Want to make college football's big time? You'll face really, really long odds.
In 2013, the NCAA counted 310,465 high school seniors playing football, out of more than one million students playing the sport in total. The sport was by far the most popular in the United States, followed by boys' basketball (about 539,000 players in total), baseball (475,000) and girls' basketball (433,000).
Football is enormous, and so is the allure of playing it at American colleges. The NCAA counted about 70,000 college football players across all of its institutions, more than double any other sport.
And yet, because of the massive quantity of high schoolers playing the sport, the odds of actually making it in college football are tiny. The NCAA counts the overall proportion of high school players who will play in college at 6.5 percent -- and the probability of playing in Division I at 2.5 percent. The NFL? That's a 1.6 percent chance out of the college players, and basically a rounding error from among high school players.
So, there are lots of football players and relatively few college slots. It's hard to get one. It's even harder to be classified as a four- or five-star recruit, the sort of blue-chipper who draws national headlines ahead of Wednesday's National Signing Day. Just how long are the odds a high school player will come across, say, Nick Saban's radar?
We don't have current class-by-class high school participation data for 2015-16, so we'll use 300,000 as a fair enough estimate for the current number. Based on Rivals' recruiting star ratings for the class of 2016, here's how many players got each classification:
Breakdown of high school players' recruiting stars
5 stars 33
4 stars 354
3 stars 1,202
2 stars, 1 star, unrated 298,111*
2016 class data via Rivals
*Approximation based on 300,000-senior estimate
And here's how that looks in visual form, with each star rating as a proportion of roughly 300,000 football-playing high school seniors:
Some further breakdowns of how hard it is to be a blue-chip recruit:
For every five-star recruit, there are approximately: 11 four-star recruits, 36 three-star recruits, 61 two-star recruits and 9,090 other seniors playing football.
The odds of being a four- or five-star recruit from a given senior class are about 387 out of 300,000 -- or 0.13 percent. For five-stars alone, the chances are about 0.01 percent.
The odds of being even a three-star recruit or better are approximately 0.6 percent.
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