CFB Recruiting Atlas: California's Trinity League
This is the first in a series of posts based on the comprehensive set of recruiting and geographical data covering FBS recruiting classes from 1999-2017. A reader of one of my pieces on SBNation provided the data to me. He assembled the data set and is using it for his doctoral dissertation in geography. I am still enhancing the data set for additional projects, but wanted to start using it on small projects (like this analysis) before I am done. Because the data only contains classes through the 2017, I had to assemble data for 2018 and 2019 separately for this piece.
SoCal's Trinity League
If you are even a moderately attentive fan of college football on the West Coast, you have probably heard the names Mater Dei, Bosco, and Servite in connection with players like Matt Leinart, Josh Rosen, and Ryan Khalil. All are graduates of high schools that compete in the Trinity League, the premier high school football league on the West Coast and one of the top talent producing leagues in the country.
The Trinity League is a Southern California parochial school league that is comprised of six high schools that compete in the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section. Five of the six members are located across Orange County, while one school (St. John Bosco) is located in Southeastern Los Angeles County.
Over the past 15 years (2004-2018 recruiting classes), the Trinity League has collectively produced 166 recruits who signed with FBS programs (excluding service academies). That includes 53 consensus 4-star or 5-star recruits, or an average of more than three per recruiting cycle.
Mater Dei and St. John Bosco stand out as the leading producers of talent in the league in recent years. Their play on the field has stood out too--the last time a team other than Mater Dei or Bosco won the league was 2011 (Servite). Over the last six seasons, Bosco won league titles from 2012-2015, going undefeated in league play during that period, and Mater Dei won it in 2016 and 2017 (with Bosco as runner-up both years).
Orange Lutheran, Servite, and Santa Margarita Catholic have all produced significant quantities of FBS recruits as well. They simply are a little less consistent and a little less prolific in producing top tier talent than Mater Dei and Bosco are. JSerra Catholic, the southernmost school in the league, is a distant sixth place in terms of recruit production.
Pac-12 Recruiting Goldmine
Not surprisingly, Pac-12 conference programs are the top destination for recruits from the Trinity League, followed by Mountain West Conference universities. But the league draws national attention and has seen its players recruited by every conference in FBS. The table below shows the number of recruits each member school has sent to each conference. In the interest of space, the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA are not shown. Programs from each of those conferences has recruited a single Trinity League player each.
Given the location of the Trinity League, USC and UCLA enjoy a strong hometown pull on recruits from league schools and this is reflected in the break-down of recruiting numbers by Pac-12 program, seen below. After USC and UCLA, Washington recruits the largest volume of Trinity League players. It is somewhat surprising to see how few Trinity League players Cal, Stanford, and Oregon have recruited over the past 15 years.
The Trojan Empire
The above numbers somewhat obscure how strong the USC pull is on schools in the league though. Breaking the results down further and examining only Blue Chip recruits (defined here as carrying a 24/7 Sports Composite rating of 87.5 or higher), it is clear just how strong USC's "market share" is across the league among the most widely sought recruits (see table below). Bosco and JSerra Catholic are the only schools that USC doesn't appear to enjoy a clear share advantage.
The Trojans' sway with top tier talent at Mater Dei is noteworthy. While USC is always going to be able to recruit well, its dominance in terms of signing highly ranked talent at just two schools, Mater Dei and Gardena's Junipero Serra, is really the key to the Trojans' stranglehold on the top of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings.
The embarrassment of riches that the Trojans have recruited from the Trinity League really only comes into focus when you examine it in detail (see below).
The Next Wave from the Trinity
Looking forward, the league is loaded again with Blue Chip recruits in 2019, with 18 total at three high schools--Mater Dei, Bosco, and Orange Lutheran. Of the 18, only five are committed so far. Notably, Oregon has commitments from two of them and may have the inside track on two more.
I have not yet been able to figure out how to embed a Tableau viz in a blog post, but an interactive version of the below map is located in my Tableau repository here. On the interactive map details of all recruits from each Trinity League school should appear when you hover over the map location.
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Special thanks to Aaron Mulhollen, George Mason University, @CFBGeographer for providing the initial data set.