Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Spending Database Challenge Awards

Call for Proposals

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an initiative of the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, announces a challenge program to support research proposals that use the Commission’s Athletic and Academic Spending Database ( to investigate athletics debt, athletics debt service, or institutional financial support (e.g., student fees, institutional transfers to athletics) of NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs. The Knight Commission welcomes a wide variety of frameworks to consider this research, including from the fields of higher education, sport management, economics/finance, and business.

The Knight Commission’s Athletic and Academic Spending Database was created to improve the accountability for spending in college athletics. The Commission believes more effective disclosure of finance – and of financial priorities – enhances the ability of colleges and universities to ensure athletics programs are advancing the mission of higher education.

The areas of athletics debt and athletics debt service are selected as two of the potential research categories because of the significant role of facilities construction and expansion in athletics spending.The other category of potential research includes examining institutional financial support of athletics through student fees, institutional transfers, or government support. Research in this area is important since the majority of athletics programs rely on institutional support to balance their budgets and such support is growing faster than academic budgets.

Awards and deadlines:

  • A total of $10,000 will be awarded, with individual challenge awards worth up to a maximum of $5,000 each (for instance $5,000, $2,500, or $1,000 awards may be considered).
  • Proposals are due March 16, 2015. An announcement of awards will be made April 15, 2015.
  • Research projects shall be completed and submitted to the Knight Commission within one year of announcement.

Proposal requirements:

The narrative of the proposal should be no more than 2,500 words (or ten double-spaced pages). Authors’ names shall only be printed on the cover page. An abstract of 250 words or less is also required. The cover page, abstract, and references are not included in the word or page count. All submissions must adhere to APA guidelines.

Proposal narrative:

Successful proposals will investigate athletics debt, athletics debt service, or institutional financial support (e.g., student fees, institutional transfers to athletics) of NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs using the Knight Commission database. Each proposal will include: 1) Statement of the problem; 2) Literature review; 3) Conceptual framework; 4) Methods and analysis; 5) Potential findings and implications; and, 6) Marketing plan (see below for more details).

The marketing plan should include a brief timeline and address the following: 1) How this research will lead to scholarly publication in a peer-reviewed journal; 2) How the researchers will share the report with contacts in traditional media (newspaper, television, radio); 3) How non-traditional media, including social media, will be used to build interest in the findings of the research; and, 4) Any other techniques to help enhance the brand and use of the Knight Commission database. Notably, if the proposal is to receive a challenge award, the marketing plan and timeline will be implemented in collaboration with the Knight Commission.

Not included in the narrative but also required is a proposed budget. Research awards may be used for salary support, travel, data collection, research assistant support, equipment, and miscellaneous expenses such as software and books.

Process of review:

A committee of staff, consultants, and several Knight Commission members will review each proposal, with the cover page and authors’ names removed. Criteria used to review proposals will be based on the extent to which each proposal: 1) meets each of the six intended objectives listed in the narrative; 2) demonstrates use of data from the Knight Commission database; 3) is expected to have significant contribution to the public dialogue on athletics debt, debt service, and/or institutional support of athletics; and, 4) funding requested in the budget. Those proposals best meeting each of the aforementioned criteria will be ranked and funded, based on the number of proposals meeting the criteria and the amount of money available to be awarded. An announcement of proposals to receive awards will be made by April 15, 2015.

Challenge awards will be provided in two periods. Half of the award will be provided within one month of the initial announcement. The other half of the awarded amount will be provided within one month of the receipt of a final research project, including implementation of the marketing plan. Demonstration of the marketing plan implementation can include news clips, copies of email correspondence with selected media, sharing of social media analytics, and any other results. A finalized, adjusted budget must also be provided. Each research project shall be completed no later than one year after the award agreement is signed.

Submission instructions:

Please send a single document in a common format (Microsoft Word or Google Doc) containing the proposal with all of the above information to Those submitting proposals will receive an e-mail within one week confirming the receipt of their proposal.

For questions or more information:

Please contact the Knight Commission’s database project director, Scott Hirko, at