There had been speculation for some time that the Wisconsin football program was behind the 8-ball in terms of recruiting. They would typically bring in solid kids but it was more due to the atmosphere of Madison then the investment from the college itself. The name recognition of Wisconsin was doing the heavy lifting while the financial commitment was miles behind.
There was smoke before Saeed Khalif left Wisconsin as their personnel director to become the general manager of the Michigan State football program in 2021. When he took some major pieces with him and got a 50% raise, the fire started. Khalif was a huge part of a rejuvenated recruitment push for Wisconsin and losing him to a rival school was a back breaker.
When Barry Alvarez stepped down as the Wisconsin athletic director in 2021, Chris McIntosh was his replacement. As we’ve seen already, he is ready to take this program to the next level. Before him, the allocation of funds wasn’t done properly, or the funds weren’t there at all. To be near the bottom of the conference in recruitment spending is a bad look. According to this On3 article, the Badgers were behind 12 other B1G program in spending and were 51st nationally.
On one hand, it’s impressive what the program has been able to accomplish with one hand tied behind their back. On the other, what heights could they reach if the money was there? The program has already proven it can do more with less, but doing more with more may help them reach the same level as Ohio State. I won’t admit to know all of the ins and outs of where the recruiting budget comes from. I know boosters play a big part in it and staffing needs to be approved by the board of regents. If that’s something McIntosh has a hand in, we may start to see some changes.
Now that McIntosh has found his guy in Luke Fickell, there is reason to believe more money is being invested into recruiting. We’ll never know for sure, but it wouldn’t be shocking if McIntosh saw the writing on the wall with Chryst and wanted to ramp up the budget once he had a coach that he felt would fully take advantage of it. Just off of sheer volume, it looks like both things are happening.
Huge Bump in Offers
We’ll be able to judge better next year, but the 2024 class offer list is extensive. Other major programs send out way more offers than UW has thus far, but for Wisconsin, it’s a major increase to this point. Part of that could be from this being Fickells first major recruiting cycle with his new program. Even though there is added excitement, he doesn’t strike me as a guy that slows down. Let’s look at the number of offers for Fickells first recruiting class as compared to offers in recent years.
Total offers: 168 (with time left)
Running Back: 13. Wide Receiver: 21. Tight End: 9. Offensive Tackle: 20. Cornerback: 18. Safety: 18. Athlete: 20. Quarterback: 5. Offensive Line: 5. Linebacker: 15. Edge: 8. Defensive Line: 16.
Receivers have received the most offers for any one position. 36 offers have been sent to defensive backs and it’s very common for players listed as athletes to end up in the secondary as well. For a program trying to add more playmakers, this offer breakdown isn’t all that surprising. The number that surprised me is the amount of offers of offensive lineman. There is a huge emphasis on getting better in the trenches.
Total offers: 136
Running Back: 10. Wide Receiver: 17. Tight End: 9. Offensive Tackle: 8. Cornerback: 19. Safety: 8. Athlete: 13. Quarterback: 6. Offensive Line: 5. Linebacker: 14. Edge: 12. Defensive Line: 15.
Total offers: 98
Running Back: 10. Wide Receiver: 16. Tight End: 10. Offensive Tackle: 2. Cornerback: 11. Safety: 8. Athlete: 7. Quarterback: 4. Offensive Line: 3. Linebacker: 8. Edge: 3. Defensive Line: 16.
Total offers: 115
Running Back: 7. Wide Receiver: 23. Tight End: 10. Offensive Tackle: 10. Cornerback: 6. Safety: 10. Athlete: 7. Quarterback: 8. Offensive Line: 5. Linebacker: 16. Edge: 5. Defensive Line: 18.
3 year average: 116 offers
Not every year is going to be the same in terms of positional need and scholarship players in general. Not every graduating class is the same size, some players stop playing due to injury and others transfer to different programs. With that said, there is a major jump in offers sent with the new staff. I haven’t been able to find the exact size of the staff that’s focused on recruiting, but there’s reason to believe more has been invested there.
Way Behind Familiar Programs
Let’s compare these numbers with a B1G program that Wisconsin will most likely emulate in terms of recruiting and on field success with the coaching changes, Penn State. It’s not realistic to expect the kind of budget they have, but getting somewhere in the ballpark should help Wisconsin get the type of classes Penn State has brought in as of late.
Between 2021 and 2023, Penn State averaged 343 offers per year. For those keeping track at home, that’s 6 less than Wisconsin sent out total over those 3 years. There is something to be said for casting a smaller net and putting more effort into the kids you do offer. Your success rate is higher and the ones you do bring in truly understand the program. However, this is college football and playing the odds has proven to be the way to go. The more offers you send out, the more likely you are to land higher rated players.
So far for 2024, Penn State has almost doubled the amount of offers of Wisconsin with 310. Even Cincinnati averaged 247 offers per years over the last 3 years with Fickell at the helm. It has always been the Wisconsin way to focus on the relationships. There have been plenty of success stories and for the most part the results on the field have been good. Will they ever be great with that strategy? Probably not consistently.
It’ll be interesting to see how these numbers change as time goes on under Fickell and Co. Was recruiting an issue with past coaches or has it been an issue with the program? As great as their philosophy is in theory, it’s not great in practice, especially when compared to other major programs. It appears as though McIntosh is done with UW acting like it wants to play with the big boys. We will find out quickly if they will do what it takes to actually make it happen.
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