This Is How Much It Costs to Land One of College Football’s Top Recruiting Classes

It’s not an exact science, but if you want to know how strong of a recruiting class your favorite college football team is likely to enroll, look at the school’s financial investment towards recruiting.

Stadium obtained the NCAA Financial Reports for the 2018 fiscal year for more than 50 FBS schools, most of which play in a Power Five conference. These reports are submitted to the NCAA annually, and they list detailed financial data regarding the operating revenue and expenses for each school’s athletic department.

That includes how much schools spent on recruiting.

Among the schools examined, Georgia’s $2.6 million spent on football recruiting in 2017-18 ranked first, and that spending yielded the No. 1 recruiting class in 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Houston ranked last among the programs examined at just over $250,000 spent on recruiting, which led to the Cougars enrolling the No. 73 recruiting class.

While there’s a parallel conversation to be had regarding the relationship between recruiting rankings and wins in college football, and which schools over- or under-achieved based upon the star-rankings of the players they enroll, there’s no denying that there’s a correlation between the amount schools spend on recruiting and their recruiting class rankings.

The scatter plot below presents that type of relationship for 51 FBS schools, showing the football recruiting expenses listed on each school’s NCAA Financial Report for the 2018 fiscal year (x-axis) and each school’s corresponding 2018 recruiting class ranking, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings (y-axis).

Here’s the same chart, but labeled with the schools that spent at least $1 million, or close to it, on recruiting.

Generally speaking, there’s a negative relationship between spending and class ranking, meaning the more a school spends on recruiting, the lower (read: better) its recruiting class ranking will be.

Sure, there are exceptions like Kansas’ $1.14 million spent on recruiting resulting in the No. 60 recruiting class in 2018 and Mississippi State pulling in the No. 27 class despite barely spending over $450,000, but those exceptions hint at the impact that a school’s recent and historical success (or the lack thereof) has in recruiting.

We’ll touch on the roles that those factors play in recruiting later, but first, here’s the complete breakdown of the football recruiting expenses for the schools examined from the 2018 fiscal year and how each school’s 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes ranked.

The schools are listed in descending order of their football recruiting expenses from last fiscal year. The first column, labeled “Power Five Spending Ranking,” lists where each school’s recruiting spending in 2018 ranked among the Power Five schools examined.

Note: Football recruiting data for Arkansas and Tennessee is unavailable due to state records laws. Baylor, Boston College, Duke, Miami (FL), Northwestern, Notre Dame, Stanford, Syracuse, TCU, USC, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest are private institutions, which means they’re exempt from public records laws. Pittsburgh is a state-related institution, which means it is not subject to state records laws.

Update: After the publishing of this story, Stadium later obtained the 2018 NCAA Financial Reports for Alabama, Auburn, Virginia and Virginia Tech, whose data has since been added to the data tables below.

Power Five Spending Ranking Among Schools Examined School Football Recruiting Expenses in FY18 2018 Recruiting Class Ranking 2019 Recruiting Class Ranking 4/5-Star Recruits in Last Two Classes
1 Georgia $2,626,622 1st 2nd 42 (30/12)
2 Alabama $2,344,057 5th 1st 41 (36/5)
3 Texas $1,823,307 3rd 3rd 36 (32/4)
4 Clemson $1,790,976 7th 10th 25 (19/6)
5 Texas A&M $1,710,101 17th 4th 29 (27/2)
6 Florida State $1,581,347 11th 19th 22 (22/0)
7 Michigan $1,397,784 22nd 8th 23 (21/2)
8 Penn State $1,369,428 6th 13th 33 (29/4)
9 LSU $1,287,344 15th 5th 27 (23/4)
10 Oklahoma $1,264,809 9th 6th 29 (25/4)
11 Nebraska $1,250,674 23rd 18th 13 (13/0)
12 Florida $1,155,802 14th 9th 30 (30/0)
13 Kansas $1,141,379 60th 68th 3 (3/0)
14 Auburn $1,081,836 12th 11th 29 (27/2)
15 Minnesota $1,081,075 38th 45th 3 (3/0)
16 Iowa State $1,079,430 55th 46th 3 (3/0)
17 Utah $1,052,271 33rd 42nd 6 (6/0)
18 Oregon $997,019 13th 7th 24 (23/1)
19 North Carolina $984,871 20th 32nd 11 (11/0)
20 Ohio State $944,354 2nd 14th 35 (29/6)
21 South Carolina $861,747 18th 17th 15 (14/1)
22 Rutgers $824,271 56th 64th 0 (0/0)
23 Kentucky $791,863 36th 34th 6 (6/0)
24 Michigan State $766,139 31st 30th 5 (5/0)
25 UCLA $764,620 19th 40th 10 (10/0)
26 Illinois $739,680 53rd 53rd 5 (5/0)
27 Virginia $727,972 59th 39th 1 (1/0)
28 Louisville $724,742 30th 70th 5 (5/0)
29 Oklahoma State $715,492 34th 38th 5 (5/0)
30 Washington $714,872 16th 16th 25 (25/0)
31 Ole Miss $704,836 32nd 22nd 11 (10/1)
32 Indiana $692,972 49th 36th 3 (3/0)
33 Missouri $685,834 43rd 37th 3 (3/0)
34 Oregon State $674,239 69th 66th 0 (0/0)
35 Cal $647,842 42nd 43rd 3 (3/0)
36 Colorado $635,077 52nd 44th 2 (2/0)
37 West Virginia $626,311 35th 48th 4 (4/0)
38 Iowa $608,755 39th 41st 3 (3/0)
39 Georgia Tech $585,680 54th 51st 3 (3/0)
40 Virginia Tech $563,744 24th 26th 14 (14/0)
41 Purdue $555,565 51st 25th 5 (5/0)
42 NC State $548,062 26th 29th 10 (10/0)
43 Arizona $545,968 61st 54th 1 (1/0)
44 Maryland $539,299 28th 47th 7 (7/0)
45 Texas Tech $535,362 72nd 61st 1 (1/0)
46 Arizona State $531,807 37th 31st 6 (6/0)
47 Washington State $523,791 45th 65th 2 (2/0)
48 Kansas State $509,760 66th 62nd 0 (0/0)
49 Mississippi State $453,116 27th 24th 12 (11/1)
(Non-Power Five) Connecticut $432,480 106th 126th 0 (0/0)
(Non-Power Five) Boise State $414,229 57th 50th 6 (6/0)
(Non-Power Five) Cincinnati $374,630 47th 79th 1 (1/0)
(Non-Power Five) East Carolina $369,776 89th 78th 0 (0/0)
50 Wisconsin $350,695 44th 28th 4 (3/1)
(Non-Power Five) Houston $251,975 73rd 73rd 0 (0/0)


[RELATED: These Schools Have Been Ranked the Most Often in the CFP Era]

Another interesting lens to examine the investment FBS schools put into their football programs is to compare a school’s football recruiting spending to its total investment into recruiting prospective student-athletes across all sports.

A lot of the institutions examined are considered “football schools” due to football being their highest revenue-generating sport, but the data below shows just how big of a priority football recruiting is to each university in the context of its entire athletic department.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Georgia, Clemson, Florida State, Texas and Texas A&M atop the chart.

The financial numbers listed below are also from the 2018 fiscal year.

School Football Recruiting Spending Recruiting Spending For All Sports Percent Spent On Football
Alabama $2,344,057 $3,310,990 70.7%
Georgia $2,626,622 $3,990,422 65.8%
Clemson $1,790,976 $2,804,471 63.8%
Florida State $1,581,347 $2,557,066 61.8%
Texas $1,823,307 $3,199,072 56.9%
Texas A&M $1,710,101 $3,036,727 56.3%
Colorado $635,077 $1,144,052 55.5%
Utah $1,052,271 $1,964,161 53.5%
Boise State $414,229 $773,739 53.5%
Oregon $997,019 $1,878,901 53.0%
Iowa State $1,079,430 $2,038,311 52.9%
North Carolina $984,871 $1,883,458 52.2%
Auburn $1,081,836 $2,083,737 51.9%
Penn State $1,369,428 $2,708,778 50.5%
Oklahoma $1,264,809 $2,542,581 49.7%
Florida $1,155,802 $2,329,421 49.6%
Nebraska $1,250,674 $2,545,583 49.1%
Kansas $1,141,379 $2,326,971 49.0%
Minnesota $1,081,075 $2,215,207 48.8%
LSU $1,287,344 $2,661,602 48.3%
UCLA $764,620 $1,620,167 47.1%
Oregon State $674,239 $1,443,224 46.7%
Michigan $1,397,784 $3,011,982 46.4%
Cal $647,842 $1,397,437 46.3%
East Carolina $369,776 $805,605 45.9%
Michigan State $766,139 $1,689,263 45.3%
Georgia Tech $585,680 $1,313,034 44.6%
Rutgers $824,271 $1,881,103 43.8%
Cincinnati $374,630 $856,882 43.7%
Virginia $727,972 $1,740,460 41.8%
Ole Miss $704,836 $1,683,435 41.8%
Missouri $685,834 $1,657,753 41.3%
Maryland $539,299 $1,308,607 41.2%
Washington State $523,791 $1,269,423 41.2%
Washington $714,872 $1,740,611 41.0%
South Carolina $861,747 $2,128,667 40.4%
West Virginia $626,311 $1,546,908 40.4%
Oklahoma State $715,492 $1,817,717 39.3%
Louisville $724,742 $1,847,150 39.2%
Purdue $555,565 $1,459,650 38.0%
Kansas State $509,760 $1,391,023 36.6%
Arizona $545,968 $1,495,385 36.5%
Houston $251,975 $698,178 36.0%
Illinois $739,680 $2,069,031 35.7%
Iowa $608,755 $1,712,668 35.5%
Virginia Tech $563,744 $1,588,752 35.4%
Arizona State $531,807 $1,543,683 34.4%
Ohio State $944,354 $2,819,239 33.4%
Mississippi State $453,116 $1,353,555 33.4%
Indiana $692,972 $2,125,054 32.6%
NC State $548,062 $1,781,451 30.7%
Connecticut $432,480 $1,406,823 30.7%
Kentucky $791,863 $2,718,456 29.1%
Texas Tech $535,362 $1,833,803 29.1%
Wisconsin $350,695 $1,224,327 28.6%


[RELATED: Here’s What Schools Have Accomplished Since Current Recruits Were Born]

Conference Comparison

Here’s a conference-by-conference look at how much every Power Five school spends on recruiting across all sports and what percentage of that money goes towards football recruiting.

While we can’t obtain the NCAA Financial Report for private schools or schools from certain states due to state records laws, we can find out how much schools spent on recruiting across all men’s and women’s sports through their Equity in Athletics Data Analysis reports, which are publicly accessible.

For each conference, the schools are listed in ascending order of their total recruiting spending.


Football recruiting data for Boston College, Duke, Miami (FL), Syracuse and Wake Forest is unavailable since they’re private institutions. Data for Pittsburgh is unavailable since it’s a state-related institution. Data for Virginia and Virginia Tech is unavailable due to the state’s public records laws.

Big 12

Football recruiting data for Baylor and TCU is unavailable since they are private institutions.

Big Ten

Football recruiting data for Northwestern is unavailable since it’s a private institution.


Football recruiting data for Stanford and USC is unavailable since they are private institutions.


Football recruiting data for Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee is unavailable since public records requests in those states are limited to residents. Data for Vanderbilt is unavailable since it’s a private institution.

Where does the money go?

You might be wondering what types of expenses schools incur when they assemble a 20-some-player recruiting class through the work of the head coach, 10 assistant coaches and behind-the-scenes, on-campus recruiting personnel.

Stadium obtained an itemized list of LSU and Oregon’s football recruiting-related expenses from the 2018 calendar year to find the answers.

(Note: This data is different from the fiscal year numbers from the universities’ NCAA Financial Reports.)

The charts below show the types of expenses (as defined by the universities) and expense amounts for a pair of major Power Five programs that invest heavily in football recruiting.


Category Expenses
Special Recruiting Meals $149,628.16
Airfare $140,322.20
Other Rentals $92,713.78
Publications/Subscriptions $85,289.90
Lodging $57,144.17
Other Specialty Services $54,600.00
Potential Student-Athlete Airfare $48,777.50
Software Subscriptions and Licenses $45,991.90
Rental Cars $37,939.95
Charter Bus Rental $20,880.00
Potential Student-Athlete Lodging $20,103.00
Per Diems $17,813.00
Other Supplies $15,229.92
Miscellaneous for Potential Student-Athletes $11,398.57
Advertising $10,000.00
Printing, Binding and Duplication $7,718.39
Potential Student-Athlete Mileage $6,809.00
Shuttles and Taxis $6,562.03
Mileage $5,705.32
Non-Employee/Guest Travel $6,450.50
Gas for Rental Cars $4,885.93
Promotional Supplies $4,452.34
Salaries and Wages (Wages as Earned) $7,200.00
Envelopes $2,860.00
Parking $2,818.34
Office Products and Supplies $2,639.26
Single-Day Meals $2,609.00
Postage and Stamps $2,607.49
Sports and Recreational Supplies $2,034.24
Miscellaneous Travel Expenses $1,931.39
Audio/Visual Concert Equipment Rentals $1,800.00
Salaries and Wages (Professional & Academic – Extra Compensation) $2,400.00
Other Operating Services – Miscellaneous $1,197.50
Fringe Benefits Expense $1,618.82
Baggage Fees $375.00
Tolls $135.46
Special Meal – Business Meeting/Event $52.00
Event Admission $28.00
Tips $5.00
TOTAL $882,727.06



Category Expense Amount
Air Travel $272,580.03
Hosting Groups & Guests $228,725.77
Lodging $171,040.87
Software Subscriptions/Licensing Services $96,520.00
Ground Transportation $85,914.45
Shuttle Service $49,085.22
Fees & Services $42,224.09
Professional Photography Services $29,882.81
Non-IT Equipment Rentals $27,949.29
Cell Phone $22,118.80
Procurement Card Purchases $19,130.62
Per Diems $18,887.50
Int Exp Internal Bank Earnings Dist $12,162.54
Duplicating & Copying $11,300.76
Reimbursement S&S Exp to Employee $7,527.08
Athletic Supplies $7,427.88
Performance Fees $6,450.00
Computer and IT Peripherals <$5,000 $6,266.75
Printing & Publishing $4,217.15
Selling & Marketing Costs $3,996.00
Minor Equipment (under $5,000/unit) $3,956.97
Miscellaneous Supplies $3,808.22
Automotive Fuel $3,285.90
Maintenance Materials $3,032.00
Telecom Recurring Charges $2,490.00
Postage $2,187.04
Miscellaneous Fees & Services $1,907.25
Student Pay $1,868.83
Student Meals $1,851.80
Temporary Employees Pay $1,230.00
Overtime $1,053.19
Office & Administrative Supplies $540.52
Miscellaneous Travel $467.34
Audio/Video Equipment and Supplies $442.64
Express Mail $429.60
Photography Supplies $319.96
Software License $298.99
Books Publication & Other Reference Materials $282.29
Event Services $162.00
Overtime Meal Allowance $65.00
Miscellaneous Rentals $60.00
Non-Employee Travel $20.00
Credit Card Discounts $8.79
Dues & Memberships $5.00
TOTAL $1,153,180.94


Upward trajectory in spending

Florida State’s recruiting budget increased by 8.69 percent to $1,718,898 for the 2018-19 fiscal year compared to its recruiting spending of $1,581,347 from the 2017-18 fiscal year.

If the university’s football recruiting budget continues to increase at that rate, the Seminoles will spend more than $2 million annually on football recruiting during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

That upward trajectory isn’t unique to FSU.

Georgia, which landed the No. 1 recruiting class last year, spent $2.6 million on recruiting during the 2018 fiscal year and for a program that nearly won the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and has gone toe-to-toe with Alabama in each of the last two seasons, it was arguably worth every penny.

And if you look closer at another SEC contender, you see that since the start of the 2011 fiscal year, LSU’s spending on football recruiting has more than quadrupled, which is outlined in the chart below that shows data from the Tigers’ last 15 NCAA Financial Reports.

Fiscal Year LSU Football’s Recruiting Spending LSU’s Recruiting Class Ranking
2004 $413,955 4th
2005 $378,256 14th
2006 $320,774 8th
2007 $352,720 5th
2008 $425,712 13th
2009 $427,833 1st
2010 $450,649 9th
2011 $302,882 8th
2012 $382,717 13th
2013 $577,442 6th
2014 $523,543 2nd
2015 $822,294 5th
2016 $821,042 2nd
2017 $866,544 7th
2018 $1,287,344 15th


As shown by the “Recruiting Class Ranking” column, LSU is essentially a lock to enroll a top-15 recruiting class in the modern era of college football, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

In addition to being the flagship school in the talent-rich state of Louisiana with recruiting hotbeds like Texas, Florida and Mississippi nearby, LSU can sell its annual appearances in bowl games, plus relatively recent conference and national championships.

During the lifetime of 2020’s top recruits, the Tigers are one of the six most accomplished college football programs and second among SEC schools, behind only the juggernaut that its former coach, Nick Saban, has built at Alabama.

LSU has won at least eight games in every season this century, and while an 8-4 regular season won’t cut it in Baton Rouge, that’s a pretty stable floor for a program that has proven capable of winning 12 or 13 games a year.

The Tigers have finished in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 Poll on 22 occasions – a number that’s only bested by Oklahoma (42), Ohio State (38), Michigan (38), Nebraska (30), Texas (27), Penn State (26) and Georgia (23) among the schools examined.

Each of those schools enrolled a top-25 recruiting class in 2018, including five in the top 10.

That speaks to the relationship between the number of times a school has finished a season ranked in the top 10 and its 2018 recruiting class ranking — our attempt to measure the impact that selling points like “history” or “tradition” have on the recruiting trail in the present day.

Here’s a graph showing that relationship.

However, unlike some of its counterparts mentioned above, LSU has also shown more consistency and high-level success in the last two decades.

The following scatter plots show the relationships between:

  • A school’s 2018 recruiting class ranking and its win total in the previous season
  • A school’s 2018 recruiting class ranking and its win total in the previous four seasons
  • A school’s 2018 recruiting class ranking and its final Football Outsiders S&P+ rating from 2017*


*The S&P+ ratings are a national, 1-to-130 ranking system based upon analysis of play-by-play and drive data from every college football game each season.

What does it all mean?

After analyzing annual million-dollar investments into recruiting, recent win totals and historical AP polls, we’re left with a recipe that tells us the surest way to land an elite recruiting class is to:

1.) invest at least $750,000 annually (but more likely at least $1.2 million) in recruiting,
2.) field a football team that has recently experienced high-level success, and
3.) be able to boast about your program’s proven winning culture.

But how many schools can check all three boxes?

Among the schools examined, 20 of the 51 programs have finished in the top 10 of the AP poll in five or fewer seasons all time, while just six schools have had a top-10 finish at least 25 times.

Most schools don’t have the history of Oklahoma, Ohio State or Texas.

That raises an interesting “chicken-or-the-egg”-type question: Is there a strong enough correlation between a school’s recruiting budget and recruiting class ranking that suggests college football programs could potentially funnel large sums of money into their recruiting and receive an immediate payoff by building a more talented roster full of 4- and 5-star recruits?

Or do schools first need to win at a high level to show blue-chip recruits (and university officials, fans and boosters) that it’s possible to win 10-plus games and challenge for conference championships consistently?

In other words, can an increased recruiting budget act as a shortcut to assembling a more talented roster in the future even if a school’s on-field results, recruiting footprint and/or program history don’t align with the profile of programs that typically land a ton of 4- and 5-star recruits?

Increased funding could lead to more private flights, allowing a team’s coaching staff to expand its recruiting footprint, evaluate more players and see prospects more often.

Sure, you’d have to make a significant financial investment to assemble an elite recruiting class, but does that mean that if a team like Rutgers spent $2 million annually on recruiting, would the Scarlet Knights consistently enroll top-10 recruiting classes?

Or would the inverse be true that if Clemson’s recruiting budget was slashed to one-third of its current value and its football program only had $600,000 to work with per year to land the next wave of Tigers, would they only land a handful of blue-chip recruits?

Our immediate gut reaction to both of those questions was “No,” and it’s probably yours, too.

But those questions raise a theoretical high-risk, high-reward investment that would be fascinating to watch play out in real time as schools are currently spending more money than ever before on recruiting, and as the conversation about future College Football Playoff expansion escalates, more programs could enter the national title race in the near future.

MORE: An Inside Look at Kentucky Basketball’s Financial Commitment to Recruiting