LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska football program is expected to spend nearly $1.2 million on recruiting in the 2017 fiscal year, a 45 percent increase in recruiting expenses from the same period in 2016, according to documents obtained by Land of 10.
Though recruiting will account for just 5 percent of Nebraska football’s expenses in 2017, the dramatic increase in spending shows another way Nebraska coach Mike Riley and the athletic department are shifting more focus onto the recruiting trail.
Nebraska football’s recruiting expenses for the 2016 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, totaled $806,463, according to financial documents. Nebraska’s 2017 fiscal year will end on June 30, and with a few weeks remaining, recruiting spending is currently at $918,861, according to the athletic department. Nebraska athletics chief financial officer John Jentz said he won’t know for certain until the end of August or September if Nebraska will hit the $1.17 million allotted in the budget for 2017, but he fully expects them to.
“We’ve invested tremendously in the recruiting process in football the last couple years,” Jentz said. “We know football recruiting can be a very expensive endeavor.”
The athletic department actually budgeted the same amount of money for recruiting in the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, but the increase in spending for 2017 came from the direction of Riley and his staff, Jentz said.
In little more than two years as Nebraska’s coach, Riley’s focused a great deal of time and energy refining the way the Huskers recruit on a national scale. He’s fired coaches for a lack of recruiting, and hired some in part because of their recruiting prowess. Nebraska also recently launched an entire department dedicated to recruiting, a first for the school.
The higher spending in 2017 shows Riley not only has the public support of the Nebraska athletic department to explore ideas on how to boost on-field talent, but the financial backing to do so.
“In football the last couple years, [Riley] has done quite a bit of restructuring,” Jentz said. “So we’ve added positions, we’ve changed people’s duties here and there. But the bottom line is, a majority of the changes or enhancements have been aimed at being able to help [coaches] recruit better.”
An overwhelming majority of recruiting expenses are for travel, Jentz said — either for recruits or for coaches.
The bulk of that recruiting travel comes during the spring and December visiting periods, as well as bye weeks. Nebraska coaches are currently on a week-long trip around the country to visit satellite camps, with stops in Texas, Georgia, Florida and California on the itinerary.
Nebraska also has put a higher emphasis on being “America’s Team,” which entails recruiting the entire country. The Huskers’ 2017 class included players from Nevada, California, Delaware and Florida. The 2018 class already has commits from California, Alabama, Florida and Colorado.
Travel expenses vary between private jets the athletic department uses and commercial flights, along with fuel for driving to recruits’ homes, Jentz said. Nebraska also pays for recruits’ hotels and meals on official visits. During the 2016-2017 football season, 49 recruits officially visited campus.
The rest of the expenses include different digital ventures Nebraska has explored for recruiting, Jentz said.
“It’s more than just creating a budget that can have private planes, it’s getting creative with the dollars you use, as well,” Jentz said. “It’s more than nuts and bolts of travel expenses, it’s making ourselves stand out.”
In terms of the 2017 budget, recruiting is expected to be the fourth-highest expenditure for the football team, behind only guaranteed money for coach payouts ($2.05 million), student-athlete tuition ($1.7 million) and student-athlete room and board ($1.3 million).
The influx of financial support seems to be paying off for Nebraska.
The 2017 class that was recruited during the 2016 fiscal year finished No. 23 in the country, according to 247sports. The Huskers secured some top national recruits, including 4-star receiver Tyjon Lindsey, 4-star linebacker Avery Roberts and 4-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia. Nebraska signed four 4-star recruits in the class.
The 2018 class, which won’t be completed until National Signing Day on Feb. 7, is already ahead of the 2017 class in terms of ratings. The Huskers have six 4-star recruits on board, including cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles, tight end Cameron Jurgens and defensive back Chase Williams.
Nebraska currently has 10 commits in the 2018 class, and is No. 11 on the 247sports team rankings. Riley has said he wants the class to have about 15 recruits and said it could be full by July 1. Jentz said he doesn’t expect the budget for recruiting to go up for fiscal year 2018, particularly with the smaller recruiting class.
This means Nebraska’s new budget should remain $1.17 million, but whether it spends it all is the question. If the Huskers’ approach in 2018 is anything like the past 12 months, the spending could be similar.
“We’re planning for the budgeted number, and we’ll expect to hit or have a plan if they think it’ll go over,” Jentz said. “I think we have a number we feel comfortable with from a budget stand point.”