When most folks picture “football staff” they probably think of the on-field coaches—the head coach, the coordinators, the position coaches. After all, those guys are always the most visible. But these days a football program’s staff goes way, way deeper than that, as this recent unscientific report from the NCAA outlines.
In addition to the on-field coaches, college football programs employ strength and conditioning guys, graduate assistants, recruiting specialists, and football operations personnel.
Some of these categories have caps on how many coaches you can employ. You can only have nine (soon to be 10) on-field coaches, for instance, and only five strength and conditioning coaches.
But there is no limit on the number of football ops/recruiting personnel that a school can employ, which is the crux of the NCAA’s interest in the subject. Because the schools that can afford to spend more on personnel usually do, and obviously not everyone is pleased about that particular uneven playing field.
NC State employs 34 football staffers by my count—and again, only nine of those are the on-field guys. The Wolfpack has six people in the recruiting department alone, and that’s not even a high number for a power-five school. Clemson’s got 10 guys whose sole job is working behind the scenes in recruiting. Glad-handing, sending out mailers, organizing visit schedules, doin’ up the fancy Twitter photoshops, all that good stuff.
(Just bear this in mind the next time anyone cries poor about players getting paid to play.)
The average ACC football program employs 29 people, per the NCAA’s findings, and this is almost certainly a low-ball estimate, since literally the only thing the NCAA did was go to each school’s website and count the people listed in their staff directories. Since the report, State has added two additional recruiting staffers. These staffs are not going to be shrinking any time soon.
Recruiting is one side of the football operations area, and scouting is the other. The shrewd among elite programs have scooped up former coaches from any number of levels to break down film. Like, that is their entire job. Sit in a room and break down film all week.
A lot of these guys end up with “consultant” as their title and never make it into a staff directory, which is why the NCAA’s cursory glance at FBS staff sizes is probably so far off. I mean, just read this piece from last year about Alabama’s football staff. Alabama can afford to hire a zillion people to watch film or tweet at recruits or whatever. So they do. What else would they do, open a savings account?
Most schools in the ACC are not in quite such a luxurious position, but they aren’t far off either. (Plus you gotta wonder how many dudes breaking down film is too many. I suppose somebody in college football will figure that one out eventually. That’s just kinda how it goes in big-money sports.)
NC State’s recent recruiting staff additions, never mind the larger general trend, demonstrate how the money is flowing into college football. Television money has allowed every power-five team to create its own mini-empire; the difference is only in degree.