recruiting in Texas: "If I was coaching at Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas or at San Jose State, that would be my priority also. Which it is, for everyone, every university in the nation. Texas is the most heavily recruited state. That's what makes it so invigorating as a recruiter and football program to keep kids here." 
Briles on winning over the target demographic: "We're a young brand. You ask somebody [age] 10 to 30 who's the best football team in the Southwest part of the United States -- you know, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, the bordering states around here. They're going to say Baylor. Now 30 to 60, you might get a different answer. And 60 to 90 may be different. But those young kids, they associate with Baylor. That's something that's working for us." 
Both Baylor's football and basketball programs have risen to national relevancy over the past five or so years.  Baylor is a small private school, with no national following and not much local support to speak of.  So how did this happen?  Briles' statements will lead us to some interesting answers.

Art was close with his Texas geography.  Technically, Waco is about 100 miles east of the geographic center of Texas, but this puts it right in the middle of the "Texas Triangle" - Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio.  Waco is only 50 miles from the population center of Texas.  A good place to be if you're trying to keep Texas kids in Texas.

How many people are we talking about?  We always hear about kids wanting to stay close enough for their families to see them play, which I assumed was within a three-hour drive, or about 200 miles.  This also allowed Baylor to be within reach of Houston, D-FW and San Antonio, areas all well-represented on their current roster.  This very cool site ( allows you to search for population within a radius of any location.

More than 20.3 million people live within 200 miles of Waco.  That's a lot of potential recruits.  That number is higher than the University of Texas or either of the other Texas schools and roughly two to four times that of the former Big 8 schools.  Only West Virginia has a greater population within 200 miles.

Also worth noting is Baylor has the highest surrounding population growth of any of the Big 12 schools.  Their recruiting base is growing at a faster rate.  There really are millions of kids and young adults growing up in and moving to the region for whom Texas' and Oklahoma's dominance is a fading memory.  Baylor has more recently won a Big 12 championship (2), had a top 10 finish and Heisman winner than either UT or OU.  For kids in high school today, it isn't "Baylor is Baylor is Baylor" anymore.  Basketball is even more wide open in the state of Texas than football.  

Baylor capitalized on the opportunity in a big way.  The two head coaches seem to be perfect fits for the school, and are committed to signing Texas talent.  The school secured donations based on the recent success to build a brand new football stadium, which will undoubtedly attract more fans, players and money.  

Coda:  27 million people?!? I thought West Virginia was in the sticks?

We forget how much closer metropolitan areas are on the east coast than the rest of the nation.  Morgantown is no metropolis, indeed the whole population of West Virginia is only 1.8 million.  However, included within a 200 mile radius are Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Richmond Virginia, Washington D.C, and Baltimore.  This is undoubtedly what attracted the Big 12 to WVU when it came to TV revenues.

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