UTC men’s golf coach Mark Guhne
When the 2011-12 fiscal year began in July, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic programs saw a boost in their recruiting budgets.
None of the teams are now rolling in cash — there will be no scouting trips via private plane like some of their fellow coaches at big-budget programs — but athletic director Rick Hart said the recruiting budgets have mostly been restored to levels similar to their Southern Conference rivals.
“It’s an important area for us, and we needed to go back and restore some of the funding that had been removed the past several years,” Hart said.
As the athletic department’s budget was slashed again and again in recent years, one of the few areas where cuts could continue to be made was in recruiting.
Scholarships and salaries make up two-thirds of the athletic department budget, Hart said, and of the final third there were a lot of unavoidable expenses, such as travel and security.
“We reduced and changed the way we traveled to some things,” Hart said, “but you get to a point where you don’t have many choices about where to reduce, where you can control expenditures — and recruiting is an area where you can.”
UTC’s proposed budget for this fiscal year was $10,471,687. The athletic department spent $152,225 on recruiting in the 2010-11 fiscal year and the budget for this year is $170,000. Hart said UTC was able to increase the recruiting budgets due in large part to the increase in student athletic fees, which went from $120 to $180 per semester.
For men’s golf coach Mark Guhne, his budget increase has already paid dividends, he said. After working with a recruiting budget of less than $1,500 for a couple of years, he has $5,000 at his disposal.
That extra money, he said, helped him sign three top in-state players in November.
“I had the money to get out and to really spend time following three of the best players in the state of Tennessee,” he said, “and we were able to land all three of them.”
And if Guhne chows down on a peanut butter sandwich for dinner — “I’m a peanut butter fanatic, so I would get a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and I was good to go,” he said — it’s not because he wants save a few bucks on food.
“It is nice to know that when you’re on the road you actually have the money to do things right,” he said.
Recruiting budgets don’t just cover the expenses coaches incur while on the road, whether it’s defensive coordinator Adam Fuller traveling to Florida to look for football players or women’s basketball coach Wes Moore going to New Orleans for an AAU tournament. The budgets also cover the costs of bringing recruits in for official visits.
“So if you’ve got $1,350 and you bring three kids in on a visit,” Guhne said, “you’re spent your whole budget before you ever left campus.”
Recruiting budgets can fluctuate from year to year based on a team’s needs, Hart said. If the football team needs to sign 20 players one year and 14 the next, then the budget will reflect that.
“When you’ve got big classes, you’ve got to travel and spend more money, and bring more people in,” said Mocs football coach Russ Huesman, whose budget is $50,000, up from $36,000.
Huesman’s Mocs have 13 commitments for next month’s signing class and 10 of the 13 are from Georgia, which makes for economical recruiting. UTC is still busy in Florida, however; the 2011 class featured five players from the Sunshine State.
“It’s not just [the airfare], it’s renting a car down there, you’ve got to get down there Sunday night so now you’ve got to get a hotel room for an extra night — it adds up,” Huesman said. “Every time Adam comes back from a week of recruiting, his expense report is five times more than anybody else’s. And that’s just the way it is, and that’s just the way it’s always going to be.”
Woody Allen is credited with saying that “80 percent of success is showing up.” A big part of recruiting success is being there, Moore said, especially when all of your competitors are there.
“We’re fortunate in that we recruit very regionally,” Moore said. “But in the summer you’ve got to go where the kids are.”
Hart said he wants “the best and the brightest” on UTC’s teams. The coaches now have the resources to get them.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...