Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

A project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb. 5, 2013



This is to update you on progress related to two initiatives of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.  In its 2010 Restoring the Balance report, the Knight Commission called for strengthening accountability for college sports through requiring greater transparency of athletics finances, including better measures to compare athletics spending to academic spending, and rewarding practices that make academic values a priority


Comparing athletics and academic spending

The Knight Commission continues to track and publish financial data on athletics and academic spending, and promote ways to encourage responsible spending.  Updated data can be accessed here.


These data were recently published in an independent brief produced by The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research.  The brief, titled "Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending:  Who Wins?," highlighted that annual spending on sports by public universities in the six most highly-resourced conferences passed $100,000 per athlete -- about six to 12 times the amount those universities spent per student on academics.  The data also showed that athletic costs increased at least twice as fast as academic spending, on a per-capita basis, across each of the three Division I subdivisions. 


This brief underscores the importance of addressing these trends and their implications.  Articles about the brief can be accessed at the bottom of this message.


Rewarding practices that make academic values a priority

In its 2010 report and again while the new major college football playoff was being considered, the Commission promoted a new approach to dividing the postseason football revenues.  The Commission called for incentives to be aligned with academic values by considering  academic outcomes, such as graduation rates, in the formula for distributing the windfall of new revenue. 


Late last year, officials announced a framework for the football playoff revenue distribution plan that will "share revenue, for the first time in college football history, based on academic performance as part of the funding formula." A tenth of playoff revenues (estimated at $37.5 million) will be directed toward rewarding FBS institutions whose football teams exceed a specified Academic Progress Rate threshold. 


The Knight Commission continues to promote concepts that will align incentives with practices that emphasize the educational mission of college sports.


Thank you for your interest. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Best regards,


Amy Perko

Executive Director




"A separate class: Study highlights huge spending gaps between athletics and academics,"  Associated Press (reprinted in 100+ media outlets)


"Report Describes Big Gaps in Athletic vs. Academic Spending," The Chronicle of Higher Education


 "College football playoff money attaches a $300,000 Academic Progress Rate incentive to schools," Birmingham News


 "Agreement on BCS playoff structure reached,"  USA Today