Friday, February 1, 2008

Sunshine and Star Football Recruits

With letter of intent day just around the corner, college football recruiters are making their final push to land the best prospects. Top kids are rated by the star system, with 3, 4 and 5 star athletes being the most sought after. As discussed in Football's Southern Exposure, the southern latitudes produce a greater than average share of football talent on a per capita basis. The same holds true for this year's national recruiting class as rated by Rivals.

There may be many reasons for the talent advantage in the south. Football may simply be more popular in the south. Warmer weather makes for a longer period of outdoor activity and practice. Simply spending more time in the sun leads to higher Vitamin D levels which can further boost athletic performance. As suggested by Dr. Cannell: Five converging—but totally separate—lines of scientific evidence leave little doubt that vitamin D improves athletic performance. Vitamin D is a potent steroid hormone that needs to be managed. Most people don't get enough sunshine especially in the north where the sun is too weak to produce Vitamin D in the winter.

The Rivals recruiting data base rates recruits by state. It's easy enough to calculate the number of top recruits (3, 4 and 5 star) per million population in each state and compare with the average amount of sunshine in the state (Ultra Violet Index). The top states are:

State Population (Mil) Rivals 3*,4*&5* Athletes/Million UVI
Louisiana 4.29 38 8.86 8.36
Mississippi 2.91 25 8.59 7.75
Alabama 4.6 35 7.61 8.15
South Carolina 4.32 25 5.79 7.44
Florida 18.09 100 5.53 8.69
Hawaii 1.285 7 5.45 10
Georgia 9.36 50 5.34 7.37
Arkansas 2.81 13 4.63 7.06
Ohio 11.48 50 4.36 5.34
Texas 23.51 100 4.25 7.95
Oklahoma 3.58 15 4.19 6.88
Virginia 7.64 30 3.93 6.41
Kansas 2.76 9 3.26 6.4
Arizona 6.17 19 3.08 7.75

Figure 1 summarizes the number of 3 or more star rated recruits for all states for which Rivals rates football prospects. Figure 2 summarizes the number of 4 and 5 star recruits by state.

Figure 1. Correlation of Rivals 3, 4 and 5 Star Football Prospects with the UV Index.

Figure 2. Correlation of Rivals 4 and 5 Star Football Prospects with the UV Index.

The correlations evident in Figures 1 and 2 are quite significant. While it is well known that recruiting the south is important, if Vitamin D is a significant reason for the prolific production of top quality athletes, then those in the north should be able to enhance their prospects by better managing their Vitamin D intake.

So the most important star in the recruiting game may be the one most of us don't get enough of (at least in the northern latitudes). The UV Index is a measure of the potential for Vitamin D production. Vitamin D is a potent steroid hormone that is vital for good health and developing to one's fullest potential. While southern athletes have a natural advantage due to greater sun intensity, northern athletes can level the playing field by means of diet and supplements.

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