Though college athletes aren’t paid, recruiting them is an enterprise that has many of the wine-and-dine hallmarks of the corporate world. Powerhouse programs, like those at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin, can afford those prices. Both schools put more than $2 million toward recruiting last year while raking in millions more in revenue.
But recruiting costs are also rising at other Texas schools that compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision: Texas Tech, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at El Paso, UTSA and Texas State University.
Unlike A&M’s and UT-Austin’s athletics programs, the programs at those six schools can’t sustain themselves financially. Last year, those six athletics programs were subsidized by a combined $116 million in student fees and other institutional funds.
Spreadsheets and receipts provided to The Texas Tribune under open records laws show that many schools’ recruiting costs go toward travel expenses – like airfare for recruits and coaches, rental cars, chartered buses and limousine companies — and meals that ranged from a $7,200 catered breakfast to $21.11 spent on Torchy’s Tacos.
The expenses also document the presence of cottage industries that have sprung up around college sports recruiting, like coaches’ packets that contain information about up-and-coming high school players.
“Sold at recruiting events,” these packets “include booklets with information on potential recruit schools, stats on scoring, heights, weight, etc.,” reads a note at the bottom of a ledger of expenses from UTEP.
Last year, coaches at UTEP and two other schools paid more than $12,000, collectively, for these packets about prospective football players and women’s and men’s basketball players. At least another $100,000 was spent among those colleges on scouting services, specialized software, access to databases and certain fees.
There aren’t enough student fees in the world for UTEP to keep up with Texas’ obscenely deep pockets. That’s why I don’t get all the hand wringing over the power schools buying players if amateurism dies. They’re already doing it, albeit indirectly, now.