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The Patriot League vs. The World: Comparing All The FCS Recruiting Classes

For the last few years, "the commitee" and I have compiled the Patsy Ratings, an attempt to evaluate the incoming football classes of the Patriot League.

It's clearly "for entertainment purposes only," an effort to try to take a look at whether a schools' recruiting needs are met, whether they've secured the playing services of a lot of recognized talent, and whether some of their measurables look good.

However, I frequently find myself wanting the Patsy Ratings to do more.  For example, how did the Patriot League as a whole do in comparison to other FCS schools?  Did the Mountain Hawks crush their FCS competition?  Or was the actual picture different?

Without, say, an equivalent James Madison Football Nation willing to make these Patsy-like evaluations of the incoming classes of other FCS schools, there was no real good way to make that type of comparison.

However, my curiosity got the better of me.  "There must be a way," I thought, "to at least be able to see how the different schools stack up against other schools in different conferences, even if it's not as good or as thorough as the Patsies."

I found out that there was.

The running joke about the Patsy Ratings is that sure, I'll volunteer to do them for all the teams of FCS, once you pay me to make it my full-time job to compile them.

In prior years, a big part of the problem was that most of the "official" recruiting websites - Scout, Rivals, and ESPN - often had incomplete information in their database of their recruits for FCS-level schools.  Former three-star recruits became two-star recruits, merely because they chose Appalachian State over Kentucky.  In other words, it was a dodgy game to try to use one publicly-available sites to try to objectively evaluate a class.

Shameless Plug, but they earned it
However, a few years ago a new recruiting website, 247 Sports, came upon the scene.  

247 Sports does not identify every recruit going to an FCS school, but they are the equal of Rivals, the oldest site, when it comes to the number of recruits they list.

Where 247 Sports excels over Rivals, though, is through the tools and methods they have to display their data.

Rivals doesn't do much when trying to compare a conference head-to-head.  They simply count the numbers of 3*, 4*, and 5* recruits, average them, and come up with a "ranking".  Furthermore, they only do this type of ranking for FBS schools.  If you want to try to do it for an FCS school, be prepared to go for hours, and prepare for a lot of ties.

However, 247 goes an important step further.  They assign a decimal number to all of their recruits, from 2* on up, and use that to make a "ranking" of all the recruits - at both the FCS and FBS levels.  
Each recruit we evaluate is assigned a numerical rating as well as a star rating. Ratings are determined by our recruiting analysts after countless hours of personal observations, film evaluation, and input from our network of scouts. 
Players are first grouped qualitatively with a star rating, then given a numerical rating based on their future potential, and finally ranked according to these numerical ratings.
As an example, let's say Joe Lineman for Jacksonville State is assigned a ** by 247's analysts, and a numerical rating of .765529.  For his team rating, he contributes 6.55 points ((.765529 - .7) * 10).

247 sports offers a list for each conference using this method.  For example, here's one for the OVC.  Instantly you have the schools rated, top to bottom, based on this methodology.

Just like the Patsy Ratings, these ratings are in no way precise measures of what recruits might do when they actually head to the football field.  But they are an interesting indicator of the potential of the class as a whole.

And equally as crucial, there is finally a quick way to measure FCS teams' "class potential" without having to quit a day job.  

Even if you find a mistake with who is listed, they offer a calculator to allow you to "fix" the rating yourself for your own purposes.  (I've done so on several squads.)

So let's look at what these ratings tell us about the Patriot League.  (Note: This includes Colgate's late signing.)

1. Lehigh (24.34)
2. Colgate (22.83)
3. Fordham (19.16)
4. Holy Cross (18.82)
5. Bucknell (11.98)
6. Lafayette (11.17)
7. Georgetown (0)

To me, this shows the limits of 247's base calculation.  

Lafayette's 11.17 ranking came from only one starred player.  However, Lafayette had seven players in their incoming class that had profiles on the 247 website.  In 247's class ranking system, someone with a profile (ranked .7000000) and someone not in the system (ranked .000000) both yield 0 points.  
Similarly, Georgetown had no starred players so zero points.  But they did have three guys with profiles.  They should get some credit for that.

So I thought - what if you make a modified 247 ranking, recognizing these players?

You can take the base rating that 247 generates, and then add 1 for each profile that is present in 247.

Using this modified system, Lafayette's score becomes 18.17 (11.17 + 7, 1 point per player profile).

Let's see what that does to the ratings for the Patriot League:

1. Colgate (30.83)
2. Lehigh (30.34)
3. Fordham (23.16)
4. Holy Cross (22.82)
5. Lafayette (18.17)
6. Bucknell (15.98)
7. Georgetown (3)

In my opinion, though still very much "for entertainment purposes only", this is a fairly good ballpark measurement of the incoming classes using two blunt instruments: 247's back-of-the-napkin measure of "quality" and, by adding up the number of profiles, a back-of-the-napkin measure of "depth".

It's clearly not as good or as thorough as the Patsy Ratings, but critically, it allows us to create a spreadsheet in an afternoon to attempt to measure all the recruiting classes, rather than an entire offseason.

*****

So with this modified system, who had the Top 10 recruiting classes in all of FCS (excluding Coastal Carolina, who is competing in FCS for the 2016 season but is ineligible for the FCS postseason)?

1. Yale, Ivy League (106)
2. Lamar, Southland (103.46)
3. Columbia, Ivy League (99.37)
4. Stephen F. Austin, Southland (88.51)
5. Austin Peay, Ohio Valley (86.2)
6. North Dakota State, Missouri Valley (80.16)
7. Samford, SoCon (80.03)
8. Sam Houston State, Southland (77.59)
9. Harvard, Ivy League (76.36)
10. Abeline Christian, Southland (75.14)

While it shouldn't come as a surprise to Patriot League followers that the Ivy League occupies three of the Top 10 positions - we've been crying for years that the top Ivy League teams are as good or better than the top teams in the playoffs - it might be a surprise to many that Yale is judged to have a better recruiting class than dynastic North Dakota State.

Perhaps This Helps Explain This
What may come as a surprise to Patriot League people, though, might be the relative strength of the Southland as a whole, with four teams in the Top Ten.  Those of us who watched Sam Houston State eliminate Colgate with ease in the playoff quarterfinals have a good explanation - Sam Houston State is a program that is on par, or just a hair behind, North Dakota State.

So to my original question - where does the Patriot League recruiting classes stack up against all of FCS?

Based on my modified ranking, Lehigh (30.34) and Colgate (30.83) show up just a hair about the mean (25.01) and average (28.28) of all 122 FCS schools listed.   Colgate clocks in at No. 47, and Lehigh checks in at No. 48.

So how did Lehigh and Colgate do against "peer competition" for recruits?

Let's take a sampling of FCS teams from Virginia to Maine.

1. Yale (106)
3. Columbia (99.37)
9. Harvard (76.36)
13. Rhode Island (56.84)
15. James Madison (53.63)
23. Penn (48.93)
25. Dartmouth (45.52)
27. Richmond (43.59)
29. Liberty (41.84)
34. Delaware (38.96)
35. Stony Brook (37.99)
37. Villanova (36.49)
39. Towson (34.89)
47. Colgate (30.83)
48. Lehigh (30.34)
50. Delaware State (29.17)
53. William and Mary (27.28)
54. Norfolk State (27.23)
58. New Hampshire (25.63)
64. Princeton (23.95)
65. Fordham (23.16)
66. Holy Cross (22.82)
70. Monmouth (20)
72. Lafayette (18.17)
78. Bucknell (15.98)
81. Robert Morris (14.89)
82. Sacred Heart (14.50)
84. Cornell (14.22)

The picture painted by my modified ranking system shows Lehigh and Colgate in the lower half of the pack of the CAA teams - above New Hampshire and William and Mary, but behind schools like Villanova and Delaware.

So in an effort to figure out where Lehigh stands in terms of 2016 recruiting, the answer my data seem to be telling me is: somewhere near the middle of the pack.  

In terms of the Patriot League, anyway, no school ran away and became a superpower this season in terms of recruiting - echoing what the Patsy Ratings said too, incidentally, but now there's a measurement of this fact against the rest of FCS.  

What if we break it down by conference?  Let's look at some average ratings:

Southland (54.05)
Ivy League (53.38)
SoCon (36.24)
Ohio Valley (34.05)
Missouri Valley (30.41)
Big Sky (30.08)
Colonial (29.33)
Patriot (20.61)

Again, with the big asterisk on here that says this is but one ratings system and also "for entertainment purposes only", it shows that football scholarships are allowing the Patriot League to only swim with the tide rather than swim ahead of it.  

Those that thought that conventional football scholarships would solve everything might want to rethink their positions.

The Google Spreadsheet with all the raw numbers is here.

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