Section I in the Commission’s report outlines a specific recommendation to strengthen accountability through transparency and the reporting of better assessment measures. This recommendation follows:

Report annually on growth rates in academics and athletics spending. Each institution should publish comparisons of the growth rate in athletics spending and in education-related spending, both calculated using improved assessment measures.

The information below provides additional explanation for the improved assessment measures recommended. Examples of these measures using the best financial data available for institutions in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are provided.

  1. Measures to compare total spending on academics and athletics. Improved assessment measures should include present dollar amounts and growth rates for spending on academics and athletics. Such information is valuable on a per-student basis for academic spending and a per-athlete basis for athletics spending. The per-capita reporting permits better understanding of growth over time because the calculation can control for fluctuations in enrollment and athletic rosters.

    For the academic spending calculation, we recommend using a measure of full cost of education, which includes spending for instruction, student services, and shared overhead costs for academic, instructional, and operations support.

    These new measures improve upon the existing metrics gathered by the NCAA for two reasons: a) They permit apples-to-apples comparisons of a university’s academic and athletics programs on a per-capita basis, and b) their use of education-related spending avoids relying on total institutional spending, which includes spending for sponsored research and public service. These figures are highly variable and may be increasing even as spending for the core academic program is being reduced.

    Examples of these measures using 2008 spending data are displayed by conference in Figure 2.

  2. Reporting rates of change for total spending on academics and athletics. In addition to the public reporting of these new measures, the mid- and long-term rates of change should be reported. In the majority of the major football conferences, growth in athletics spending has outpaced growth in academic spending over the past four years.

    Figure 1 shows that the median growth rate from 2005 to 2008 for athletics spending per athlete for the majority of FBS institutions was 37.9 percent compared to a 20.5 percent growth rate for academic spending per student.

    Figure 6 shows that from 2005 to 2008, athletics spending growth is outpacing academic spending growth in the majority of Football Bowl Subdivision conferences when using the per-capita spending measures.

    Figures 7a - 7l display the annual median rates of change for athletics spending on a per capita basis for each FBS conference from 2005 to 2008.

  3. Amount of institutional funding for athletics compared to funding for academics. In addition to reporting total spending measures and growth rates, it also would be useful to provide a breakdown for the athletics funding. Institutions should publish the amounts and growth of institutional funds or allocations for athletics programs needed to make up for shortfalls in revenue generated by athletics. This breakdown helps to demonstrate the differences between core institutional spending for athletics and revenues generated by athletics programs themselves, such as ticket sales and television revenues.

    In examining the institutional funding or allocations for athletics, only the amount of internal funds or allocated revenues (e.g., student fees, direct institutional transfers, tuition waivers) are considered. These resources are the ones most susceptible to discretionary spending decisions within the institutions and are the same sources of revenues that support the general instructional, student services, and academic support programs.

    Figure 8 shows the 2008 data for the median institutional funding or allocations for athletics on a per athlete basis compared to the institutional spending on academics on a per student basis. There are wide variations among the FBS conferences in their reliance on institutional funding for athletics.

    It should be noted that some institutions may not report tuition waivers for athletics to the degree that is required to have this measure be completely accurate, and that more work may need to be done to improve the accuracy and campus-to-campus comparability of these data.

  4. Rates of change for institutional funding for athletics and academic spending. Over the past four years, institutional funding for athletics has been rising more quickly than funding for academic programs. Providing rates of change for institutional investment in athletics compared to academics helps to better convey the increasing challenges of funding athletics while also funding academic needs. Figure 9a shows that the median growth rate from 2005 to 2008 for institutional funding for athletics measured on a per athlete basis for FBS institutions was 45.9 percent compared to a 20.5 percent growth rate for academic spending per student. Figures 9b-9l display the rates of change for annual median athletics and academic spending on a per capita basis for each FBS conference from 2005 to 2008.


Click on Figure 9 below for an interactive chart by athletic conference

Knight Commission member Sarah Lowe on the purpose of college sports

Knight Commission member Len Elmore on putting college athletics into perspective

Knight Commission Co-Chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan on financial reform