“Scared money don’t make no money.” Wait for a second with this one. That Young Jeezy lyric can apply to Georgia football and the way it now invests in the program.
Jeezy dropped that line in 2009 with Lil Wayne. It stays in heavy rotation among hip-hop music. Those words parallel the way Georgia has allocated funding to attack every recruiting day for the last few years.
Georgia broke Bulldogs broke Alabama’s seven-year run of No. 1 classes on the 247Sports Team Composite ratings in 2018. According to a recent report by The Stadium, the Bulldogs also spent $803,000 more than any other program on recruiting for that fiscal year.
Smart has definitely upgraded all things football (stadium, IPFs, locker rooms, etc.) at Georgia. It means the administration at UGA is also supporting what he believes will benefit the program.
In turn, that usually comes back to supporting the university by attracting more applicants for admission, too.
More than a few DawgNation readers had that same “scared money” thought when they saw that report. It summarized the costs dozens of Power 5 programs reported to the NCAA for recruiting expenditures during the 2017-2018 recruiting cycle.
With that $2.6 million, Bulldogs were able to sign a modern record haul of seven prospects with a 5-star rating in the 2018 cycle. Conversely, the lowest expenditure in that report details $250,000 in recruiting costs for the University of Houston for that year. The Cougars wound up with the nation’s No. 73 recruiting class.
How does that $2.6 million compare to how much the previous staff at UGA spent on recruiting?
Dawgnation.com found a report from the Des Moines Register that stated that the Bulldogs spent a total of $3,130,696 from 2009-2013. That figure breaks down to an average of $626,139 per fiscal year.
But that already seems like a different era compared to today.
Alabama never spent more than $983,721 during those five years. Georgia Tech actually spent $3,741,067 on football recruiting during that same span.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has raised the standard for college football recruiting spending in Athens. (Curtis Compton/AJC)
Georgia football: What the competition spent on recruiting
Texas came in at No. 2 in recruiting spending per that report at $1,823,307 for 2018.
Florida offers an example of how a certain measure of financial investment matters on the two signing days. The Gators are cited with spending $1,155,802 on the recruiting trail for 2018. That rates 11th in those findings.
Georgia’s SEC rival parlayed those costs in the nation’s No. 14 recruiting class for 2018.
How much of a difference does that make in terms of those elite recruits? The Stadium reports the Gators signed 30 prospects with a 4-star rating in their 2018 and 2019 classes. The data in that chart has the Bulldogs matching Florida’s number of 4-stars and raising the bar with 12 more prospects with a 5-star rating across those years.
Florida did not sign any 5-stars in that span.
The Bulldogs are credited with signing 42 of those elite (defined as 4 or 5-star recruits) in 2018 and 2019. Texas had the next-closest total in that regard with 36. While that data might say something about how spending money equates to attracting elite recruits, that is far from the universal approach.
Ohio State was cited with $944,354 in football recruiting costs for 2018. That program was still able to sign 35 of those elite 4 and 5-star recruits. The Buckeyes even signed the nation No. 2 class behind Georgia in 2018.
That said, the big-budget thinking allowed Georgia to garner a decided edge in signing 5-stars. As stated earlier, the Bulldogs did sign 12 of those 5-star prospects. No other school in that study was able to sign more than six. Ohio State and Texas managed six of those 5-stars, respectively.
The Bulldogs signed as many 5-stars as the second and third-best programs in this specific comparison.
Scared money does not sign the 5-stars. Bold money does. That’s what Smart and Georgia are saying right now with this level of spending on the recruiting trail.
Georgia football: What Alabama spent on football recruiting
Ah, Alabama. There’s how Georgia is doing compared to the rest of the country and then there is the Tide. It seems there is always the standard set by Nick Saban’s dynasty in Tuscaloosa.
That report from The Stadium didn’t have Alabama (or Auburn, among others) on their list of 50-something schools and their expenditures on college football recruiting.
That requires a bit more digging. The Knight Commission publishes an annual report on college athletic spending. It has Alabama with $2.67 million in total recruiting costs for all of its sports in 2017.
We are comparing 2018 to 2017 spending, but that’s a close enough sample to see the Bulldogs spent almost as much on football recruiting in 2018 as the Crimson Tide spent on recruiting for all of its sports in 2017.
That’s interesting, but a few more web searches reveal the Bulldogs LIKELY spent a lot more in football recruiting for 2018 than the Tide did for that same fiscal year.
An AL.com report offered more detail to that $2.7 million (approximate) figure for recruiting amid all athletics spending. Those findings state Alabama spent $1.5 million on football recruiting out of that $2.7 million.
To be very clear, those numbers are for 2017 spending. Not 2018. But a safe hypothesis would be to project the Crimson Tide did not spend approximately $1,000,000 more on football recruiting than the previous year.
It is likely the Bulldogs spent significantly more on football recruiting than Alabama did in 2018, too.
That’s all part of trying to overtake the nation’s most talented program year-in and year-out for the last decade.
What goes into those costs?
Georgia now hosts several impressive recruiting weekends for a small batch of elite recruits every year. The potential signees do not think about hot dogs, juice pops, paper plates and red Solo cups with these things.
Under Smart, the Bulldogs have upgraded their recruiting staff in all areas. It is not just player evaluation and analysts to pore over potential signees. That also includes a staff of creatives that turn around those impressive edits for everything from offer letters, official visit announcements to good luck messages for the top targets with Friday night’s game. That team also takes pictures of all the recruits in the locker room. Those moments resemble a professional studio photoshoot.
The Bulldogs now have several luxury vehicles at their disposal. Not just golf carts. Those will whisk recruits from the airport on officials and across campus during visits. Those rides are now equipped with large screen TVs in custom areas which will show highlight videos and also information about the school and Athens area.
It is not known if those vehicles were purchased, rented or leased. But they are clearly costs associated with riding those elite prospects around in top-of-the-line motor carriages.
A successful recruiting weekend just took place which featured transforming an area of the Woodruff practice fields into a slip-n-slide wonderland. The festivities featured other summer games like bean bag tosses, frisbee throws, water balloon fights and “Super Soaker” water gun arsenals.
The new recruiting lounge in the West End Zone expansion at Sanford Stadium also needed to be outfitted with the latest in video game consoles and TVs. That area also features attractive marquees touting the program’s NFL pipelines, including the salaries those former players have earned.
Those helicopter rides to more efficiently visit up to a half-dozen schools each day in congested Metro areas like Atlanta also carry a price tag.
Georgia has clearly now expanded its geographic footprint on the trail. The Bulldogs signed 18 players from out-of-state programs, plus two more out-of-state transfers. This included Kanas, Michigan, Rhode Island and Texas. The days of recruiting largely Georgians and border states around the SEC will no longer be the norm.
The 2020 recruiting effort will project the same disparity with out-of-state prospects. The Bulldogs might not even sign a third of the next class from Georgia high schools.
Multiple trips to check out top targets in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C. will increase the bottom line cost for 2020 recruiting.
The bottom line on UGA recruiting spending since 2015
The Knight Commission is a watchdog organization. The independent group is chartered under the mindset of promoting reforms that reinforce the educational mission of college sports. It was established in 1989 to promote reform after a series of athletics scandals and low graduation rates in college football and men’s basketball threatened the integrity of higher education.
The database of financial disclosures on their site also tracks how much UGA spent on all athletic recruiting, among other things, all the way back to 2005. Georgia’s numbers since Smart was hired in December of 2015 do indicate a greater commitment toward the recruiting budget.
- 2015: $2.37 million
- 2016: $3.51 million
- 2017: $3.44 million
The 2017 median averages for recruiting spending for all Football Bowl Subdivision and also all SEC schools are listed at $1.02 and $2.16 million, respectively. It seems like Smart’s arrival has triggered an onus to “do more” across the board in this line item on the balance sheet.
The financial information for 2018 is not yet available from the Knight Commission at this time.
Bottom line: The Bulldogs are putting a lot of brass behind their recruiting expenditures on all sports. Not just football recruiting spending when compared to the rest of the SEC.