Greg Tepper tackles the question: do richer schools have an advantage in Texas high school football?
If your mother was anything like my mother, inbetween servings of meatloaf and edicts to tidy up your room, you were taught that it’s not polite to talk about money. That’s a private matter, you were told, and was none of your business.
Money is that strange thing that infiltrates everything we do, yet we rarely talk about. And that includes the things we love the most – including high school football.
It’s uncomfortable to talk about the role of money in high school football. With the commercialization of both professional and college football, high school is considered one of the last bastions of purity in a sporting landscape run amok with dollar-driven demagoguery. But to turn a blind eye to money’s role in high school football would be naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.
Every year, high schools pump more and more money into their football programs. From mega-sized stadiums to jumbo-sized scoreboards to palatial indoor practice facilities to state-of-the-art field surfaces to high-tech equipment to wondrous weight rooms, high school football programs in Texas – especially in affluent areas – are beginning to rival some colleges.
And that’s not even counting the performance camps, personal coaches, training equipment and supplements that many high school athletes enjoy in this era.
On the other side of the coin, schools in poorer communities typically don’t enjoy these types of luxuries. But perhaps more impactful is the time and attention factor – players in wealthy communities can generally focus on athletics more than players in less wealthy communities.
The question is, does it matter how affluent these schools are? Does money give high school teams an advantage – and subsequently, put less affluent schools at a disadvantage?
To study this, we’ll take a look at every 5A and 4A state champion since 2000 – a sample size of 52 champs. With the help of intrepid DCTF intern Courtney Schellin, we searched through the US Census Bureau to find the median household income of each school’s ZIP code area. From there, we compared those median household incomes with the state of Texas’ median household income -- $50,920, in case you were wondering.
Now, is the ZIP code area necessarily completely encompassing of the school’s demographic? It’s hard to say. Some high schools take kids from across multiple ZIP codes; other schools split their own ZIP code with one or two other schools. But I’m confident saying that the median household income of the ZIP code gives at least a ballpark of the school’s demographic makeup – that’s to say, if this indicates that the school is in a poorer area, it’s very unlikely that it is, in fact, in a wealthy area.
The numbers, I have to admit, were a bit staggering.
Of the 52 Class 5A and Class 4A champions since 2000, 37 of them have a median household income at least 14% more than the state as a whole. In other words: more than 71% of the state champions have come from richer-than-average areas.
What’s more: 26 of the state champions – half of them – come from areas with a median household income at least 50% higher than the state average. Even more staggering: nearly one in three state championships in this century has been won by schools that feature a median household income more than twice the state average.
Just 12 state championships out of 52 have been won by schools with what we would consider below-average incomes – that is, at least 10% below the statewide average. And it’s been three years since that happened – Abilene’s 2009 5A Division II title was the last.
In all, state champions since 2000 have averaged a median household income that is 70% higher than the state as a whole.
So, what does it all mean?
First of all, it’s important to note that a school’s financial situation does not guarantee anything. Richer-than-average schools perform poorly; poorer-than-average schools win state championships. There’s not one factor that determines the fate of a football team, including wealth.
That said, the facts are clear: richer-than-average schools are more likely to win a state championship than poorer-than-average schools.
Why is that? I suspect it has to do with many factors, many of which I mentioned above. But more than anything, I don’t think you can underestimate the power of an athlete’s availability to focus on football – spending the summer going to camps as opposed to holding a job, for example.
As I mentioned before, it’s awkward to talk about money in high school football. But in studying the numbers, it’s obvious that in high school football, like everywhere else, money talks.
The complete data set for this study is below.
|Year/Class||School||Median Income||% of State Median Income|
|2012 5A DI||Allen||91,638||180%|
|2012 5A DII||Katy||120,111||236%|
|2012 4A DI||Denton Guyer||82,988||163%|
|2012 4A DII||Cedar Park||81,819||161%|
|2011 5A DI||Southlake Carroll||183,656||361%|
|2011 5A DII||Spring Dekaney||50,017||98%|
|2011 4A DI||Lake Travis||121,522||239%|
|2011 4A DII||Aledo||99,147||195%|
|2010 5A DI||Pearland||81,090||159%|
|2010 5A DII||Cibolo Steele||80,171||157%|
|2010 4A DI||Lake Travis||121,522||239%|
|2010 4A DII||Aledo||99,147||195%|
|2009 5A DI||Euless Trinity||57,813||114%|
|2009 5A DII||Abilene||37,356||73%|
|2009 4A DI||Lake Travis||121,522||239%|
|2009 4A DII||Aledo||99,147||195%|
|2008 5A DI||Allen||91,638||180%|
|2008 5A DII||Katy||120,111||236%|
|2008 4A DI||Lake Travis||121,522||239%|
|2008 4A DII||Sulphur Springs||41,730||82%|
|2007 5A DI||Euless Trinity||57,813||114%|
|2007 5A DII||Katy||120,111||236%|
|2007 4A DI||Lamar Consolidated||42,532||84%|
|2007 4A DII||Lake Travis||121,522||239%|
|2006 5A DI||Southlake Carroll||183,656||361%|
|2006 5A DII||Cedar Hill||64,834||127%|
|2006 4A DI||SA Alamo Heights||62,294||122%|
|2006 4A DII||La Marque||45,346||89%|
|2005 5A DI||Euless Trinity||57,813||114%|
|2005 5A DII||Southlake Carroll||183,656||361%|
|2005 4A DI||Highland Park||119,517||235%|
|2005 4A DII||Lewisville Hebron||74,415||146%|
|2004 5A DI||Tyler Lee||41,052||81%|
|2004 5A DII||Southlake Carroll||183,656||361%|
|2004 4A DI||Ennis||45,657||90%|
|2004 4A DII||Kilgore||43,964||86%|
|2003 5A DI||Galena Park North Shore||53,695||105%|
|2003 5A DII||Katy||120,111||236%|
|2003 4A DI||North Crowley||83,774||165%|
|2003 4A DII||La Marque||45,346||89%|
|2002 5A DI||Converse Judson||60,896||120%|
|2002 5A DII||Southlake Carroll||183,656||361%|
|2002 4A DI||Texarkana||58,743||115%|
|2002 4A DII||Denton Ryan||69,279||136%|
|2001 5A DI||Mesquite||48,758||96%|
|2001 5A DII||Lufkin||40,188||79%|
|2001 4A DI||Denton Ryan||69,279||136%|
|2001 4A DII||Ennis||45,657||90%|
|2000 5A DI||Midland Lee||74,947||147%|
|2000 5A DII||Katy||120,111||236%|
|2000 4A DI||Bay City||42,158||83%|
|2000 4A DII||Ennis||45,657||90%|
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.