After hearing the news a few days ago that the Wisconsin Badgers were dead last in football recruiting budget there was a segment of the fan base that had to feel a lot like Jerry McGuire:
In fact, many were screaming for Wisconsin to up the ante on the recruiting trail but few stopped to ask the important question â€” will an increased recruiting budget equal more wins on the football field?
After all, isnâ€™t the arms race all about making sure to be competitive in the wins column? If the USA Today Sports study cited above is to be believed, then the Badgers are the best in the Big Ten at getting bang for its buck, at least from 2009-2013.
First off, yes, it is true the Badgers are dead last in recruiting budget in the Big Ten…and itâ€™s by a country mile too.
However, the flip side of the equation is that Wisconsin is more efficient with the production from itâ€™s small recruiting budget than anyone else in the conference…and itâ€™s by a country mile as well.
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The one thing that immediately jumps out to you is just how efficient the Badgers are with the money they do spend. Spending over $17,000 less than the next lowest win per recruit not only shows the frugality of the Badgers budget, but the ability to identify, coach and win with the players they do bring in.
“I think we manage our money the best we can and are efficient while serving the needs of the coaches â€¦ so we must be doing something right,” Wisconsin associate athletics director for external relations Justin Doherty said (via USA Today Sports), adding that “itâ€™s not about the money. Itâ€™s about building relationships with a prospect and a coach.”
Still, some wonder if the Badgers are that good with that paltry of a budget, what could they do with even a small increase in the budget? After all, Wisconsin spent just 1.2 percent more on recruiting in 2013 than it did in 2009.
The fact that schools like Kansas State, Iowa State, Virginia and on and on are capable of spending more on recruiting than the Badgers is a bit embarrassing. It also shows that money isnâ€™t the cure-all for winning at the recruiting game.
It also shows that the Badgers continue to not want to get in to the arms race of college football in a major way, yet still find ways to win football games at the highest level.
It wouldnâ€™t kill the Badgers to find a way to flash a bit more cash on the recruiting trail, but Doughertyâ€™s words ring very true. Money doesnâ€™t mean everything, and for a school like Wisconsin there are other factors involved if they want to get to the next level and be nationally competitive on an annual basis.
At Wisconsin things like academics, geography and cold weather will always play a factor in the recruiting game. Getting the elite athlete out of Florida isnâ€™t as easy at Wisconsin as it is at a place like Michigan or Ohio State, and thatâ€™s because the university has chosen a path that doesnâ€™t mean every Tom, Dick, or Harry can get in just because they play football and meet minimum NCAA academic standards.
Michigan and Ohio State have that ability, and it undoubtedly helps them land whatever recruit they want. Does it hurt them academically? APR scores would suggest so, and if you only care about winning football games than by all means, be pissed that UW doesnâ€™t throw the academic standards out the window and splash the cash every chance it can get.
The reality is, the Badgers have a budget to work with and arenâ€™t hemorrhaging money like some programs thanks to the prudent spending of Pat Richter and now Barry Alvarez. Would an extra $50-100,000 make or break UWâ€™s bankroll? No. But thatâ€™s not the point.
Whatever side of the money and academic standards argument you come down on, there is but one great equalizer across the country â€” recruiting isnâ€™t about budgets, itâ€™s often times more about personalities and relationships.
Just ask yourself when was the last time a recruit has ever said, “boy I wish Team X wouldâ€™ve spent more money on recruiting me.” Itâ€™s never happened, and it never will because the truth is itâ€™s the relationships between players, coaches, fellow recruits and the school that matter more than the fancy photoshop propaganda or the hundreds of letters mailed out every day.
Sure, itâ€™s great to dream about a Badgers program full of every 4 or 5-star kid the program wants to have. However, recruiting is a two-way street and not every one of those kids are a fit academically, athletically or socially either.
Most arenâ€™t going to come to a cold weather climate to play football when they can do the same in front of friends and family closer to home.
Thereâ€™s also the little factor of coaches seemingly knowing their recruits better without that massive budget in front of them. Social media, Skype and other ways of communicating make building relationships easier and less expensive by the day. Sometimes being innovative in your approach can win a kid over just as much as gold-plated mailings.
Reality is, the Badgers as a program know who they are and the type of player they want in the program. If itâ€™s flash and pampering a player is looking for, the University of Wisconsin isnâ€™t exactly about that.Â If you want to work hard, develop your talents and just play football, then the Badgers are for you.
Throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars more in to a recruiting budget isnâ€™t going to change anything about who and what Wisconsin is or the type of kid interested in coming to UW.
However, finding the balance that works is appropriate, and it is hard to notice that a school like Michigan State has worked wonders by following the Wisconsin model and building off of it.
The Badgers would be wise to build off their own success too, and that means finding a way to get in the game in a more serious way. If Michigan State can go from a developmental program to one that is competing for, and winning, with multiple 4-star kids thanks to an increased budget, so can Wisconsin.
Putting an extra $50-60,000 in to what is the lowest recruiting budget in the Big Ten and the country wouldnâ€™t hurt things at all. It just may make finding and keeping the “Wisconsin kid” a Badger come national signing day.
Just donâ€™t expect us to be outraged by a small recruiting budget when all the Badgers do are win football games either.