How Much Did the BCS Top 25 Spend on Recruiting?

Last Updated on November 19, 2020

As I continue to write about the financial aspect of college athletics, I find myself wondering about things like how much money plays a role in winning. Is there one place where you can spend more money and increase your odds of competing for a championship? Or is the Athletic Director more of a conductor choosing which instruments to highlight and when in order to produce the best sounding symphony?

I thought it would be interesting to see how much spending on recruiting plays a role in football success. The numbers reflect recruiting expenses for the 2009-2010 school year.

One thing to note is that recruiting dollars are not broken down by sport, so the numbers you see below reflect the total amount spent on recruiting for all male athletes. Since football has the largest recruiting class and we can safely presume most schools spend the majority of their recruiting dollars on football, I think the numbers still paint an interesting picture.

Below you will see recruiting dollars spent during the 2009-2010 school year for each school in the 2010 BCS final standings, when presumably the athletes recruited with 2009-2010 dollars were then members of the team:

 SchoolRecruiting Expenses% of Total Expenses
6Ohio State$676,966.000.65%
9Michigan State$677,958.001.10%
10Boise State$158,355.000.63%
13Virginia Tech$625,207.001.24%
14Oklahoma State$414,655.000.69%
17Texas A&M$532,641.000.77%
20South Carolina$565,967.000.72%
21Mississippi State$416,333.001.15%
22West Virginia $669,844.001.18%
23Florida State$581,923.000.77%

Boise State is spending the paltry sum of $158,355, which is just 25% of the average. Only 26 of the 115 on the Broncos 2010 roster hailed from Idaho, with a huge percentage coming from as far away as California and Texas. Impressive that Boise State recruits so well on such a limited budget.

As an interesting side note, Boise State spends nearly as much on female recruiting as male, with female recruiting costs coming in at $123,287. That’s 44% of the total recruiting expenditures. Compare that to the leader for male recruiting expenses on this chart, Alabama, who only spends 26% of their recruiting expenditures on female recruiting. To complete the data needed for comparison, Alabama has 10 women’s teams and Boise State has 9 (with all track-related sports combined into one in each total).

The other thing that stood out to me was that Utah spent above average in terms of the percent of their total expenses advanced towards recruiting. In fact, they rank fourth overall in terms of percentage of total expenses spent on male recruiting. I was also surprised to see Ohio State and Michigan State from the Big Ten spending so much less than Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn from the SEC. The latter three make up the top three spenders overall on the list. Did this help them in their quest to move from a non-AQ conference to an AQ conference?

What surprised you from this list? If your school is on this list, how do you feel about what’s being spent on recruiting?


  • Kristi Dosh

    Kristi A. Dosh is the founder of and has served as a sports business analyst and contributor for outlets such as Forbes, ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and more. She is also the author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires. Kristi is a sought-after consultant and speaker on topics related to the business of college sports and a former practicing attorney. Click to learn more

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  • ucfmike
    April 21, 2011

    Auburn and Alabama’s expenses are so high because they have so many players on salary.

    • Jeff Speed
      April 21, 2011

      Too funny! RTR

  • Nathan C.
    April 21, 2011

    It shouldn’t be surprising that SEC schools spend so much more on recruiting than Big Ten schools. The Big Ten enforces very strict limits on the number of players a school can sign in a given year, whereas the SEC allows it’s schools to oversign, and they do on a very regular basis. When you can oversign it allows you to recruit more players, because you don’t have to stop at signing just 25. Signing 35 players every year means you’re going to need to spend more money.

  • worob
    April 21, 2011

    As a former reporter who covered recruiting very closely for, I can say that tradition plays a factor in recruiting more than anything. Players want to go to schools that have a history of winning championships. USC, Texas, Florida, etc. Those schools don’t have to spend as much money to attract recruits, especially since they are located in areas that are rich with football talent. They don’t need to fly all over the country looking to convince players to play for them. Kids grow up in those towns dreaming of one day playing for Florida, for example.

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 21, 2011

      worob, I agree with you…but I’m not sure all the numbers do. Alabama and Oklahoma, who both have tons of tradition, are some of the biggest spenders. Meanwhile, programs with less football tradition are spending far less. I would assume it’s more about budgetary restraints than anything.

      • Cesar
        April 22, 2011

        Compare Austin or la to tuscaloosa or Norman and it’s not hard to see why you have to spend money to get get kids to go there.

  • Justin
    April 21, 2011

    This is very interesting. Was the Rose Bowl really that much of an upset? Doesn’t look like it when TCU is willing to spend $655k on recruiting and Wisconsin only $473k.

    Not much of a surprise with Auburn and Alabama being the big spenders. I’d be interested to see how the investment in recruiting has paid off for them with their recent football national championships, and how much they’ve earned from them.

  • Kristi Dosh
    April 21, 2011

    UPDATE: I was alerted to a problem in my spreadsheet regarding TCU and have updated the chart to reflect the correct numbers.

  • Thomas
    April 21, 2011

    I don’t think the spending in the SEC is a big mystery. Competition for big-time recruits is fierce and year-round. Most importantly, SEC schools will continue to recruit players that are committed to other schools. This is in contrast to the Big Ten, for example, where there is a “gentleman’s agreement” that recruits who have committed to a school are off-limits. Naturally, this strategy drives up overall spending.

    Also, because of the fierce competition, even the big in-state schools are forced to spend money recruiting their backyard. This is in contrast to states like Texas or Ohio, where many in-state recruits will commit as soon as they are offered by the big in-state school (i.e. UT or tOSU).

  • Kristi Dosh
    April 21, 2011

    Thomas, if that’s true, it’s an excellent point. I’ve lived in SEC country (Atlanta, Columbia and Gainesville) all but 9 months of my life, so I’m definitely more well-versed in how recruiting goes down here.

    Big Ten fans, do you agree with Thomas?

  • Michael
    April 25, 2011

    Im not astonished at most of these results but the biggest suprise is Boise State. Also, tradition has to do with some recruiting but it does not have anything to do with a budget. These schools are allowed so much money to spend in recruiting. Boosters, donations and also each coach has a different style of recruiting and a different route for recruiting. Thats why Coach Sabans Crimson Tide does not suprise me its atop those spenders.

  • Hogustus
    June 14, 2011

    Arkansas has to bring in so many recruits from out of state and that helps drive up the cost. It also costs Arkansas more due to it being serviced by a regional airport and thus having higher flight costs. It wasn’t so bad when the schools could fly recruits in on their own planes but that was done away with. Many recruits are surprized, shocked even when they reach Northwest Arkansas due to it’s growth and the common misconception of it being nothing but barns and cattle.