Marble showers, Ferrari leather seats, Brazilian wood floors, a hydrotherapy pool and a barbershop are all features of the University of Oregon’s new Football Performance Center. The cost? An estimated $68 million. Photos of the new facility have gone viral on the internet.
But each year, college football programs around the country spend millions of dollars on behind-the-scenes projects that go largely unnoticed.
Last year, the University of Georgia spent more than $14 million on its football program. In a recent piece for ESPN.com, David Ching writes that $600,000 went into recruiting high school prospects. He joined Doug Tribou.
DT: What exactly is that money being spent on?
DC: You know, of the $600,000, more than a third of it is just to get the coaches to the players — you know, to visit ’em, to get to their schools, to go to their games and observe them playing. Obviously it’s an enormous thing to be able to evaluate a player and determine if he’s somebody that you want.
DT: You spoke to a Georgia official who told you Head Coach Mark Richt is “dealing with a lot of different things, and he doesn’t have time to pop in an address in the Garmin.” Is that the only reason he’s being chauffeured around?
DC: The coaches have been out there doing a lot of the legwork, and they want to be able to bring in Mark Richt to seal the deal. And then, also, they put him on a plane from the university and fly him around a lot more than they do the assistant coaches in order just to maximize his time. They want him to be able to get face time with these players they are trying to close on.
DT: When he is in the back of a car, it’s not like he’s sitting their thumbing through a magazine, right?
DC: Yeah, I think anytime you see him away from his football responsibilities, there’s a cellphone on his ear. I think he’s constantly on a laptop trying to research the next player. I don’t envy the time commitment that a head football coach in the SEC has to make.
DT: Is this system unique to Georgia or are programs like Alabama and Auburn doing the same sorts of things?
DC: Schools like Alabama and Auburn spend a significant amount more money than just about any other school in the country, and it’s to hire former high school coaches, former college coaches to serve as recruiting analysts. They can watch film, determine who the best players are, and help point the actual staff of assistants in the right direction. If a school is willing to spend that kind of money, I think the danger there is that it’s really going to start to separate the haves and the have nots in college football.
DT: A lot of people are predicting that Georgia will finish on top in the SEC East this season, so can we say that all of this effort is paying off?
DC: I would say so. They’ve really in the past couple of years kind of reconstructed the way they recruit with more behind-the-scenes kind of people, and I think it’s starting to payoff. I don’t know how much of an effect you necessarily saw in those most recent signing class, but they’re in the middle of signing, or at least recruiting, what looks to be a very good class for next year.
DT: Looking ahead, is this the start of a new trend in college football or is this something that the NCAA will rein in in the coming years?
DC: I don’t think there’s necessarily resolution as to how many people can be on these recruiting staffs yet. I think that’s still to be determined by the NCAA. But I do think more changes are coming, and I do think the recruiting monster will continue to grow.