Okay, we’ve talked about this before and I’m sure some will think this is piling on, but it is indeed time to talk about the cost of attendance stipends once again and since we’re on the subject of what this means to recruits, we’re also going to talk about facilities.
So, if you’ve about had it up to here with talk about these things, then skip on down to the music or something else that interests you.
Let’s start with the stipend. From cbssports.com here is the breakdown for the 13 SEC public schools (Vanderbilt is a private school and is not required to respond to requests for financial information):
1. Tennessee $5,666
2. Auburn $5,586
3. Alabama $5,386
4. Mississippi State $5,156
5. Ole Miss $4,890
6. Arkansas $4,500
7. Missouri $4,290
8. South Carolina $4,201
9. Florida $3,830
10. LSU $3,800
11. Georgia $3,746
12. Kentucky $3,528
13. Texas A&M $3,528
More than a year ago, I speculated that it was only a matter of time before recruits make decisions based on that monthly check. That time has arrived. Writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, seccountry.com correspondent Ray Glier wrote this weekend:
Jimmy Smith, the football coach at Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, Ga.) High School, looked at his three players, Netori Johnson, Tre’ Shaw, and Justin Shaffer, standouts in the Class of 2017, and asked this recruiting question:
“If Kentucky and Auburn were recruiting you, and you thought the quality of the education was the same at both schools and the playing time was the same at both schools, but you knew Auburn was going to give you this for expenses, and Kentucky was going to give you this for expenses, where would you go?”
Smith pointed to a sheet of paper listing Cost of Attendance (COA) stipends for each of the 14 SEC schools. Auburn’s number was $5,586. Kentucky’s number was $3,598.
Shaw, a defensive back who has 24 offers, didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“War Eagle,” he said with a smile.
The stipend money at Kentucky is $299.83 per month. At Auburn, it’s $465.50. The difference of $165.67 may not sound like much but if you’re a kid from a single parent home for whom $20 is a big deal, it might sound like all the money in the world.
As we get ready for the final five weeks of recruiting before National Signing Day, you can know for sure that schools with a stipend advantage are pushing it to the max while schools that are at a disadvantage are trying to downplay the discrepancy. If, for example, it’s white knuckles with a kid who’s torn between LSU and Alabama, you would be foolish to think that Nick Saban’s assistants aren’t asking the kid to imagine what he could do with an extra $1,500. Maybe that’s hotels and gas money for his parents and siblings to come to Tuscaloosa for ball games or maybe it’s simply having the money to go somewhere to eat where your decisions aren’t made by what’s on the dollar menu.
In that same Ray Glier seccountry.com article, Coach Smith said, “It should be even across the board because eventually it is going to be too much of a recruiting tool and you don’t want a kid’s mother convincing a kid to go to a school just because of the money. She’s going to say ‘You have to go here baby, I need a new car, too.’”
There are two new realities when it comes to football recruiting: (1) How much is your stipend and (2) what about your facilities?
Florida ranks ninth in stipend money. To give every scholarship athlete at the University of Florida $5,000 a year would require UF to invest another $310,000, which is a drop in the proverbial bucket considering the school generated $130 million in athletic revenue for 2014-15, a figure that will be much higher for the current school year because the SEC Network contribution figures to be much, much higher.
So far – at least that we know of – no recruit has chosen another SEC school over Florida because of a stipend but you would be fooling yourself to think it won’t happen in the future. Kids make decisions based on a lot less. Do any of you remember back in 2005 when the Gators lost an offensive line recruit to LSU because the dorm rooms had nicer paint on the walls and new curtains? This was well before indoor practice facilities became the rage and certainly long before there were stipends.
It’s only a matter of time before UF loses a recruit it really wants because Tennessee or Auburn offers more stipend money. But, solving the stipend dilemma isn’t a killer because $310,000 would bring every scholarship athlete in every sport to the $5,000 level which would make the Gators extremely competitive.
Facilities? Well, that’s a different matter.
When he was Florida’s football coach, Will Muschamp had a standing order – do not take recruits down to the practice fields because of their deplorable condition and under no circumstance take a recruit to see a dormitory. Before he left for the NBA, Billy Donovan hated the condition of the O-Dome and like Muschamp, had a standing order that recruits weren’t supposed to see the dorms.
The Gators have an indoor practice facility now and they’re in the process of upgrading the dorms. The O-Dome is scheduled to be renovated starting at the end of the 2015 basketball season. But those upgrades are only a fraction of what is needed if the Gators are to keep up with the SEC Joneses. Even with the upgrades Florida’s facilities from top to bottom of the athletic department will rank no better than middle of the pack in the SEC.
Consider for a moment what Clemson is doing. Yes, I know … Clemson is in the ACC and Florida is in the SEC, but remember C.J. Spiller? Remember Sammy Watkins? UF competes toe-to-toe with Clemson for some of the best high school athletes in the state of Florida, Georgia and both South and North Carolina.
Clemson’s new state of the art football facility will include a barber shop, sand volleyball courts, laser tag, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a miniature golf course although they’re still trying to decide if they’re going to build a 9-holer or a full 18.
Here is a look at Alabama’s football facilities.
What they are planning at Clemson and what they’ve already done at Alabama, Texas A&M and other SEC schools goes beyond lavish, but this is what it takes to recruit these days. There was a time when what you did on the field was all that mattered but that was then and this is now. Now, you better have facilities with amenities and you better have a competitive stipend.
Florida is at a crossroads and the decisions that have to be made in the next 12-18 months regarding stipends and facilities are going to chart a future path for the Gators in every sport. Like it or not, Florida has to make the decision to join the arms race in the SEC. Failure to do so will put the entire athletic program at a disadvantage that may not be reversed any time soon.
HALTER, SCARLETT AND HARRELL OUT FOR THE CITRUS BOWL
Right tackle Mason Halter, backup running back Jordan Scarlett and backup middle linebacker Anthony Harrell will miss Friday’s Citrus Bowl game against Michigan. The loss of Harrell and Scarlett is minimal at least immediately. Harrell is a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech who played mostly special teams and made only three tackles all year so his loss will have little if any impact. Scarlett is a concern. He was arrested for marijuana possession and has a court date pending on January 6. Given his high level of expectation this past season and the lack of productivity, the new trouble could lead to a case of transfer-it is.
The big blow is Halter. He started every game on an offensive line that had its problems especially in the final month of the season. His loss means Florida will likely start true freshman Fred Johnson will start at right tackle against a Michigan defense that allowed only 281 yards a game and got to the quarterback for 30 sacks.
LANE KIFFIN ALMOST CERTAIN TO BE BACK AT ALABAMA
Earlier in the year there was that rather stupid “report” that Lane Kiffin was about to be fired at Alabama. Nothing could have been further from the truth. And, for all those who think Nick Saban is about to pull the rug out from under his offensive coordinator, think again. Unless, the right NFL coordinator job comes open, Kiffin will be back for a third year at Alabama where he’s shown he is exceptional at adapting the offense to the personnel. In 2014, Bama had an abundance of receivers so the offense was more about the passing game. In 2015, he had road graders on the O-line and Derrick Henry so the offense became ground and pound. His offense has produced a Biletnikoff winner (Amari Cooper) who was a Heisman finalist and a Heisman winner in Henry along with a Rimington Trophy center in Ryan Kelly. Maybe Lane isn’t Nick’s favorite lunch buddy, but Nick doesn’t have to worry about the offense and can oversee the defense and all the CEO stuff that comes with being the head coach as long as Lane is around.
As for Kiffin’s dreams beyond 2016 and Alabama, Saban says, “When you look at the job he's done for us, how he's managed our offense with different personnel each year and how he's been able to adapt and grow, I’d say it’s just a matter of time before he’s a head coach again.”
MEANWHILE DOWN AT MIAMI
Mark Richt has made two outstanding additions to his first staff in Coral Gables. He snagged Thomas Brown from his former staff at Georgia, giving him one of the best recruiters in the Atlanta area, and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, formerly of the Missouri staff. Losing Brown was a huge blow to new Georgia coach Kirby Smart. Now Richt has a pipeline into Atlanta and an outstanding running backs coach (See Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin; Nick Chubb, Georgia). One of the truly stupid things new Mizzou coach Barry Odom did was let Kuligowski go. All you have to do is look at his track record of turning 2- and 3-star recruits into All-American and NFL D-linemen. Since 2010, Kuligowski produced four first round draft picks, 10 all-conference (both Big 12 and SEC) D-linemen and two straight SEC Defensive Players of the Year (Michael Sam and Shane Ray). With the kind of speed and athleticism that he can coach at Miami, the Hurricane D-lines could be downright scary in the future. These
Two good hires for Richt.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Today’s attempts at predicting the winners:
Navy 31, Pittsburgh 24: This is something called the Military Bowl, which is played in Annapolis at Navy’s home field. Some bowl experience for midshipmen who wake at the crack of dawn when reveille is played. It won’t exactly be fun and games for Pitt, either. Even though the Panthers have had four full weeks to get ready for Navy’s funky offense, they don’t have anyone who can simulate Keenan Reynolds, who passed for 1,077 yards and 7 TDs and ran for 1,229 and 21 TDs.
Minnesota 37, Central Michigan 31: In something called the Quick Lane Bowl (they’ll change your oil, check your wiper blades, refill the wiper fluid and sell you a dandy set of tires at your friendly, neighborhood Quick Lane), Central Michigan gets to spend bowl week in Detroit, which isn’t exactly the garden spot of the earth. Central Michigan won seven games and probably deserves better. Minnesota went 5-7. A 5-7 team deserves Detroit. Both teams wear maroon and gold. The uniforms will be hideous; the football only slightly better.
There is a report on Al Jazeera America that says Peyton Manning used HGH while rehabbing from a neck injury and that it wasn’t detected because the performance enhancing drugs were sent to his wife. The informant whose story forms the foundation of the report has since recanted. Manning is talking with his lawyers about a hefty lawsuit against Al Jazeera, which is owned by the ruling family of Qatar. By most reports, Peyton has always been a fairly straight up guy so if the report can be proven true, this would go down as a major shocker.
It was good to see Frank Beamer go out a winner with Virginia Tech’s win over Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. Beamer finishes his coaching career with 280 wins, 236 of which were earned at Virginia Tech.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If Florida doesn’t plunk out the cash necessary for increased stipends and for all the facilities bells and whistles, can the athletic department remain top five nationally?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
In 1987-88 Jerry Garcia put together an acoustic band that did a number of live concerts and recorded two live albums, only one of which (“Almost Acoustic”) was released during that time frame. In 2010, “Ragged Not Right” was released, a full 22 years after “Almost Acoustic.” The band included David Nelson, who co-founded New Riders of the Purple Sage. This is bluegrass and folk and lots of fun.