Pay to Play
The University of Texas reportedly spent $280,000 on Arch Manning’s recruiting visit … including a trip to Topgolf
For years, media and fans alike have peddled a huge misnomer about college football: Just because the players don’t get paid, doesn’t mean they come cheap. This isn’t a justification for NOT paying them. Nor is it a commentary on the new NIL/transfer portal landscape. But the notion that the blue-blood programs remain the blue-blood programs based on reputation and savvy recruiting—that players are “free” commodities—simply isn’t accurate. Don’t take our word for it, though. Just listen to the much smarter folks over at The Athletic, who dug into all the details of Texas’ lavish recruiting visit for five-star, internet-famous QB Arch Manning and nine other recruits back in June; a $280,000 weekend replete with tomahawk ribeyes, ice sculptures, luxury suites, open bars, and more.
But wait, it gets even better. Because buried within the itinerary for Manning’s veritable weekend at Bernie’s—sandwiched between the avalanche of custom cakes adorning Manning’s suite at the Four Seasons and a $29,129.40 dinner/parent social with other members of the Longhorns recruiting class—was an afternoon at, you guessed it, Topgolf. There Manning and his fellow recruits got some hacks in while their parents chatted with Longhorns coaches. By the end of the optional activity, the total tab for the visit, including fajitas (with guac of course), desserts, and plenty of booze, came to a cool $9,497.72. It may seem like that’s how much you spend every time you go to Topgolf, but it’s not even close.
If your name is Jeff Bezos and you’re still wondering what the big deal is, a week later Texas hosted yet another, even costlier recruit-a-thon for the rest of their potential class, bringing the total tab for both weekends to $630,000 actual U.S. dollars. That’s a lot of dough to spend on cookie cakes for teenagers who would probably rather get paid a salary.
Despite the crassness of it all, however, Texas’ ‘Richie Rich’-inspired outlay worked. They landed Arch Manning, one of the hottest commodities in all of college football, and with that piece in place, 2023's number-two overall recruiting class. Will it be enough to earn Manning’s Longhorns more than a few moral victories against superior opposition? Will it propel Texas back into the top 25, the alone the CFP picture? Who knows what the future holds, but from the sound of things, Texas certainly isn’t afraid to invest in it.