LEXINGTON, Ky. – Amid a four-year drought without signing a top-five-ranked recruit, the Kentucky men’s basketball program dramatically increased its recruiting spending in 2018-19.
That number went up by 66% – roughly $429,000 – from 2017-18, according to the school’s latest financial report submitted to the NCAA. The document was obtained through the state’s open records law by the USA TODAY Network.
By spending $1.07 million on recruiting in 2018-19, Kentucky blew past the previous leader in men’s basketball spending among public Power Five conference programs.
Kentucky coach John Calipari reacts during the game against the Vanderbilt during the second half at Rupp Arena. (Photo: Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports)
Previous reporting from the USA TODAY in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications revealed Kentucky was one of just two Power Five conference programs to spend at least $3 million on men’s basketball recruiting from 2013 to 2018.
Indiana topped that list at more than $3.5 million over the six-year period and spent more than any other men’s basketball program on recruiting in 2017-18 at $739,722. The Hoosiers’ spending increased to $782,757 in 2018-19, according to that school’s financial report filed with the NCAA.
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Kentucky had spent no more than $664,157 on men’s basketball recruiting previously. The program spent between $600,000 and $665,000 on recruiting in each of the previous four years.
The financial report covers the period between July 2018 and June 2019 in which Kentucky coach John Calipari signed the No. 2-ranked 2019 recruiting class and began to pursue prospects in the Wildcats’ No. 1-ranked 2020 class.
In the 2020 class, Kentucky has signed two prospects ranked as top-five recruits by Rivals.com, Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston. The program had not signed a player ranked as a top-five prospect by any of the recruiting services since Skal Labisierre in 2015.
Kentucky missed on many of its top targets in the 2019 class during the time period covered by the financial report and failed to sign a high school post player for the first time in the Calipari era.
Five-star guard Tyrese Maxey (No. 10 in the 247Sports composite) was the highest-ranked player to sign with Kentucky in the class, but the Wildcats were involved in the recruitment of all of the top nine players to some extent. However, they finished second in the race for several of those players.
A Kentucky spokesman declined to point to specific reasons the recruiting spending increased so much between fiscal year 2018 and 2019 but confirmed the number reflected an actual increase in spending, not a change in the way previous expenses were accounted for in the financial report.
“We want to be responsible and I think we’ll look to limit where possible, but at the same time we don’t want to restrict ourselves and cost ourselves chances at the kind of guys that we need,” said Guy Ramsey, the school’s director of strategic communication.
Kentucky’s increase in recruiting spending was not isolated to men’s basketball.
The football program’s recruiting spending increased by 30.7% ($243,354) from $791,863 in 2017-18 to $1.035 million in 2018-19.
While the football program’s recruiting spending represented a dramatic increase from previous years, it only closes the gap between Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference’s top powers. Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee all spent more than $2 million on football recruiting in 2017-18. Eight SEC programs spent at least $1 million that year.
The 2018-19 fiscal year covered by the latest financial report includes the period where Mark Stoops and his staff spent much of their time recruiting a 2020 recruiting class considered to be his best yet at Kentucky with a consensus top-25 ranking and 15 commitments rated as a four-star prospect by at least one recruiting service.
Kentucky’s recruiting spending for all sports totaled $3.3 million, which would have ranked behind only Georgia and Alabama among public Power Five programs in 2017-18.
The men’s basketball and football recruiting spending totals were far greater than what was budgeted for the respective sports in the 2018-19 budget. They budgeted $670,000 for men’s basketball recruiting, and spent $1.07 million; the $685,000 budgeted for football recruiting fell far short of the $1.04 million spent.
Ramsey said the dramatic jump in recruiting spending was not necessarily planned ahead of time.
“Needs arise and we do our best to address them,” he said.
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