Following The Money: A Brief Look At Recruiting Success

There are many factors that influence recruits when selecting their future school like location, academic prestige, facilities, cost of tuition, etc… but what about how much a school is willing to spend on them? Is a program likely to land higher rated recruits if they spend more money recruiting them? I don’t mean the Bag Man (Meet The Bag Man by Steven Godfrey at SBNation) or under the table payments, I mean good ole fashioned endless lobster and steak dinners.

The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act requires all postsecondary education that participate in a Title IV federal assistance program and have intercollegiate athletics to create an annual report that contains staffing, expense, and revenue information by men’s and women’s teams. According to the EADA reporting rules, “Recruiting expenses are all expenses an institution incurs attributable to recruiting activities. This includes, but is not limited to, expenses for lodging, meals, telephone use, and transportation (including vehicles used for recruiting purposes) for both recruits and personnel engaged in recruiting, and other expenses for official and unofficial visits, and all other expenses related to recruiting.” To simplify it, a recruiting expense is any amount of money a school spent in the act of recruiting. The average P-5 school spent nearly $2,100,000 in 2016 towards recruiting for men’s sports while the Top Ranked CFB schools averaged $1,400,000. Which schools came away winners and who spent too much?

The Numbers

Spending By Conference

Conference Average Total Average Football Rank Average Basketball Rank
SEC $1,448,797 $20,283,154 21.7 39.6
ACC $1,088,001 $17,408,016 35.9 53.7
B1G $1,108,512 $15,519,163 35.9 76.6
PAC 12 $957,412 $11,488,942 33.5 34.3
Big 12 $1,036,518 $10,365,178 40.9 45.4

Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Name Spent  Football Rank  Basketball Rank
Alabama $2,227,636 1 5
Ohio State $1,200,471 2 67
Georgia $2,733,759 3 46
 USC $1,197,990 4  22
 Michigan $1,807,653 5 39
Florida State $1,069,374 6 18
 LSU $1,367,641 7 58
Oklahoma $1,490,870 8 20
 Auburn $1,594,488 9 38
Notre Dame $1,648,761 10 84
Florida  $1,401,267 11 30
Texas A&M $1,515,148 12 14
Miami (FL) $945,659 13 9
Stanford $1,000,309 14 50
Penn State $1,620,745 15 151
Clemson $1,453,730 16 40
Tennessee $1,914,153 17 51
Maryland $753,705 18 49
Oregon $1,178,077 19 12
UCLA $786,650 20 2
South Carolina $948,678 21 54
Washington $989,391 22 4
Nebraska $1,504,068 23 117
Mississippi State $830,488 24 28
Virginia Tech $1,010,942 25 16

Top 10 Spenders

Pardon the quality of the chart.

Fun Facts

Biggest Spender: Georgia – $2,733,759 @ #3 CFB & #46 CBB

Ballin’ On A Budget: UCLA – $786,650 @ #20 CFB & #2 CBB

Most Bang For Buck: Miami (FL) – $945,659 @ #13 CFB & #9 CBB

Burning Daddy’s Money: Tennessee – $1,914,153 @ #17 CFB & #51 CBB

Will Work For Food: Oklahoma State – $549,366 @ #37 CFB & #64 CBB

Haters Gonna Hate: 10 Schools have a top 25 ranking in both CFB & CBB (4 PAC 12, 3 SEC, 3 ACC)

SEC SEC SEC: The SEC spent nearly twice as much as the Big 12 and it pays off with nearly double the average football ranking and marginally better basketball rankings. The top 5 SEC schools spend more than the Big 12 and are within a couple thousand dollars of the PAC 12. Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee are the three biggest spenders in P-5 and represent 34% of the entire SEC’s recruitment expenses at nearly $6,900,000. Georgia alone spends more on men’s recruiting than the lowest four P-5 schools combined.

Does Spending More Net Better Recruits?

According to the data gathered it depends on the sport, basketball has a positive correlation while football has a negative correlation. This is most likely due to the fact that schools are limited in the total amount of scholarships they can offer, 13 for basketball and 85 total for football (generally ~25% of those scholarships are given to incoming players) and limited roster space. The recruiting budgets per sport are not publically available but schools with a larger budget are most likely able to allocate more per individual recruit given the lower number of potential recruits in basketball. For example $200,000 spent recruiting 50 basketball players competing for 4 scholarships would be comparable to $1,000,000 spent recruiting 250 football players competing for 20 scholarships. $4,000 per player may seem like a lot but if you break down the expenses that is a middle end estimation.

Two Day Scouting Trip

Task Estimated Cost
Round Trip Flight $300-$800
Car Rental $50-$100
Hotel $50-$200
Food $60-$150
Labor1 $180-$250
Total $640-$1500 per scout

1. The average scout makes $31,000/year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, assumes 12-16 hours of work per trip.

Official Weekend Visit

Task Estimated Cost
Round Trip Flight $900-$2400
Recruit Pickup $20-$100
Food $120-$500
Lodging $150-$600
Total $1190-$3600 per player

*Assumes two parents accompany recruit

With these estimated figures schools will be looking at $1800-$5100 per recruit. These expenses are in addition to hosting camps and other larger scale recruiting methods which can help spread recruiting costs over a number of recruits.

TL;DR – Among P-5 schools there is no meaningful positive correlation between money spent recruiting and recruiting success in football. There is a slight positive correlation between recruiting expenses and recruiting success in basketball.

Data gathered from the Department of Education’s EADA reports and 247Sports Composite Rankings.