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Ranking college football programs in recruiting spending

Nikki Chavanelle10/26/21
Ranking college football programs in recruiting spending Georgia Alabama Tennessee Clemson Arkansas
Mykel Williams takes an official visit to Georgia. (MykelW_50)

As coaching contracts get fatter, as do recruiting spending budgets for Power Five programs across the nation. Everyone knows you can’t skate by on good coaching alone, the jimmy’s and joe’s are equally as important. Recruiting the top prospects requires time, miles, and a whole lot of money.

Although we could see a drop in spending for the 2020 cycle, which saw recruits wooed almost exclusively virtually due to COVID-19, the 2019 cycle kept with the trend of increased spending. The programs spend recruiting budgets on travel, official visits, staff, scouting services and more.

Seventy-three percent of Power Five programs increased their recruiting spending from 2018 to 2019. Some programs, like Georgia, were just keeping with the status quo, while others increased spending in correlation with coaching staff revamps.

Kirby Smart and the University of Georgia spent $1 million more than the next highest-spending program, which was Alabama. The Bulldogs’ outlandish recruiting spending hasn’t led to a national title yet, but it could pay off very soon. As of Oct. 2021, they’re the favorite to win it all this year.

While a handful of teams spend more than $2 million a year on recruiting, there were still two Power Five schools spending less than half a million in 2019.

Here’s what public Power 5 conference programs told the NCAA they spent on football recruiting during the 2019 fiscal year.

2019 Power Five Recruiting Spending Ranked

  1. Georgia – $3,676,858
  2. Alabama – $2,663,467
  3. Tennessee – $2,247,289
  4. Clemson – $2,234,173
  5. Arkansas – $1,931,026
  6. Texas A&M – $1,673,204
  7. LSU – $1,607,148
  8. Penn State – $1,529,068
  9. Florida State – $1,503,142
  10. Michigan – $1,411,989
  11. Nebraska – $1,349,991
  12. Oklahoma – $1,276,908
  13. Texas – $1,275,368
  14. Florida – $1,271,821
  15. Oregon – $1,214,111
  16. Minnesota – $1,191,970
  17. Utah – $1,117,281
  18. Ohio State – $1,060,643
  19. Kentucky – $1,035,217
  20. Louisville – $989,030
  21. Rutgers – $983,916
  22. Auburn – $955,898
  23. Kansas – $954,751
  24. North Carolina – $949,631
  25. Iowa State – $935,487
  26. South Carolina – $931,666
  27. UCLA – $903,236
  28. Georgia Tech – $903,193
  29. Indiana – $859,046
  30. Missouri – $852,024
  31. Washington – $809,903
  32. Kansas State – $804,166
  33. Texas Tech – $796,741
  34. Michigan State – $788,358
  35. Purdue – $779,477
  36. Colorado – $775,312
  37. NC State – $765,302
  38. Arizona – $765,160
  39. West Virginia – $754,578
  40. Oregon State – $747,856
  41. Virginia – $745,347
  42. California – $716,207
  43. Illinois – $683,592
  44. Ole Miss – $669,364
  45. Iowa – $664,244
  46. Oklahoma State – $583,911
  47. Maryland – $548,699
  48. Arizona State – $525,099
  49. Washington State – $503,936
  50. Mississippi State – $435,224
  51. Wisconsin – $431,352

Spending by Conference

Helped out a great deal by Georgia’s whopping sum, the SEC leads all other Power Five conferences in recruiting spending. The average member spent $1,532,323 on recruiting in 2019. That ranges from Georgia ($3.6 million) at the top to Mississippi State ($435,224) at the bottom.

The difference in spending could be attributed to a number of things. For starters, while Georgia recruits heavily in the Peach State, they also go after the best players in any state. Mississippi State recruited more than half of their 2019 class from within the state’s borders and they tend to be more successful recruiting regionally.

The benefits of massive budgets are evident when you look at Georgia, Alabama and Clemson, but Arkansas and Tennessee are outliers. Both programs have hired new coaches since 2019 and despite positive momentum, neither are close to winning their division.

After the SEC, the ACC spends $1,155,688 per program on recruiting. However, only two programs spend above that average (Clemson, Florida State). There’s no doubt the Tigers’ recruiting efforts (and spending) have contributed to their ACC dominance in the Dabo Swinney era.

The Big Ten just edges out the Big 12 in average member spending. The Big Ten, led by Penn State and Michigan, spends $944,795 per member on recruiting. Big 12 programs spend an average of $922,738.

The Pac-12 came in fifth in the 2019 recruiting spending rankings, spending $807,820 per member.

Programs with recent coaching turnover like Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Texas Tech all increased spending year over year by more than 48%.