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The quality of football in Pennsylvania has plummeted and the economy is to blame, according to an article by Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer.Pennsylvania — specifically the coal towns in the central and western parts of the state — once had a reputation as one of the best football states in the country.
Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Rich Gannon all went to high school there.
But in 2013 the state reproduced just four of the country’s top 100 recruits according to Scout.com, and eight of the top 300 recruits in the country according to ESPN.
Fitzpatrick says that decline is rooted in economics.
From The Inquirer:
“With a shrinking job base, the hardest-hit school districts have been cutting athletic budgets and in some instances forcing athletes to pay to play. And many Pennsylvania parents are finding it tough to provide the kind of financial support — for youth leagues, travel, and equipment — athletic prodigies require in 2013.”
Fitzpatrick mentions other reasons too, all relating to economics:
- It’s expensive to play football relative to sports like basketball.
- Multiple high schools are combining, resulting in less opportunity for players.
- Entrenched poverty results in less parental oversight.
The relationship between sports success and economic success is debatable. In their book Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that the three key indicators for soccer success are GDP, population base, and experience.
If you apply this formula to football, Pennsylvania has all sorts of experience, but its losing steam in the other two indicators.
The obvious counterargument to this is that other recruiting hot beads — like South Florida — have bad economies and aren’t experiencing the same decline in quality players.
But something is going on in Pennsylvania high school football, and it mirrors the broader downturn of the region on the whole.
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