“So what is Alabama’s secret?”

You can, if you like, buy into the New York Times’ myth making and chalk it all up to Nick Saban being the college football epitome of Mr. Small Stuff, or you can take the prosaic approach and believe it’s more about the remarkable sums of money Alabama pours into its football program year after year after year.

From the 2014-5 fiscal year, here’s what each school in this year’s college football playoffs spent on football:

  • Alabama:  $48.3 million
  • Clemson:  $27.3 million
  • Ohio State:  $29.2 million
  • Washington:  $29.1 million

That’s a helluva spread, especially when you consider that Ohio State typically generates more athletic department revenue than ‘Bama does.  Ultimately, this is why I have a hard time believing that the importation of the Process into Athens, Georgia is going to be seamless.

Sure, it’s not that UGA doesn’t have the money to compete.  Georgia pulled in $116,151,279 for the same fiscal year, good for 15th nationally.  And if you’re looking for a positive note from that, keep in mind that Jon Solomon has this for you:

Since 2005, no school has won football’s national championship while ranked outside the top 20 in total athletic revenue.

But when it comes to spending money on football, Georgia hasn’t been in the keeping up with the Joneses department, let alone the Sabans.

For starters, check out the football operating expenses, including the cost of scholarships per scholarship football player, for Alabama and Georgia, over the last four seasons data has been reported:

  • 2011:  Alabama — $363,722; Georgia — $275,701
  • 2012:  Alabama — $376,320; Georgia — $279,480
  • 2013:  Alabama — $465,127; Georgia — $318,965
  • 2014:  Alabama — $347,050; Georgia — $293,724

The gap has narrowed between the two programs, but that’s still the financial equivalent of Mark Richt’s roster management snafus.

From 2009-14, Georgia’s football spending per player increased 21%.  That’s less than the SEC median (27%).  It’s also less than the median for all FBS programs (31%).

Now, you can spend money wastefully, of course, and you don’t have to look very far afield for examples of that.  But if you aren’t going to keep up on the spending front, you sure as hell better have the smarts to build a better mousetrap than the expensive one they’ve got in Tuscaloosa if you expect to show up in Atlanta for a conference title game.  That hasn’t been the case for a while now.

Now the obvious caveat here is that we’re two seasons past the data available, and one of those is Smart’s first season in Athens.  It’s reasonable to expect that we’ll see a narrowing of that financial spread when those spending numbers come into view.  What remains to be seen is whether the dollars Butts-Mehre spends are enough to keep up with Saban on the field in the coming years.  A couple of years from now, we should have enough information to assess both.



Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Nick Saban Rules

32 responses to ““So what is Alabama’s secret?”

  1. ApalachDawg

    As long as we can outspend the REC, we will bring the talent in to Athens to compete and beat those bastards.


  2. In the same way that it took a couple of seasons for Richt’s roster management to rear its ugly head, I suspect it will take a few years to see if Kirby’s experiment of dragging B-M into modern times has worked.

    What’s hidden in snow comes forth in the thaw. We’ll know in due time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Uglydawg

      Man, gatri…you’ve waxed poetic and philosophic in one short post! I’m impressed and I’ll say you’re perfectly correct.
      CMR, as much as I love him (or..”bless his heart”) left the program with a roster problem and while it was budding in 2015, it came to full bloom in ’16. CKS must address that first. I hope he gets the time it will take.


      • CMR didn’t leave the program. He was told to leave.

        The roster holes may have kept us from competing with Bama, but they weren’t to blame for the losses to Vandy and tech and the Nicholls near-miss.


    • The recruiting budget story is definitely one to keep an eye on.

      Per Solomon, Alabama spent $1.3 million on recruiting in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

      Per Marc Weiszer, Georgia spent roughly the same amount on recruiting in Richt’s last year. That amount more than doubled what was spent in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

      If I had to guess, Smart’s been given a bigger recruiting budget than Richt’s last. But you’d have to think Saban isn’t exactly coasting in that department.


      • Uglydawg

        If Saban says, “I need at least a billion”, he’ll get it. The Alabama State Legislature will pass a bill raising taxes and the Gov’nah will sign it.
        Hyperbole aside, there are very few obstacles to Nick getting what Nick wants. This is why I doubt he’ll ever return to the pro-ranks…plus it’s not too shabby being the most famous and appreciated person on a huge campus.


  3. Russ

    In Bama’s case, I think it’s a combo of Saban and money. I do believe Saban’s fanatical attention to detail is a large part and when he leaves, the field will even back out some. I’m assuming spending money wasn’t a problem when Shula was there.


  4. ugadawgguy

    I’d like to see those numbers for the whole SEC; I have a feeling I could rank-order them pretty accurately without looking at those numbers.

    And while it would be nice to see Georgia’s football spending approach that of the best program in modern history, (1) it’ll never happen, and (2) all the money in the world would be largely useless without more competent X’s-and-O’s-type coaching.


    • Georgia was tenth in the conference in spending for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Only Missouri and the two Mississippi schools, all with significantly lower revenues, spent less.


    • Chi-town Dawg

      The Senator posted an article with a USA Today story a couple of years ago with the link and I believe we were 12th or 13th in football spending % growth at the time. You could also see our total revenue decline trend. I’m sure it’s not as bad more recently with CKS, but at the time we were being outspent by Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and both Miss schools.


  5. Chi-town Dawg

    This is the single biggest complaint I have with BM and McGarity. He essentially strangled the football program for a number of years by diverting revenue into the reserve fund and other sports at the cost of reinvesting in his golden goose. I posted about this issue a couple of years ago when the senator posted a similar article. We maybe 15th, but we used to be top 5 not that long ago and look at the schools who are right below us that used to be way behind us. Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi St. have been outspending us in football until the past year or two. The top schools have been plowing money from the new TV contracts, CFP, etc. back into their business to make even more money, but not us until recently. I wouldn’t have contributed so much money to the William Hartman Fund if I’d wanted to support baseball, gymnastics or the general fund. Your comment about being the equivalent of CMR’s roster management snafu is dead spot on!


  6. heyberto

    The other caveat is great coaching at the top. And by coaching, a big component is managing the program, which is what Saban is good at. I’m not sure there’s anything innovative about his coaching other than his ability to motivate… the ability to drive kids and coaches to perform at optimum levels consistently. Combine that with getting the cream of the crop and quality depth and recruiting, and it’s not that hard to see why they’re so good. I’m not saying he’s a slouch, but he preaches fundamentals and uses strength to pound the competition into submission. He’s not out scheming anybody, but it’s not like his in game coaching stinks… far from it. It’s just not that innovative.

    Just look at his stint in the NFL. With an organization that has more parity, certainly with personnel, it’s not like he lit that world on fire as a coach. Couple that with having to figure out how to motivate NFL players since you can’t just yell and scream at ’em, and it’s easier to understand why he’s so much better in College.


  7. Bulldog Joe

    Not sure if scholarship costs include COA. Georgia still provides less than half of what its competition does for in-state athletes.

    Also, how does Alabama get away with providing financial aid to 116 players?


  8. Ray Towle

    It is not simply the money differential that the University of Alabama spends on football. Additionally, the money spent by the Red Elephant clubs of Alabama to add to that total. And in that regard, the University of Georgia has no equal.


  9. Chopdawg

    So Alabama has the best college football team that money can buy?


  10. down island way

    3 years ago the ad @ ua said “due to the fallout/exposure that ua football generates, the HC gets what he requires/asks for”….end of comment.


  11. As others stated, a combination of the right man at the right school for football. As a resident of Alabama, if you asked me, “what is the number one major or priority at UA?”. The answer would be football. That would not be my answer for UGA. However one feels bout that, there is the difference.


  12. Soccer Dawg

    Off Topic: I scored Peach Bowl tickets for my son and I. What does a proud Dawg fan wear to the Peach Bowl? Dawg Gear Loud and Proud or neutral.


  13. Comin' Down The Track

    “Over at the always excellent ‘Get The Picture’ blog, Senator Blutarsky crystallized something I’ve been trying to place my finger on all season.” Almost famous…