College Athletic Recruiting Strategy: Going Where the Teams Are

map with pins showing college baseball teams by stateIf you are a high school athlete and already have five coaches from D1 schools showing up when you play and you’re only a junior-congratulations! You need not read any further. For those of you who aren’t nationally ranked athletes but still want to play at the college level-read on.

If you want to get recruited to play on a college team you need to go where the colleges are. Mind-boggling obvious you say? Of course, but have you really considered how location affects your chances to play college athletics? Let’s consider baseball. (If you are considering baseball, be sure to check out the DIY College Rankings Baseball Spreadsheet.)

With 49 NCAA baseball programs, California has two more colleges fielding baseball teams than Massachusetts. Sound like an ideal place to get on a baseball team, right? Probably not. The average number of full-time undergraduates at these schools in California is 11,718 compared to 3,867 for Massachusetts. Theoretically, there aren’t as many undergraduates competing for spots on the baseball team in Massachusetts as in California. And there are probably a lot of high school players that want to play in California.

Think about it this way. Two schools have baseball teams. One has a 1,000 students, the other has 10,000. Which school would provide better odds for making the team?

Of course, it’s not quite this simple. NCAA D1 teams aren’t really recruiting from their student population. More than likely, they are recruiting over a larger geographic area than just where their general student population comes from.

And some places will just naturally attract more players for one sport than another. You would expect to find more hockey opportunities in the northeast.

However, because that’s also where the highest concentration of hockey players are, the competition for the spots might be much tougher than at some schools outside the region. A baseball player who has been playing three seasons a year in California, Texas, or Florida might find it easier to make a college team in Kansas or Missouri rather than his home-state.

The College Baseball Teams by State table below shows for each state the number of NCAA programs, the total number students and players, and the number of players as a percentage of players. The data is from 2013 as reported to the Office of Postsecondary Education (this means classifications may not be current).

Looking at the number of college baseball teams by state you can see that both Texas and Massachusetts have 45 NCAA baseball programs. Texas has around 25% more baseball players than Massachusetts but also has over 200% more students than Massachusetts. Superficially, it looks like Massachusetts offer better odds of playing baseball than Texas.

I say superficially because you really need to break the numbers out by division. Massachusetts has only 5 D1 programs compared to 20 for Texas. When just looking at D1 programs, Texas has four times the programs as Massachusetts and around four times the number of baseball players. This isn’t surprising since D1 baseball has more stringent roster requirements than other divisions. You would expect the number of players to be proportional to the number of schools.

Since D3 schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, there’s a lot more variation in the number of players on a team. For example, overall New Jersey would seem to have an advantage over Texas in terms of baseball players as a percentage of all full-time undergraduates.

Yet, if you look just at D3 schools, you’ll find that the two have the same number of schools in the division. However, Texas has more D3 baseball players than New Jersey while New Jersey has 250% more undergraduates in D3 colleges than Texas.

How useful are these numbers? Probably less useful for D1 schools than D3 since D1 programs recruit over wider areas than D3 programs. Even at the D3 level there is a problem since the table doesn’t indicate the number of high school baseball players available. Texas has a lot more high school baseball players chasing baseball programs than New Jersey which could make D3 programs in Texas much more competitive than those in New Jersey.

I think the main value of looking at the number of college baseball teams by state is to help players and their families understand the opportunities available. And depending the numbers for their region, it may also prompt them to start looking for opportunities outside their comfort zones.

Subscribers to the Get Recruited Newsletter can download a PDF version of the following table along with the information broken down by division and totals for NAIA and other sanctioning organizations.

College Baseball Teams by State

StateNumber
of
NCAA
Teams
Total
Full-time Undergrads
Total
Players
Players
as % of
Undergrads
Wyoming
Alabama181081246380.59
Alaska
Arizona3713741080.15
Arkansas14699835380.77
California4957422416990.30
Colorado8428773270.76
Connecticut16798205030.63
Delaware4253561460.58
District of Columbia4213711300.61
Florida252542008700.34
Georgia271679239910.59
Hawaii3185491340.72
Idaho11136282.46
Illinois3618042613610.75
Indiana211332557960.60
Iowa13389875091.31
Kansas8638223290.52
Kentucky14891104850.54
Louisiana13883634710.53
Maine10236493131.32
Maryland13866464240.49
Massachusetts4517401813560.78
Michigan181762746570.37
Minnesota261103339050.82
Mississippi10580003130.54
Missouri221223439440.77
Montana13162411.30
Nebraska6405452440.60
Nevada229457640.22
New Hampshire10295243461.17
New Jersey251463828070.55
New Mexico4327931500.46
New York7333963022210.65
North Carolina3719784113500.68
North Dakota4238801370.57
Ohio4324255317250.71
Oklahoma14754665340.71
Oregon9547433440.63
Pennsylvania8031305026090.83
Puerto Rico325304730.29
Rhode Island7413022190.53
South Carolina23983999590.97
South Dakota4126911691.33
Tennessee231174568140.69
Texas4535453917190.48
Utah4633191470.23
Vermont6102281851.81
Virginia3119814510890.55
Washington10760263470.46
West Virginia17518156371.23
Wisconsin23977717300.75

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