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Colleges That Spend the Most on Recruiting Football Players

Joel Anderson

College football is a big business, among other things. Tens of millions of dollars routinely flow through the athletic departments of the biggest programs, not to mention the value of the exposure a school gets from having a winning program. When recruiting thousands of prospective students to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and fees, few things put your school on the map like a nationally recognized football team.

But before you can start recruiting hordes of tuition-paying students with the promise of big football games every year, you have to recruit the top-tier athletes to attend your school for free. As much as Americans go for the underdog story, football is a sport that emphasizes athleticism above all else. If you can consistently recruit the biggest, strongest and fastest high school athletes, your odds of being at the top of the standings year after year are pretty good.

So, which schools are throwing the most money at the problem? To answer the question, GOBankingRates compiled information on the football recruiting budgets for 55 public Division I programs using data from Watch Stadium, which excluded both private universities and Division I-A universities. Bolstered with info on the total recruiting budget for the school, the study gives a clearer sense of which college football programs have the most cash at their disposal, as well as which commit the largest portion of their total recruiting budget specifically to football. The study is ranked in order from the least to most spent on football recruiting.

The results show some predictable names near the top, but there are also plenty of schools that appear to be doing a lot with their money, in addition to others that might be spending a ton to get very little.

Last updated: June 23, 2020

55. University of Houston


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $698,178
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $251,975
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 36.09%

54. University of Wisconsin, Madison


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,224,327
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $350,695
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 28.64%

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53. East Carolina University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $805,605
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $369,776
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 45.90%

52. University of Cincinnati


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $856,882
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $374,630
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 43.72%

51. Boise State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $773,739
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $414,229
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 53.54%

50. University of Connecticut


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,406,823
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $432,480
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 30.74%

49. Mississippi State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,353,555
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $453,116
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 33.48%

48. Kansas State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,391,023
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $509,760
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 36.65%

47. Washington State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,269,423
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $523,791
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.26%

46. Arizona State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,543,683
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $531,807
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 34.45%

45. Texas Tech University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,833,803
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $535,362
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 29.19%

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44. University of Maryland, College Park


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,308,607
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $539,299
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.21%

43. University of Arizona


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,495,385
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $545,968
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 36.51%

42. North Carolina State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,781,451
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $548,062
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 30.76%

41. Purdue University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,459,650
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $555,565
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 38.06%

40. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,588,752
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $563,744
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 35.48%

39. Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,313,034
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $585,680
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 44.61%

38. University of Iowa


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,712,668
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $608,755
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 35.54%

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37. West Virginia University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,546,908
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $626,311
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 40.49%

36. University of Colorado


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,144,052
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $635,077
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 55.51%

35. University of California, Berkeley


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,397,437
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $647,842
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 46.36%

34. Oregon State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,443,224
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $674,239
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 46.72%

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33. University of Missouri


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,657,753
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $685,834
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.37%

32. University of Indiana


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,125,054
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $692,972
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 32.61%

31. University of Mississippi


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,683,435
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $704,836
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.87%

30. University of Washington


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,740,611
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $714,872
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.07%

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29. Oklahoma State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,817,717
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $715,492
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 39.36%

28. University of Louisville


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,847,150
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $724,742
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 39.24%

27. University of Virginia


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,740,460
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $727,972
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 41.83%

26. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,069,031
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $739,680
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 35.75%

25. University of California, Los Angeles


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,620,167
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $764,620
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 47.19%

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24. Michigan State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,689,263
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $766,139
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 45.35%

23. University of Kentucky


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,718,456
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $791,863
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 29.13%

22. Rutgers University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,881,103
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $824,271
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 43.82%

21. University of South Carolina


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,128,667
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $861,747
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 40.48%

20. Ohio State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,819,239
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $944,354
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 33.50%

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19. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,883,458
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $984,871
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 52.29%

18. University of Oregon


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,878,901
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $997,019
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 53.06%

17. University of Utah


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $1,964,161
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,052,271
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 53.57%

16. Iowa State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,038,311
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,079,430
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 52.96%

15. University of Minnesota


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,215,207
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,081,075
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 48.80%

14. Auburn University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,083,737
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,081,836
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 51.92%

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13. University of Kansas


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,326,971
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,141,379
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 49.05%

12. University of Florida


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,329,421
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,155,802
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 49.62%

11. University of Nebraska


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,545,583
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,250,674
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 49.13%

10. University of Oklahoma


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,542,581
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,264,809
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 49.75%

9. Louisiana State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,661,602
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,287,344
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 48.37%

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8. Penn State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,708,778
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,369,428
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 50.56%

7. University of Michigan


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $3,011,982
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,397,784
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 46.41%

6. Florida State University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,557,066
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,581,347
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 61.84%

5. Texas A&M University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $3,036,727
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,710,101
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 56.31%

4. Clemson University


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $2,804,471
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,790,976
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 63.86%

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3. University of Texas at Austin


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $3,199,072
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $1,823,307
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 56.99%

2. University of Alabama


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $3,310,990
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $2,344,057
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 70.80%

1. University of Georgia


  • Recruiting expenses for all sports: $3,990,422
  • Recruiting expenses for football in 2018: $2,626,622
  • Percentage of total recruiting expenses spent on football: 65.82%

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Methodology: GOBankingRates sourced data from the WatchStadium article “This Is How Much It Costs to Land One of College Football’s Top Recruiting Classes,” which looked at fiscal year 2018 budgets for football recruiting at 55 public Division I universities. Along with football recruiting numbers, GOBankingRates looked at overall recruiting budgets, five- and four-star recruits that signed with each university over the last two years (2018 and 2019) and the ranking of each university’s recruiting class for 2018 and 2019. The only factor considered for the final ranking was the total amount spent on football recruiting for fiscal year 2018. GOBankingRates found in-state and out-of-state tuition for each university listed as supplemental data. All data was collected and up-to-date as of Jan. 13, 2020. 

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Colleges That Spend the Most on Recruiting Football Players