Skip to main content

In launching $350M facilities campaign, Ole Miss cites study that shows spending on facilities doesn't improve recruiting


Any time a university releases a fundraising video, one can only imagine the thought that goes into the script. Even though the audience knows the message you're trying to get across -- We need your support, otherwise talented kids won't come here and our rivals will (pass us by/leave us in the dust) -- that subtext is usually left in the background in favor of an aspirational tone.

Not Ole Miss. In asking their supporters for $350 million by launching the "Champions. Now." campaign earlier this month, Ole Miss put the subtext right in front of their eyeballs.

"(N)othing stays static, the game has evolved," the narrator says, interspersed with clips of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, headlines of new NIL rules, clips of Deion Sanders and Jackson State (!!), and Paul Finebaum saying, "If you're a middle-of-the-roader in college football, you're in trouble."

"Now more than ever, we must set ourselves apart... But to ask for greatness, we must provide greatness."

It's a snazzy video, and the renderings look fantastic. (Don't they all?)

Most of that $350 is earmarked football.

Ole Miss would like to spend $215 million renovating the north and west ends of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, putting in a new facade while also installing more high-priced seating. Ole Miss calls it "the most ambitious and game-changing project in decades."

Ole Miss would like $45 million to renovate the Manning Performance Center. Already underway, this is a stem-to-stern facelift, expanding the weight room, adding new meeting rooms, streamlining the coaches offices, plus "a cardio mezzanine, yoga/pilates space, state-of-the-art technology, fueling stations and offices for the nutrition staff. The training room will also expand and feature additional recovery benefits, including hydrotherapy, massage therapy, compression units, two sensory deprivation tanks, cold and hot tubs, new concussion rehabilitation technology and counseling space for mental health and nutrition consultations."

The Manning Center project is set to complete before training camp in 2023, while the Vaught-Hemingway project will not begin until after the '23 season.

Ole Miss would like all that, plus a renovated baseball stadium ($40 million), a renovated softball stadium ($20 million), a renovated soccer stadium ($20 million), and a golf complex ($10 million).

And yet the "Champions. Now." campaign doesn't seem to ask the question it's already answered. 

In this new age of college athletics, is it more worthwhile to spend $350 million of your donors' money on new facilities, or spend that directly on the difference-makers on the football field, in the batter's box, on the golf course? We know what the people who worked on this campaign would say -- they already told us, by moving forward with the project -- but what is the answer for the athletics department as a whole? 

In fact, maybe Ole Miss did give us an answer and didn't realize it.

At the 43-second mark of the first video posted above, we see a screen-shot headline of this Athletic Director U study: "Do Facilities Really Matter in Recruiting?," published in the Journal of Marketing in Higher Education.

Screen Shot 2022-01-31 at 1.20.10 PM

The conclusion of that study:

While a large number of athletic programs have been building or completing facilities projects, our study found little to no impact from new athletic facilities on the recruitment of potential football or men’s basketball recruits.... Our findings provide strong evidence that new athletic facilities for football and men’s basketball do not improve recruiting rankings. 

Get out your wallets, folks.