The dollars and cents of Cougar recruiting

THE SPORTING NEWS is out with its college football recruiting special. The 120-pages of articles, insights and stats are a feast for the fan. For Washington State partisans, two bits of data are especially noteworthy. First, quarterback Tyler Bruggman, who is verbally committed to WSU, is rated the No. 109 overall prospect in the nation.

Second, and far less impressive, is the chart on page 25 that details what each FBS school spent on recruiting in fiscal year 2011.

The data, compiled by ESPN, shows that between June 2010 and June 2011, WSU spent $202,172 on football recruiting.

That's a big number. Until you compare with it with the competition.

Four Pac-12 schools (not counting Stanford and USC, which are private schools and therefore aren't required to make financial data public) doubled up or nearly doubled up on what WSU spent.

Oregon led the way, expending more than $590,000.

The Cougars' total was the smallest in the conference, with Arizona State the only other school within their ballpark, at $229,464.

The picture is even more lopsided when viewed on the national scale. Tennessee spent a whopping $1.5 million, followed by Alabama and Auburn at more than $950,000 apiece. Three others – Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida – spent more than $600,000 each.


Football recruiting budgets, compiled by ESPN from information supplied to the NCAA by Division 1A public schools, for FY 2011

Oregon        $590,683
Colorado     $470,355
UW                $440,931
UCLA            $412,535
Arizona         $411,785
California     $394,298
Oregon St.   $298,631
Utah               $289,353
Arizona St.    $229,464
WSU               $202,172
Stanford      not available
USC             not available

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Two other facts make the WSU number even more sobering.

The first is geography. Almost by definition, it should mean WSU is spending more than many of its Pac-12 brethren, just as Texas Tech is when compared with Texas and Oklahoma. Think about it. The largest pool of West Coast football talent is in Southern California. For USC and UCLA, the cost of traveling to a recruit's school or home, or to bring one of those prospects to campus for an official visit, is maybe $30 in gas money. Round-trip airfare between Pullman or Spokane and LAX is going to run around $450 a shot if you book in advance, and closer to $800 if you don't.

The second fact that stands out is that WSU's budget wasn't just low for the Pac-12. Schools such as Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State, UNLV and Wyoming all devoted more money to recruiting in FY '11 than WSU, while two other major-conference teams with geographic scenarios marginally similar to WSU's – Iowa State and Kansas State – spent $447,000 and $361,000, respectively.

Of course, there are factors that alter recruiting budgets from one year to the next, such as the number of players needed. Moreover, the efficiency and effectiveness of each staff can vary widely, and the quality of hotels and meals the coaching staff is privy to can stretch the bang for the buck. One former WSU assistant once guesstimated that by frequently overnighting in the homes of friends and family over his tenure on staff, he probably spared the recruiting budget upward of $50,000.

The bottom line on it all is that WSU has been operating in a lean way for a long time, and these recruiting budget numbers just reinforce that message. WSU's four 10-win seasons between 1997 and 2003 glitter even more in that light. Doing more with less is a testament to resourcefulness, dedication and spirit. But the hazard of such a scenario, year in and year out, is that it leaves very little room for either error or the unplanned. And in recruiting, WSU's classes of 2004, '05, '06 and '07 were errors of the highest order, epic meltdowns that effectively added up to a self-imposed death penalty.

WITH THE PAC-12's new television revenue windfall, the days of WSU spending $202,000 a year on recruiting figure to be a distant memory. But remember that every school in the conference is going to realize the TV largesse, too. That means all recruiting budgets figure to be rising. The arms race isn't just going to be in facilities.

And that, dear Cougar fans, is just one more reason why the level of support for the program via season tickets and donations to athletic scholarships must increase dramatically if sustained success on the Palouse is going to become a reality.

WSU has proven, on an inconsistent basis, that it can do more with less. Imagine what can be accomplished by doing more with more.

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