Food trucks. Flights. Flowers. How Georgia football spent $4.5 million in recruiting

Georgia football’s recruiting machine under Kirby Smart keeps humming through evaluating talent, connecting with top prospects and pouring money into the process.
During its run to the 2021 national championship, Smart and his staff closed out a No. 3 2022 recruiting class and in the months that followed set in motion a No. 2 ranked haul for 2023.
Those two classes included 10 five-star prospects including Mykel Williams, Malaki Starks and Marvin Jones Jr., who helped Georgia win back-to-back national titles. The Bulldogs hosted many of those during the 12 months of fiscal year 2022 which ran from July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022.
Georgia spent $4.506 million in recruiting expenses during that time frame, according to its NCAA financial report. Clemson’s $3.2 million was a distant second and Texas A&M followed at $2.98 million. Georgia’s recruiting budget was at least double that of 45 of the 51 other public schools in Power 5 conferences.
So what went into Georgia’s staggering number? The school provided data to the Athens Banner-Herald under an open records request.
Here’s a look at where the money went:
Feeding Georgia football recruits
Georgia spent $375,217 at five local restaurants, more than 59 percent of Mississippi State’s entire recruiting budget. Recruits feasted at Five Bar for $179,143, Saucehouse Barbeque for $96,131, ate $46,440 worth of Chick-fil-A, devoured $38,588 at Outback Steakhouse and polished off $14,915 of food from Wing House Grill.
An additional $188,320 went to "Camp Consulting LLC," the name used by Striplings General Store on its tax form, according to UGA. They catered meals for official visits.
Food trucks “Let’s Taco ‘Bout It” from Doraville for $6,563 and “The Loaded Burger” from Atlanta for $3,166 made their way to Athens to feed recruits. The Varsity ($5,043), Agua Linda ($2,873), Sucheros ($2,631), Brett’s Casual American ($1,372), Fully Loaded pizza ($988) and Taziki’s ($205) were other food options for players the Bulldogs courted.
Recruits and their families stayed near campus at Springhill Suites at a total charge of $211,000. They traveled via chauffeured transportation provided by Bulldog Limousine for $19,078. Georgia said the company provided transportation from the Atlanta Airport to Athens and back for official visit guests.
Georgia even gave recruits flowers — $6,406.56 worth to be exact from Flowerland.
“Do we spend on recruiting? Absolutely,” Smart said. “The SEC schools spend on recruiting. Is it necessary to be competitive? It is, and our administration has been great about supporting us. The numbers that people put out, some of those are eye popping and catching where some people are counting their numbers a lot differently, especially with flights which is our No. 1 expense. … I want to be efficient, and we make decisions and we're conscious of budgets and we try to be smart. … We've got to do what we've got to do to compete."
Georgia football recruits travel in style
Georgia spent $490,367.10 on 51 flights on chartered planes and $60,364 on 10 charges for helicopter use.
That included $26,484 from Salisbury, N.C. to Fort Worth, Texas, $15,303 from Athens to Houston and $15,291 from Fort Worth to Charlotte — all on Dec. 5 — and $13,715 on from Fort Lauderdale to Athens on Dec. 9.
Another $1.14 million was used for coaches' flights through "Wheels Up," charters for a total of about $1.63 million on travel while signing players from 14 states including Texas, California, Nevada and Massachusetts.
Those travels costs accounted for about 36 percent of the total recruiting budget.
Georgia spent $206,116 with the automobile services company EAN Services and $98,521 with Hertz. Another $387,142 was charged to American Express, which the school said is used generally for coaches' transportation and transportation for official visits.
Asked at the SEC spring meetings about Georgia’s tops in the nation recruiting budget, Smart said Georgia not having its own plane to use for recruiting is a large reason it’s numbers are so much higher.
The Georgia Athletic Association owned a seven-seat King air plane starting in 2006, but sold it for $1.4 million in 2018. It had spent about $700,000 a year on maintenance, service contracts and fuel for the plane.
Then athletic director Greg McGarity said in February 2020 that the school was looking at purchasing another plane for $8-10 million, but it has not yet purchased one.
“We don’t have a plane so we charter it out individually,” athletic director Josh Brooks said. “If you were to factor that in, the money saving of buying a plane as an investment over time and amortizing that expense versus it’s a yearly expense that we have because we charter. If you factor that out, it’s probably a lot more in line with everyone else.”
Georgia budgeted $4 million on football recruiting and coaches travel for fiscal year 2024, up from $3 million for fiscal year 2023 based on “historical actuals and increased costs and volume of charter airplane use.”
“One of my focuses as AD across the board in all sports is investing in recruiting because that’s what we do,” Brooks said. “It’s fundamentally important in everything we do. We respect spending money on recruiting costs more. What we take pride in is personal attention. Everyone from soccer and football to everyone in between gives personal attention in recruiting.”
Where else does UGA football spend money on recruiting?
Georgia employs several area companies to help host football recruits. They included Epting Events ($76,468), Trump’s Catering ($38,144), Classic City Café ($17,820), Classic City Ventures ($11,012), Dye’s Southern Catering ($4,950) and Alpha Lit Athens ($2,201).
It spent $171,612 for tents, linens and chair rentals from Lake Oconee Rental for official visits, $16,230 for linen rentals for hosting official visits from Circle of Events, $5,829 with Great Estates for holiday lighting for official visits and $5,642 for portable restrooms from Oconee Events.
Smart and his 10 on-field assistant coaches have a small army of support staffers to lean on for nutrition, strength and conditioning, recruiting and player development.
It still turns to outside sources to help in recruiting.
Georgia lists seven companies it partners with: Hudl ($45,000) game footage, National Preps ($23,100) which touts that it “functions as the Player Personnel Department for 270+ colleges,” Blue Chip Athletic ($15,000), Siskey & Associates ($6,600) out of Mississippi, Elite Scouting ($6,500), JUCO Insider ($4,450) and Zcruit ($5,000) which “provides insights and alerts on recruits' offers, visits, and Twitter interactions.”
Georgia continues to rely on many of the same local businesses year after year including 3D Promotions ($47,421), Burman Printing ($19,200) and Fast Signs ($8,691).
It has some new offerings. Recruits could go try their hand at Lumberjaxe Athens ($4,650) and the program rented “UGA Theatre” for $3,800.
What Georgia is doing in recruiting seems to be working on and off the field.
With the next signing day in December, Georgia has the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class for 2024 with 26 verbal commitments.

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