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What significance does "39 out of 87" hold for the Iowa football program?

Answer and explanation after the jump.

(keep reading...)

"When you get here, you meet with the leadership group, and the first thing they say is, 'Look around, because when you're seniors, half of you guys won't be here,'" Christensen said. "You look around and you can't really see anybody, you can't say, 'Oh, he won't be here.'

"You really think everyone will be (here), but you blink your eyes and nine guys are gone. It's the way it is. This program filters out the guys who really aren't made for it."

--via HawkCentral

From the 2002 through 2005 recruiting classes, 39 of the 87 signees left the program early. That's over 44% of the program gone to attrition. Now, through walk-ons and increased recruiting, we've been able to keep 85 kids (or close to it) on scholarship most of the time, but there's something seriously wrong with losing nearly half your recruiting classes every year that a motto of "Next Man In" just can't adequately cover.

Indeed, in the Alcoholic Daddy post, I referred to ruining a family. The concept of the Hawkeye Family, as we understood it during the Hayden era, seems to be just a relic. I don't mean families that feed the program (though we do seem overdue for a new crop of Hilgenbergs), but a healthy program where a recruit's involvement will last decades, not a year or two.

What respect can the players hold for a "family" that casts off such a ridiculously high amount of its constituents? With that erosion comes both a lack of senior leadership and a lack of alumni leadership, both desperately important for the development and sustainment of a successful program.

There are three seniors on offense this year. Three. They're all in the backfield (Sims, Young, Busch). Overall, there are only 12, and of them only nine have been scholarship athletes at Iowa since their freshman year. Who's out there providing the leadership for the rest of the guys on offense? Who's there to see their teammates' facebook pictures and tell them to knock that shit off? Can you even be surprised that 11 members of the team have been arrested since April?

There's only so much control that a coach himself can exert on his team or his group of players. When Kirk Ferentz extended the curfew to seven days a week earlier this season, he essentially admitted that the players were incapable of policing themselves.

The void lies in peer involvement, and as long as there remains such a large amount of guys leaving as soon as they feel unwanted, that sense of family and group will continue to go unseen.

In my book, that has a far more deleterious effect on both player morale and performance than whether or not an offensive coordinator throws enough passes to the left or whatever.

There is, of course, no easy or quick solution to this problem. Ferentz can't bring back any of the academic casualties or homesick players or anything. Attrition is a part of every college football program, and it sucks. I would strongly recommend, however, that the coach stop advising his leadership council to tell the freshmen that half their class will leave, and to start nurturing a mutual sense of commitment to the program from their first day on campus to long, long after graduation.