It's easy to say the power of the purse rules all in college football.
The Power-5 conferences sport enormous media rights contracts, with sizable payouts for each member school. That money goes a long way in deciding who plays on national television and who gets the best exposure to fans and recruits.
However, a look at major college football programs' spending on recruiting new players tells a different story — more money doesn't necessarily equal more wins.
According to numbers compiled by USA Today, Tennessee spent an average of almost $1.3 million on recruiting from 2009 to 2013. In that stretch, Tennessee won just 28 games.
In the same amount of time, UCF spent an average of $221,126 on recruiting and won 19 more games than the Volunteers.
Of the 108 programs for which data is available, only 17 spent less in recruiting per win than UCF — of that group only Northern Illinois, Boise State and Wisconsin won more games.
The information was obtained by USA Today from public-records requests to each university, however, not every school is required to send the information. Private universities are not required to, and some public schools are covered by a state exemption.
When filling out an NCAA report, recruiting expenses are defined as: "Transportation, lodging and meals for prospective student-athletes and institutional personnel on official and unofficial visits, telephone call charges, postage and such. Include value of use of institution's own vehicles or airplanes as well as in-kind value of loaned or contributed transportation."
On Wednesday, UCF signed 17 recruits to National Letters of Intent to form the 2015 recruiting class — a class ranked 62nd by Rivals.com. UCF doesn't typically rank high on recruiting sites, but has seen a boost from taking under-appreciated high school talents such as J.J. Worton, Breshad Perriman and Brandon Alexander and turned them into stars.
Despite spending pennies on the dollar compared with many Power-Five programs during the five-year period above, UCF has been able to reel in top-flight talent such as current NFL players Josh Robinson, Kemal Ishmael, A.J. Bouye and Blake Bortles.
"I would say this class is probably the most talented class of the once's since I've been here," UCF head coach George O'Leary said Wednesday.
One potential reason for lower spending could be NCAA sanctions that UCF suffered in 2012 for providing impermissible benefits to recruits, impermissible benefits to prospective student athletes, an impermissible recruiting inducement, unethical conduct, failure to monitor and lack of institutional control.
The 2015 class is the final class that is limited to 20 initial scholarships by NCAA sanctions.
"We signed what we needed to sign because we're still under those restrictions," O'Leary said.
Additionally, the program was limited in the number of coaches that were allowed to recruit off campus in past seasons. UCF also had its evaluation days for recruits reduced and saw a reduction in the number of paid official visits to campus in the past. A UCF spokesman confirmed that those sanctions are now complete, but were in effect for some of the 2009-13 stretch.
Of public FBS programs in Florida, only FIU spent less in recruiting in the 2012-13 year, but UCF saw the most bang for its buck in terms of recruiting funds per win. The Florida Gators led the state in recruiting spending at $687,227 that year.
Jarrod Heil contributed to this story.
Ryan Gillespie is the Editor-in-Chief at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @rgillespiecff or email him at RyanG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.