Clemson Football's Luxurious Recruiting Visits Detailed in The Athletic Report

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 13: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers embraces Isaiah Simmons #11 during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The Clemson Tigers spare no expense when it comes to impressing recruits.

According to Grace Raynor of The Athletic, the school spent $85,000 of its "$2 million-plus" annual football budget during its 2019 marquee recruiting weekend of Nov. 15-17 with 11 prospects and their families in attendance. As Raynor noted, "from steakhouse dinners to black car service to a luxury hotel—the Tigers did not skimp."

The Tigers also paid for round-trip plane tickets for the prospects and two of their family members, gave the prospects a tour of its South Carolina campus, gave them lower-level tickets for the home game against Wake Forest, a tour of the team's $55 million facility (which includes "an indoor slide to a barbershop, a nap room, a theater, outdoor amenities and a bowling alley") and a visit to head coach Dabo Swinney's house. 

Between a number of catered lunches and dinners to steakhouses, the recruits and their families were also provided with some swanky options.

That included "BBQ bacon cheddar grilled chicken thighs, jumbo lump crab cakes, grilled ribeye with herb compound, whipped truffle garlic butter mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli and oven-roasted maple butternut squash" at a Saturday lunch and "buttermilk fried chicken, chargrilled oysters with fresh bread, a carving station for brown sugar-cumin-rubbed beef tenderloin, creamy steakhouse macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice and brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese and crispy shallots" at dinner that night. 

Clemson spared no expense, and while the team's success in recent years and a huge operational budget is a flex, proponents of paying college athletes could also point to the $85,000 weekend, the program's $2 million-plus budget and Swinney's $9.3 million annual salary as evidence that FBS programs could more than afford to pay the players.

Not every school has those resources, of course, though most programs receive major windfalls from their conference allegiances. The power conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) all split a base football payout of $66 million with member schools, for instance, with additional money coming from bowl appearances. 

And that's just the football portion of the money that comes from a power conference membership:

Steve Berkowitz @ByBerkowitz

All Power 5's have now released FY 18 tax returns. Per-school distributions for the year, according to the docs: -Big Ten: $54M to 12 longest-standing schools -SEC: $43.7M to all except Mississippi (postseason ban) -Big 12: $34.7M -Pac-12 and ACC: $29.5M each

Clemson's lavish weekend for recruits is just another reminder, then, of the massive money flowing through college athletics, namely football. How and where that money is distributed—and whether the players deserve a direct payout—remains a major point of contention.