ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman has a very interesting story up on recruiting budgets in college football. Those of you who are curious about the financial aspects of the sport should definitely check this column out.
The numbers you'll be most interested in seeing are these: 248,333 and 271,724. That's what USC spent on recruiting in 2010 and 2011. This is actually quite middle-of-the-pack and certainly much less than you would expect considering the recruiting success we've been enjoying. By contrast, Clemson spent over 400,000 both years, Georgia Tech spent over 800,000 in 2010, and Tennessee, the nation's biggest spender, spent over 1,000,000 both years. The Gamecocks are undoubtedly getting their money's worth.
Some of you might be wondering how this works--how can South Carolina spend less on recruiting but sign better classes than schools with bigger budgets and more history to their credit? As Sherman says, it's all in the details, which can sometimes be complicated. Different staffs are using different philosophies to deal with different conditions. Steve Spurrier and his staff work a relatively local (mainly the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, and some forays farther up the east coast) network of schools and they don't spend too much time on kids who they view as reaches. I forget the exact numbers, but they've only used a little more than half of their allotted official visits in recent years. (That's one reason that the reduction in official visits imposed by the NCAA probably won't have a huge impact on our efforts.) By contrast, Clemson recruits more widely, takes more chances on big-time out-of-state prospects, and uses more of its visits in the process. That costs them more money. The results are predictable. Carolina spends a lot of its recruiting efforts building strong relationships with the players the staff really likes and who seem legitimately interested in us, which is why we tend to have a pretty high success rate with the players we're really honed in on. Clemson doesn't do as well in this regard, but it gets more surprise commitments than we do, some of whom are pretty big names.
Tennessee, for its part, has to recruit very widely in order to fill out its roster, as its in-state talent base is very thin. In the past, when Tennessee was more of a household name and had a strong coaching staff in place, it was actually quite successful in bringing kids in from all around the country. Even when Lane Kiffin was the coach, Tennessee did things like lure Bryce Brown all the way from Kansas. You'll probably also remember that UT regularly played big-time out-of-conference games against Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10 teams, which was largely done in order to improve its brand recognition in the states those conferences represent. The problem for UT now is that Derek Dooley's staff is no longer having the kind of success in these areas that Phil Fulmer and Kiffin had. The Vols are still spending the money, though, and they'll have to if they're going to stay afloat.
Should Carolina put more money into its recruiting efforts? That's a difficult question to answer, and certainly, whatever you want to say about Dabo Swinney's approach, you have to admit that it would be nice to land more of the kinds of five-star recruits that he's gotten, even if that approach entails spending a lot of money on a lot of misses in order to get one or two bites. Moreover, you have to admit that reading numbers like this makes you wonder about the USC program's finances, and puts ideas like this in a different light, considering the costs they would entail. That said, particularly now that the facilities projects have been completed, I don't doubt that we could put more money into recruiting if we wanted to, and, additionally, you have to admit that what Spurrier and his staff are doing is working for the time being, and if it ain't broken, it doesn't need fixing.