Spending differences between Georgia Tech, FSU: ‘We are who we are’

When Florida State heads to its practice field, the Seminoles are adorned not only in garnet and gold, but high-tech monitors that use GPS and track distance, speed, acceleration, deceleration and heart rate.

Coach Jimbo Fisher swears by it. With real-time feedback on players’ exertion, coaches can adjust practice intensity for the team or specific players. As a result, he said, soft-tissue injuries like muscle pulls, “we’re cutting those way, way down. Injuries in football as far as shoulders, knees, those kinds of breaks and tears, there’s not anything anybody can do. The other part, we can monitor and keep our guys as fresh as we can.”

Georgia Tech, FSU’s opponent Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium, has to do without.

Said coach Paul Johnson, “Pretty expensive.”

The ACC matchup between the Yellow Jackets and Seminoles is hardly a matchup of haves and threadbare have-nots. The Jackets, for instance, had an indoor practice facility before the Seminoles did. It’s more like haves and have-mores. Still, it draws a contrast of the differences in financial resources that exist even within the same conference.

“We are who we are,” Johnson said. “We don’t have a 90,000-seat stadium, we don’t have this, that and the other. It doesn’t mean we can’t win.”

For the 2015-16 fiscal year, FSU has budgeted $24.7 million for football expenses for 2015-16 compared to $14.8 million for Tech, according to documents obtained through open records requests. As budget categories differ, it’s difficult to necessarily conclude that the Seminoles outspend the Jackets by 64 precent.

That said, FSU budgets $12.6 million for salaries and wages. Tech allots $7 million. The Seminoles plan to spend $1.8 million on team travel, about $400,000 more than the Jackets. (Both teams have five road games.)

FSU’s indoor practice facility, opened in 2013, cost $15 million. Tech’s indoor building, opened two years earlier, was a bargain at $9 million.

The Catapult technology is perhaps a more meaningful illustration. The system reportedly cost FSU $25,000 per year for 30 units when the school first began using the technology in 2011. They added more over the years and increased their order to 95 monitors after the 2013 national championship.

Johnson said that he and his staff looked at the system, but could allot money for four or five units. Not wanting to single players out, they passed. He isn’t complaining.

“It’s just different,” he said.

Fisher downplayed any resource advantage, saying that FSU is in the middle of the pack in the ACC and that other schools nationally double the Seminoles’ spending. Johnson was dubious.

“He’s comparing himself to Alabama,” he said. “I’d say he probably does alright in our league budget-wise.”

According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education for a database for college athletics revenues and spending, Tech ranked 11th in the ACC in spending on football in 2013-14 at $19 million. Florida State was first at $32.9 million. Caveat: Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said of the data, “I’ve got to be honest with you – I find that report to be useless.”

Be that as it may, in Johnson’s tenure, the Jackets won the 2009 league title and played for it in 2012 and 2014, both times losing to the Seminoles.

“I would be biased, but I think, yeah, we’re probably doing pretty good with what we’ve got up until this year,” Johnson said.

Bobinski praises Johnson for being strategic in his spending, particularly with team travel and recruiting.

“We’re not trying to impress people with how many places we’re at,” Bobinski said. “Let’s be at places that matter. I think, again, just being smart about that, as opposed to just doing everything that you could possibly do, makes sense.”

If he had the money for it, Bobinski would add a comprehensive, three-meals-a-day nutrition program. He believes it could have a significant impact, but also recognizes that it would be expensive. Florida State has one.

In the meanwhile, Tech will make do.

“More is not always the answer, unless it’s the right more,” he said.

About the Author