The Rise of the West: American Demographics in the NCAA

Since its inception, the ethos of the United States of America has been predicated on mobility. This mobility has primarily been to the West. The first ships to set sail from Europe to the Americas did so in a westward direction. When the government of the United States acquired more land, it was land to the west. The westernmost point in the fifty states isCamp Wrangell, in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The country has been annexed, settled and peopled from one edge of the continent to the other, yet not all facets of American culture have fully actualized out west.

Politics and sports may be the most polarizing objects of American culture. Right now, there are 225 out of 583 electoral votes west of the Mississippi. From 2010 to 2013, nine out of the top 10 growing states were west of the Mississippi. This growth has made western statesmore important politically and in industry. People moving westward bring their values, traditions and pastimes – creating a boom in collegiate gridiron football.

A four-team playoff will be used to crown the NCAA football champion. The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide had around 80 percent of their roster from east of the Mississippi, and the majority of those west of the Mississippi were from nearby Louisiana or Texas. Approximately 93 percent of the second-seeded Oregon Ducks football team roster went to high school west of the Mississippi. Oregon’s recruiting range covered most of the west, with players from Oregon, California, Nevada, Texas, Colorado and Hawaii. The third-seeded Florida State Seminoles had about 97 percent of the roster from east of the Mississippi, many from Florida. The fourth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes had about 95 percent of their roster hail from east of the Mississippi, as well as many Ohio locals on the team.

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Since 1993, the Congrove computer rankings have ranked all eligible NCAA football teams. This map shows the average latitude and longitude of the top ten schools from 1993 – 2013.

Of the four teams, the Oregon Ducks was the only one not to have a majority of their players come from the state of the university. They have a regional recruiting base extending into California and the mountain west. They are also a non-traditional football power. Since the poll era, Alabama has won ten national championships, Ohio State has won five, Florida State has won three and Oregon has won zero. Oregon may represent the American population and culture moving west. The Pac-12 has emerged as a power conference and surpassed the once-dominant Big-10 of the Great Lakes region as the third best conference in the nation, according to ESPN. Once ruled by the University of Southern California, this ranking is due to the success of Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA in recent years.

The empty space and mild climate of the west may have attracted a few adventurous pioneers. There was never a population base outside of California and Texas to be of much importance politically or compete athletically with the industrialized east. The changing demographics and economy have changed this. The rise of tech in California and oil in North Dakota turns the sons of Scarlet and White Buckeyes and Nittany Lions to Stanford Cardinal and Oregon Ducks.