Georgia defensive back Malaki Starks (24) reacts as Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith (29) returns a blocked LSU field goal attempt for a touchdown in the first half of the Southeastern Conference Championship football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Recruiting Spending Soars in the SEC, others play catch up

There are many roads to the National Championship in the ultra-competitive SEC. If you ask the two-time reigning champion Georgia Bulldogs, the toll to the natty is $16,518,859. According to an examination of public documents obtained by USA Today for Power Five schools, the Bulldogs spent that much on recruiting between 2017 and 2022 — more than $5 million more than any other program in the nation during the same time frame. In fact, its recruiting budget was at least double that of 45 of the 51 other public schools in Power 5 conferences.

In addition to paying for recruits’ travel, housing and meals, recruiting costs include the value of the school’s own cars, planes, and other vehicles utilized for recruiting and additional staff for official and unofficial visits. The costs associated with recruitment do not include the salaries of coaches and support personnel. While spending does not guarantee success, seven of the last eight titles were won by schools in the top three in recruiting spending: Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson; begging the question: Who is spending big?

SEC: Means more, spends most

Spending on SEC recruitment is indicative of a conference home to the last four national champions. Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee are the top three national spenders over the previous five years. Texas A&M entered the high roller’s discussion during the 2022 cycle, spending nearly $3 million (almost quadruple its amount from 2020).

Georgia $4,506,248 $2,753,143
Texas A&M $2,984,168 $1,567,746
Tennessee $2,918,691 $1,788,183
Alabama $2,324,470 $1,912,050
Florida $1,641,320 $1,073,676
Auburn $1,307,480 $859,271
Ole Miss $1,269,391 $671,713
Arkansas $1,220,882 $1,098,022
Missouri $1,215,934 $699,049
South Carolina $1,102,357 $773,304
Kentucky $917,657 $703,094
LSU $742,713 $982,769
Mississippi State $633,482 $406,701

On the field, Alabama has fallen behind Georgia. Despite spending less money, Saban has maintained his recruiting success.

In six of the last seven years, Alabama’s signing classes have placed in the top two. Nonetheless, in contrast to rivals, it has maintained a relatively flat budget for hiring. Alabama spent an average of $2.36 million annually on recruiting from 2018 to 2020, ranking second overall. In 2022, it slid to No. 7 despite continuing to spend $2.32 million. In the 2023 class rankings, Alabama came in first place, just ahead of Georgia.

Spending Around the Country


You must spend like the greatest if you want to be the best. Spending on recruiting by Clemson is more than twice that of any other ACC program, and it is second only to Georgia among all programs nationwide. That makes the lone public ACC team in the top 15 and the No. 5 Talent Composite team in the nation. Mack Brown’s investment in North Carolina is likewise well deserving of praise.

On the other hand, Florida State’s spending on recruiting is quite low, placing them behind institutions like Texas Tech, California, and Virginia and in the bottom half of the Power Five. Under Mike Norvell, FSU has developed excellent classes, so it seems sense that the staff has increased their focus on the transfer site. Despite having a 47-28 record over the same span, NC State surprises by finishing in the bottom five of the Power Five.

Clemson $3,158,941 $1,661,691
North Carolina $1,306,117 $856,072
Georgia Tech $1,240,706 $763,426
Louisville $1,019,027 $659,819
Virginia $994,851 $641,396
Florida State $899,308 $1,257,758
Virginia Tech $898,675 $623,166
NC State $632,696 $538,879

Big Ten

It comes as no surprise that Jim Harbaugh places such a high priority on recruiting at Michigan as it has contributed to the Wolverines winning back-to-back Big Ten championships. However, in terms of outcomes, Ohio State’s recruiting program might be the best in the nation. The Buckeyes finished 21st in spending over the previous five years, but they have a number of top-five recruiting classes to show for it.

It’s simple to understand why Wisconsin believed it needed to change its course elsewhere. Under Paul Chryst, the Badgers spent the least on recruiting in the country during the previous five seasons, being the only team to spend less than $400,000 per season on average. Given that Luke Fickell is now bringing the program into the twenty-first century, anticipate that number to soar above $1 million.

Michigan $2,240,064 $1,353,431
Rutgers $1,609,032 $879,494
Penn State $1,486,521 $1,240,848
Maryland $1,380,974 $683,200
Ohio State $1,292,799 $845,113
Illinois $1,157,460 $749,850
Minnesota $1,127,389 $904,139
Nebraska $1,020,050 $937,279
Michigan State $955,303 $721,879
Purdue $878,651 $602,360
Wisconsin $857,490 $392,724
Indiana $826,713 $606,147
Iowa $577,589 $459,128

Big 12

Naturally, Texas and Oklahoma spend more on recruiting than the rest of the Big 12 and have the top 10 classes to show for it. Although it is important to note that TCU and Baylor, normally the next two most successful recruiting schools in the conference, the gap between the remainder of the league is enormous. After Joey McGuire took over the team, Texas Tech greatly strengthened its recruiting apparatus.


In the Pac-12, Oregon, and Washington naturally hold the top two spots on the list by a wide margin. Arizona’s spending exploded under new coach Jedd Fisch as the Wildcats put together one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory. To the contrary, Arizona State’s recruiting budget tanked under Herm Edwards as the Sun Devils faced NCAA violations for improper recruiting tactics during the pandemic.

Oregon $1,836,865 $1,027,045
Washington $1,464,753 $733,140
Arizona $1,312,678 $679,765
Utah $1,152,211 $873,088
California $1,041,868 $619,171
Oregon State $1,008,117 $727,442
UCLA $899,099 $673,583
Colorado $770,283 $569,888
Washington State $641,614 $449,554
Arizona State $461,196 $461,366


About Rafael De Los Santos

Junior studying Journalism - Sports & Media at the University of Florida

Check Also

Georgia and Alabama Matchup for SEC Championship Game

The Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will battle it out for the 2023 SEC …