Baffling Geography: Primarily the SOUTH Wins National Championships?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 45 Comments

Does location play a part in becoming a National Champion in college football?

I reflected on the geography and did a rapid study of the last 20 years and those who had won NCAA football national championships. The conclusion was shocking, as 90% of those who have won national championships in the last twenty years are all in states/cities below the 37th latitude (going east to west across the United States: North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California and all states south of those).

There is only one school above the 37th latitude who has won a national championship (twice) in the last twenty years: Ohio State. All the other schools are in the south! The 90% that comprise the NCAA champions are southern teams: USC, Oklahoma, Texas, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Clemson.

Maps of the World

How fascinating is this?!

No other northern schools other than Ohio State. None. Not Penn State. Not Michigan. Not Nebraska. Not Washington. Nobody but Ohio State has won of all the northern states, and only twice in twenty years! So, when people start complaining about Chip Kelly and his offense, or when they complain about Mark Helfrich, while  both of these guys were in the national championship game… and one was a field goal away from a championship, it shows how unique both of these coaches and their teams were for getting so far as a team from the northern part of the United States.

So, I started to compare other NCAA sports (hockey, soccer, etc.) and champions, and I came to two observations: 1) ease of using a practice field throughout the whole year at lower levels of competition, when compared to the rest of the country is an advantage; note that basketball generally is played indoors at competitive levels; 2) where the playoff games are played: the BCS bowl system is Pasadena, CA, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia–southern climes; then consider NCAA basketball and the diversity in playoff locations, and the diversity of national champions (Michigan State, Syracuse, Virginia, etc).

Question: Is there a correlation between Oregon getting an indoor practice facility and wins?

If so, what would you think the difference would have been versus no indoor practice facility?

Oregon Athletics

Think the Mo Center at Oregon made a difference?

Conclusion: The natural climate of the south makes it easier for players to practice football throughout the whole year, and this creates a bigger pool of talent: more practice=more talent. Playoff games correspond to interest, and local games promote interest. For Pac-12 North teams, I think the best that can be hoped for is that the Las Vegas dome has to be included in playoff games in the future for us to have a chance every once in awhile to break the 90% ceiling of the south. I’m suggesting that northern teams need to be given geographical advantages akin to southern teams playing in Texas, or in Atlanta or Louisiana (LSU playing at home this year).

Here is where Ohio State’s two national championships were played and ask who had to travel farther?
–Ohio State played against Oregon in Arlington, Texas. Slight advantage Ohio State or a neutral field at best.
–Ohio State played Miami (2003) in Tempe, Arizona. Slight advantage Ohio State.
Both of tOSU national championship games were played away from the SEC and ACC territories and in what many might be called “neutral” territories. In the last twenty years, no team from the north has played and won a national championship game in SEC/ACC territory.

Melissa Macatee

Johnny Johnson and the Ducks have to go to Texas to play LSU and Auburn?

Dome stadiums in the north where fans can easily access need to be considered for any goal of parity: Detroit, New York, etc. The whole BCS system playoff system is south driven because of tourism. Basketball has its tournaments all over the country, and its representation is diverse as well.

The southern teams in football have to be forced out of their comfort zone and travel!

Charles Fischer   (FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo from Twitter


Chris Brouilette, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.

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What do you mean off topic? Did you not notice out elongated hockey conversation earlier? Besides, that’s one thing that I can definitely say that is somewhat unique to Oregon fans; we’re not limited being a fan of just one or two sports…we’re OREGON fans!


Fantastic news! With a 3-peat regular season championship, 2-3 conference tournament run, the Lady Ducks have been the dominant force in the Pac-12, and all the other teams were celebrating the departure of Ruthy, Sabrina & Satou, not to mention, Minyon. But, with the addition of Taylor, to the players returning and the heralded recruiting class, the Ducks reign isn’t collapsing anytime soon.


I think it also comes down to where are the best coaches. It use to be sc had the best coach, but no more. When they did their local talent allowed for a dominant program.

Back before Saban came to Alabama they weren’t dominant. Same with Clemson and LSU, the coaching made the difference.

This gives us hope, as Cristobal is developing into a coaching force. Maybe it isn’t location so much as coaching. How else could we have done so well when CK came and innovated his way to elite status that held through the first few years of Helfrich?

Also go back to when Nebraska, Penn State or Notre Dame was dominant, it was coaching.


Yeah, for the most part I agree, but not to be the devil’s advocate here, explain the likes of say, Harbaugh at Stanford vs Michigan. He looked like the second coming at the Furd, and even at times with the Niners, but since coming back to the NCAA, nuh-uh.

Don’t get me wrong here, coaching has a lot to do with talent development, but you need the talent as well. And for the record, I’m still convinced the best coaching hire Oregon has ever made was hiring Willie Taggart…look who he brought in and then subsequently left behind when he left for his nightmare job (because technically, nightmares ARE dreams)…


Good points, but Harbaugh’s, like CK’s, ego, act got old and tiresome.

As far as slick’s nightmare job, nightmares are caused by stress and anxiety. FSU and many of the jobs down south are the epitome of stress and anxiety. Oregon is all about setting coaches up for success.

The best coaching hire is just how Oregon hires and supports their coaches. We have, repeatedly, taken losing coaches, coaches with no experience and turned them into wonders.

The best coaching hire Oregon made, as far as slick was concerned, was FSU taking him away. We got extremely lucky with the slick hire. We let him hire, at great expense, a stellar DC. We also gave him an adequate budget to get other capable assistants and he got lucky and hired Cristobal. Slick fired up the recruiting, but I give Cristobal more credit for that.


No doubt that’s true about needing the talent. Saban wouldn’t have the trophies if he’d stayed at East Lansing. The situation at USC is proof to me how important the head coach is. With McKay & Robinson ( former Ducks) the Trojans ruled. But then came Larry Smith, Paul Hackett, and it wasn’t pretty. With PC it was “Fight On” again, but now it’s Clay Helton, because NO name coach was even interested. The new AD has said forget at Urban, so Helton has it for a while. Of course the recruiting has picked up, since Williams left the Ducks and flew south.

Willie T is a great footnote. But I will go with what Hayward Duck mentioned earlier, about Cristobal developing into a, “coaching force”. He is creating a culture that will sustain at Oregon. Busting open the myth that recruiting to Oregon just couldn’t happen at a high level. He is acquiring the talent, players and coaches, to get Oregon to the pinnacle of college football.


Not sure if people are picking up on my constant state of sarcasm, but if not, turn on your sarcasm detectors…just make sure you change the filter about every third post of mine, otherwise it’ll ruin the detector from sarcastic overload. That being said, that’s really what I was getting at with Taggart. The thing that people have said is that recruiting took on a whole new level once he got here, but when it comes down to it, was that because of him or the fact that we had Cristobal?

I’ll again use my previous experience as a temporary southerner…I ended up in a major FSU area so I had the privilege of hearing the hopes of their recent Taggart hire (I got there between him leaving Oregon and his first game at FSU), followed by the, well dumpster fire (no relation) of his tenure as the Seminole’s head man. One thing that he brought with him was this supposed recruiting prowess…but the funny thing was he didn’t recruit all that well. It’s funny because FSU isn’t hard to recruit to…just who they are sells in an of itself. I honestly think that his recruiting ability evolved around MC here at Oregon rather than his slick talking skills.

So to bring this full-circle, I say Taggart was the best hire we’ve made not because of his abilities as a coach, but because of who he hired and became the coach we were hoping Taggart himself was when he signed on the dotted line.

A funny footnote on Taggart, and I’ll refrain from using his name, but I was on a jobsite doing a survey and was wearing my “O” hat and this younger supervisor said to me, “Oregon, huh? So what do you think of Willie Taggart?”…bear in mind this was just prior to his first game as their coach. Well knowing I was in the middle of FSU country I gave an honest, but subdued answer, but it was far from a glowing review. What happened next was actually kind of surprising. This kid tore Taggart a new one. I was wide-eyed and struggling to keep my jaw off of the floor because of some of the things he said about Willie…the biggest shocker, the last thing he said to me during that little rant, “…yeah, I played for him at South Florida.” I’m telling you, he had NOTHING good to say about WT….nothing. That, to me, said more than anyone of us ever could have…good or bad. For the record, when I got back to my office I looked the kid up who said it, and he wasn’t lying in the slightest…he in fact did play for Taggart at USF.


Love your sarcasm, but I can’t let the slick lovers be influenced by your sarcasm. The guy was a train wreck who would have taken Oregon to even greater depths than where he took over. Taggart supporters can put lipstick on that pig, but don’t try to tell me was more than he was.


As the late Dennis Green put it, “they are who we thought they were”. The truth comes out. Willie is, was and probably will be, the embodiment of those big balloon figures you see at gasoline stations.

David Marsh

Taggart brought in a great staff on the whole into Oregon. I think it spoke volumes when he left that the only ones who followed him were those who have followed him from place to place.

Leavitt staying probably hurt Taggart the most. As Leavitt actually joined Taggart as an analyst after he was let go by Oregon.

I also think Taggart’s ego got in his way at FSU especially. FSU has resources and he couldn’t pull together a staff like the one he did at Oregon?

There was an interview on Late Kick by 247sports of Cristobal and they went into how Cristobal interviews and hires… It is a super extensive process and I doubt many coaches are as rigorous as Cristobal is… But I am sure the top coaches in the country do.

Oh I totally agree that a coach is only as good as his assistants, and to some extent, they can make up for the HC’s inadequacies, but in Taggat’s case, he did himself in. He is/was all bark and no bite…to put it simply.

There were a couple of things I was hoping to see in year two of the Taggart experiment that we (thankfully) never got to see, but I did get to both witness and listen to die-hard FSU fans complain about…his inability to adjust to the game in front of him. How many times did we see that? Once his initial game plan broke down he was simply unable to adapt to what the other team was doing. What saved him at Oregon was one person, Justin Herbert. The games he played in Oregon was, win or lose, at least competitive, but without Herbie, we were lucky to move the ball, let alone score. Look at what he accomplished at FSU the following year and you see the same results as his Herbert-less Oregon team and the lack of in-game adjustment…the results speak for themselves.

The reality is that he’s a good coach in a non-power 5 or non-major conference/division, but he was in WAY over his head both here at Oregon and at Florida State.

You’re right though, he really wasn’t liked, but he sure got paid for being unpopular…can’t blame the guy for that.

David Marsh

To add another layer to this geography (I get to use my geography major from UO how exciting … The other two come up less often) is the culture.

There is a far stronger football culture in the south. This culture generates more football players at higher skill levels.

In large portions of the south football is life. There is a reason why the SEC and BIG-12 have been slow to say anything about the approaching season. In that part of the country the loss of the football season would be received rather differently than on the west coast.

With the concentration of so much talent in the south and the trend being that kids don’t tend to move far from home…. The south gets a greater concentration on talent and that leads to more championships.


That’s pretty much what I’ve been saying. I mean I’ve seen my share of fell’r’s down where I was that couldn’t count to two if there were a professional ventriloquist speaking for them, but they can name every player on their respective team of choice for the past 50 years, including the walk-ons.

I do find it funny when someone says, “Yeah, but how many national championships does Oregon have?” Well to take Alabama as a comparison, yes, they have 17 in football, but their total for all sports is 27. Oregon, no, none in football, but we have 33, which ties us for 13th best among all schools. In contrast, Stanford has 123 championships. Heck, the top three schools are all from California (Stanford, UCLA and USC), the next closest is OSU (Oklahoma State…don’t get excited Beav’s, or Buck’s) at 52. We play a lot of sports here, they play football there.


Speaking of Women’s basketball. The Big 3 started their WNBA careers last weekend, Sabrina and the NY Liberty started off against the projected champ, Seattle Storm, and came up short. Sabrina is definitely not surrounded by the talent she had at Oregon and the Storm followed the defensive plan used against Damian Lillard.

Satou’s Dallas Wings lost to the Atlanta Dream, 105-95. Meanwhile Ruthy hasn’t seen the PT that Sabrina & Satou have, but her Chicago Sky are 2-0, Tonight at 5:00 on CBSSN, Sabrina and Satou will fight for their first win.

Santa Rosa Duck

I think it is largely culture. In Tuscaloosa, they have football and apparently a university. Do they have Mt Bachelor and great skiing? How about white water rafting? How about fly fishing the Rogue River for steelhead? Nope, they have Alabama football. We have our Oregon DUCKS and so much more!!!


Are the best players from the South ? That might be a better explanation. Generally speaking, players don’t venture too far from home.

Here’s a link to NFL players by birthplace. Active players heavily skewed from the South. Likely the majority of the California players come from SoCal.

J Duck

Hmmm…Duck Dome on the way. Make it a retractable roof so we can enjoy those nice game days we typically have at least thru late October, sometimes beyond


I’d be all for that if it ended up similar to the old King Dome. Autzen is loud already, can you imagine if they designed a dome to further enhance the acoustics and make it even LOUDER? You’d probably have to sign a waiver to attend a game so no one would be able to sue the university for the permanent hearing loss…

David Marsh

I know coaches have to sign a waiver NOW concerning the noise in Autzen.



(see what I did there?)


I thought I remembered something from back in the day, and I did. Back in 1985, then Oregon AD Bill Byrne was pushing to make sure it really never rained at Autzen Stadium


Swore up & down at the time football is an outside game played by tough guys in sometimes tough conditions and if they did dome it I’d never go to another game.



I would love a game in Detroit! I could drive to that one!!!!

Nice read Charles!


That’s an interesting take on it, but I think it goes way deeper (yep, southern pun there) than that. I’m not going to say I have a unique take on this since I know I’m not the only one who’s ever lived there, but I recently moved back to the Eugene area from deep inside a triangle of Alabama, Auburn and Florida State territory. The difference I see isn’t warmer climate or access to practice facilities (remember the NCAA limits the amount of practice), it’s the culture. In the south they eat, sleep, drink, breathe, soak in through osmosis and lather on football like Mark Zuckerberg applying sunscreen. When it comes to places like California, there too it’s king, just not to the same extent…chalk that one up to the comparatively chill attitude we have here on the west coast.

Now, move more north and what sport is king? It isn’t football by any means and even if it is in a particular region it generally doesn’t have the population to sustain the competition needed to produce top flight athletes. I could honestly go on and on about this, but that’s kind of the summary of it…attitude/culture…and we just don’t have it here, nor do most northern states.


That’s right. Up here, meaning every place except the South, guys always have to sweat it out over attending a wedding, their own, sometimes, or going to the football game. For us on the sidelines, we tell him, “Come on, man. It’s YOUR wedding. Go, we won’t tell you the score, you can catch it on the DVR”.
That’s not how the conversations go in ‘Bama.

There the nuptials are fit in during plays, the real reason that Saban was so against the up tempo offenses, and the Honeymoon is the next road game, which won’t be more than 75 miles away. As much as we are all suffering during this time, and dreading the idea of no football season; it is something we can live through. Not so, in the South.


Yeah, football there is like hockey in Canada (thanks for the brief reference, Fish, cause that’s my real game). In Canada kids are essentially born with skates on and you can almost be kicked out of the country for not being able to play…the south, they’re born with cleats on.


Not anymore if you are from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area for you West Coasters).

But from Thunder Bay to Cranbrook, and north of Montreal. Yes.


Well yeah, but back in the day…

No, my point though, although I’m sure you all get it already, is that we just don’t have the same attitude here as they do in the southern regions. Case in point…I’m sure we all remember back a few years ago when we had this hotshot new frosh QB, you may remember him, Marcus something…anyway, he was tearing things up here and impressing everyone. The thing is though is that before he threw his first pass who had actually heard of him?

Now, at the same time there was this other kid, same class, same position, but grew up where football is king who was grabbing all kinds of national headlines, to the point of becoming the youngest Heisman winner ever. Johnny Manziel was already known coming out of high school. He played in the king of exposure regions, in the king of exposure conferences and had the spotlight on him from day one because of that. Now, was he any good? Sure, but can you honestly say he was better than Mariota?

Compare their stats that year (2012) and it paints a pretty similar picture. The difference really was Manziel’s scrambling, which quite honestly to me looked more like dumb luck than skill, but hey, what do I know? FYI, I feel similar about his passing…it seemed like he just chucked the ball down field in desperation but had some pretty skilled receivers that sometimes seemed like they had the “Clifford Franklin” stick-um treatment.

One question I’ve always had is if Mariota had grown up in the south and played in the SEC would he have had the same brushing off as a frosh as he did while at Oregon, given the same stats he had here? Honestly, I think he would have been at least invited to New York, but that’s speculative. But alas, he didn’t, and he wasn’t…but we all know how that story ended, at least for one of the two…


I have to agree with you there. I think it’s hilarious that Marcus and Johnny Football could have been college teammates.

Who you got for the Cup?

I am sure JJ (Jon Joseph) is Bruins all the way! Marchand and Bergeron is a tough duo to beat!

Oh… and…

Seattle Kraken? Love it.


For the Cup, well I’m a Devils fan, so I’m focused on the draft…hehe

I’m actually excited that Seattle has a team now, except for the fact that it’s in Seattle. I love the name, but as much as it pains me as an Oregon fan to say this, I think they should have gone with purple over the imitation Winnipeg of the west colors. Don’t get me started on their main logo either. Yeah, I get it’s paying homage to the old Seattle Metropolitans, but it seriously looks like a stock logo you’d find on a beer league team. Not impressed.


Also, we already had our Johnny Manziel here at Oregon…you know, the I’m too good for everyone and above the standards of all of the peasants…we just called him Cliff Harris. I gotta give ol’ Clifford one thing though, he may not have coined the term, and as much as a disappointment as he was, he’s left a lasting impression on the college sporting world. To this day it’s pretty much universal that the goal of college athletes and schools alike is to win a “natty.”


The Blues are going to repeat, Binnington in the net…over the Bruins.


Meh, I don’t know. It’s hard enough pulling off the repeater in a normal year, but with the break everyone’s had, any momentum a team has had is long gone. Right now, it’s anyone’s game.


That actually was my thinking, It’s anyone’s game, momentum even, I’ll go with the defending champ. It’s going to be wild.


Blues will be tough. So will Winterpeg. Don’t count out the East either.

Go Pens!


Oh, totally a great idea! This could happen for football too, but since there aren’t going to be any, or there will be drastically limited fans…they should sell virtual tickets to the games where fans can yell and scream into mic’s from home, but the sound is played through an upgraded sound system at the stadium/rink. Do that and it will still (to an extent) give the home team that home team advantage with the players being able to actually feel the excitement of the crowd. Heck, they can even pump them/us up since it’ll all be televised and people will react.



You know,
we have spent a lot of time here already discussing the craze surrounding football in the south. So, it really is a given that the virtual atmosphere of a game in, “Death Valley” would be off the rails.

But, with Mario and “The Duck” in charge here, Oregon would put on a show. The Oregon Brand is built on innovation and this experience would be yet another opportunity to stand out. The contrast between a crowd at Autzen compared to any of the other Pac-12 venues was already striking, could widen the gap even more.


Brings to mind a cartoon I saw which goes like this: Inside a house trailer a very pregnant woman is standing there holding a suitcase and her 9+ month belly telling her husband “Its time”. He is sitting in his easy chair with several cans of empty beer cans around and without looking up from the TV he says “Hang in their honey I take you during halftime”.

I think you hit it on the head Dumpster, culture is the dominant issue by far.


Oh, so you drove through my neighborhood down there then? lol