Here’s a really good dive into Georgia’s recruiting approach from a former beat writer, Gentry Estes.
I discussed some of the data he analyzes before, but he does a nice job of putting things in context over the past five or six years in Athens. First, it’s worth noting again how much things have changed over time, measured against Alabama.
Last year, Georgia spent more on recruiting than did the Tide, but of even greater significance, note the percentage increase from 2013. That’s a serious chase down. And the ramp up largely coincides with Smart’s arrival.
Georgia’s football recruiting expenditures have more than quadrupled in recent years, going from $581,531 in the 2013 fiscal year, when Mark Richt was head coach, to roughly $2.63 million in 2018 (not adjusting for inflation).
… From 2015 to 2018, Georgia exceeded its budgeted amount for football recruiting by $2.38 million (an average of $593,948 per year), according to information obtained by the Courier Journal separately from the NCAA reports. The overage peaked at $945,966 in 2016, when Georgia’s budgeted amount was $1.25 million. That budgeted amount increased to about $1.9 million in 2017 and $2.27 million for 2018, as well as for 2019.
Smart knew from his time in Tuscaloosa that it takes a large financial commitment to recruiting to succeed in the SEC. Perhaps the most important thing he’s accomplished at Georgia is convincing the administration that such support was a necessity.
“Really, (recruiting costs) are just a reflection of the coach and how they approach recruiting, how they approach official visits, how they approach the entire world of recruiting,” McGarity said. “… I would just say you have some coaches that are visionaries, and a lot depends on who you surround yourself with and where you’ve been.
“I think in the case of Kirby, he had experience at other institutions, saw some things that we could do better. So we’re moving forward in a lot of those.”
… In 2018, Georgia spent $2.63 million on football recruiting and roughly half — $1.36 million — on all other sports’ recruiting combined. The next highest sport was men’s basketball at $341,064.
The price tag for football recruiting was more than Georgia spent for athletic financial aid for its six men’s teams other than football ($2.45 million) and for travel for all of its women’s teams combined ($2.37 million).
“I think Kirby would be very aggressive in recruiting,” McGarity said. “It just is the style and the approach that the head coach desires to take. … I think he’s going to find ways — as he talked about at (SEC) media day — what are the incremental improvements we can make that may make a difference?
“Because there’s a thin, thin line between really being good and great. And what can you do to close that gap?”
I don’t say this to be snarky, but to be realistic: there’s simply no way you would have heard that sort of talk out of Butts-Mehre five or six years ago. (As a reminder, Estes brings up the Pruitt-IPF story in contrast to the present.) And while the results speak for themselves,
Only three teams — Alabama, Clemson and Georgia — have played in the past four national title games, and each of those three ranked in the top five nationally among public Power Five colleges in 2018 recruiting expenditures, with Clemson (fifth at $1.79 million) coming in behind UGA, Alabama, Texas and Texas A&M.
Georgia’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes ranked third, first and second in the country, respectively, in 247 Sports’ composite rankings. The next highest spender, Alabama, ranked first, fifth and first in those three years.
… it is to McGarity’s credit that he was willing to take a leap with Smart’s vision and fund the effort. The good thing going forward is that with the success Smart’s had, I doubt we’ll hear complaints about financial support of the football program any time soon. The days of Georgia bringing a knife to an SEC recruiting gun fight are over.
UPDATE: Another former beat writer does some math.