Georgia’s rise to football title aided by unmatched recruiting budget

January 12, 2022
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart talks to his team during their 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Georgia’s first football national championship in 41 years was built on many pillars, not the least of which is a financial commitment to recruiting that has been unmatched among Bowl Subdivision public schools.

Over the six-year period that began with the 2015 fiscal year, when Mark Richt was still its head coach, Georgia spent more than $14.8 million on football recruiting — an amount that is just over $3.2 million greater than the next-largest total, the $11.6 million spent by Alabama.

Georgia’s total was $5 million greater than the third-highest total, Tennessee’s, and more than double the sixth-highest total, Texas A&M’s.

The data come from the most recently available annual athletics revenue-and-expense reports the schools file with the NCAA, and that USA TODAY Sports has collected in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications through open-records requests.

Schools are instructed to define recruiting expenses as amounts for “transportation, lodging and meals for prospective student-athletes and institutional personnel on official and unofficial visits, telephone call charges, postage and such.” Schools are supposed to include the “value of use of institution’s own vehicles or airplanes as well as in-kind value of loaned or contributed transportation.”

Varying athletics-department and/or university accounting systems can result in a lack of uniformity in how these numbers are compiled for the reports to the NCAA, but that is unlikely to cover the gap between Georgia and other FBS schools.

In 2019 alone, Georgia reported spending nearly $3.7 million.

Still, Georgia’s march to the title, culminating in Monday night’s 33-18 victory over Alabama, showed that there is more to success on the field than spending money on recruiting. One of key players this season for the Bulldogs was the quarterback who began his career as a recruited walk-on, Stetson Bennett IV, a Georgia native who always wanted to play for the Bulldogs.

In addition, Cincinnati showed that success can be achieved with far fewer football recruiting dollars. During the six years beginning with fiscal 2015, Cincinnati spent a total of just over $2.1 million, according to its reports. That’s the 59th-highest total for the period — or, about $1.5 million less than what Georgia spent in 2019 alone.

In the three years prior to 2015, Georgia’s football recruiting expenses ranked 10th, 21st and seventh. In 2014, that 10th-highest total was just under $720,000, not adjusting for inflation. That increased to more than $1.3 million in 2015 and then to nearly $2.2 million in 2016, the fiscal year in which Smart was hired.

Since then, Georgia totals have been: $2.3 million, $2.6 million, $3.7 million and then $2.7 million in fiscal 2020, which was partially impacted by impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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