As we all know, recruiting is a major part of college sports. Name recognition, NCAA Tournament success, number of draft picks from the team, and program culture are all determining factors for the nation’s top recruits. But, there is another important variable that is often left out of the conversation: money.

Major programs across the country are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put themselves in the mix for program changing talent. From flights to hotels to meals to gas, hitting the recruiting trail can be extremely burdensome financially.

So, does spending more money in recruiting actually result in getting better players?

Recently, Stadium examined 53 college basketball programs and found that there is less of a correlation between spending and getting recruits than you may think. This contrasted from the results in college football which demonstrated a clear connection between recruiting budgets and roster talent.

For example, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M each spent about $462, 000 on basketball recruiting in the fiscal year of 2018. Of the 53 schools studied, these programs spent the 8th and 9th most but had little success to show for it. Meanwhile, North Carolina managed to get by with $159,501 and pulled in a top 15 recruiting class.

Final Four teams’ Texas Tech and Michigan State fell somewhere in the middle. The Red Raiders spent $350,731 on recruiting (16th most) and the Spartans spent $276,103 (29th most).

This seems to illustrate that recruiting spending is extremely important for up-and-coming programs and much less important for blueblood programs with recent success. While there is less of a correlation between spending and signing recruits in college basketball then college football, spending still matters.

Of the seven schools that spent $500,000 or more on recruiting in 2018, six of them managed to enroll a top 25 recruiting class. Two of these six schools are in the Big Ten (Indiana and Illinois).

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Let’s take a closer look at Big Ten program spending, We have broken it down into 4 tiers to more easily group the teams. Likewise, at each level, we also named some non-Big Ten schools with similar spending for comparison purposes.

Spending of $500,000+ : Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio State

Indiana was the overall #1 spender of the 53 schools examined. The Hoosiers spent $739,722 on basketball recruiting. Illinois was the overall #2 spender, just about $36,000 behind IU. Ohio State spent over $200,000 less than Indiana and still managed to have one of the highest budgets in the nation.

Yet, with their big spending, their efforts paid off as they all finished with top 30 recruiting classes in 2018 (IU: 10th, Illinois: 25th, and OSU: 27th). Collectively, the three programs also signed 15 recruits combined that were 4 or 5 stars.

Some other programs within this range: Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, and LSU.

Spending between $300,000 – $499,000 : Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State, and Rutgers

Nebraska was the highest spender in this tier, dropping $450,328. The Cornhuskers put together the 84th best class of 2018 and the 43rd best in 2019. They also managed to only sign one 4 or 5 star recruit.

Minnesota, however, had the best recruiting classes of the Big Ten teams in this tier. The Gophers had the 45th best class of 2018 and the 34th best class of 2019. Minnesota and Penn State both spent a little over $430,000.

Likewise, Rutgers spent almost $100,000 less the Nebraska but doubled their number of 4 or 5 star signings.

Some other programs within this range: NC State, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Wichita State.

Spending between $200,000 – $299,000: Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, and Purdue

Michigan State and Michigan were the most successful within this range. Michigan State spent just over $276,000 and secured the 17th best class of 2018. Similarly, Michigan spent over $258,000 and earned the 11th best 2018 class.

Iowa and Purdue each spent around $235,000, securing the 67th and 49th best classes of 2018.

Some other programs within this range: Florida, Arizona, UCLA, and VCU.

Spending $200,000 or less : Maryland and Wisconsin

Maryland did extremely well with its money. The Terrapins spent only $199,257 but was able to enroll the 7th best class of 2018 and the 27th best class of 2019. Even with relatively limited spending, they also impressively secured 6 recruits that were 4 or 5 stars.

Wisconsin spent the second least amount of money at $86,770. Their recruiting classes rank 74th in 2018 and 129th in 2019. They were unable to secure any 4 or 5 star recruits.

(Northwestern is not listed because they are a private institution, exempt from public records laws).

Overall, spending is a critical part of recruiting, but it is only one factor. As these numbers demonstrate, pumping money into recruiting trips often results in signing talent… but not always. We all know that signing talent also does not translate to success on the hardwood.

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4 Replies to “Big Ten Basketball: Breaking Down the Spend on Recruiting

  1. These numbers are from 2018? Can you think of anything that may have happened in 2018 that may have triggered increased spending? Yes, I know Crean was spending a lot on recruiting, but when a coach first takes over a program, do you not see good reasons why spending on recruiting would skyrocket? It seems pretty logical to me, but….

  2. This article was utterly worthless.

    Best teams: Purdue, MSU, Wisc, Mich, MD

    Teams that spent the least: Purdue, MSU, Wisc, Mich, MD.

    I wonder if having the best coaches means anything?

    1. You’re hitting on the point of the article. Despite spending on recruiting, that seems to have no correlation to the on-court product and success. (At least scoped to the recent years in the Big Ten)

  3. Ok, but lets count the Nike money working behind the scenes. And then lets add the agent bribes. You see why Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, LSU, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA aren’t officially at the top?

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