About the College Athletics Financial Information (CAFI) Database

The Commission believes that the effective oversight of college sports across all NCAA Division I institutions requires the availability of clear, comparable, and complete financial data. Sustaining intercollegiate athletics also requires strategies to improve accountability.

In its 2010 report, Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics called for greater transparency of athletics finances by NCAA Division I institutions, including better measures to compare trends in athletic and academic spending.

College Athletics Financial Information (CAFI) Database Tutorial

The Commission is publishing this financial database to advance transparency and understanding of athletics revenues and expenses. This effort highlights two key principles — transparency and financial integrity — promoted in the Commission’s 19912001, and 2010 reports.

The financial data are organized to show "Where the Money Comes From" (revenue) and "Where the Money Goes" (expenses) for each public Division I institution, athletics conference, and each of the three Division I subdivisions. 

At a time when all of U.S. higher education is under unprecedented pressure to be more transparent to the public and more accountable for the results it achieves, intercollegiate athletics cannot expect to be immune to the same standards.

By displaying the athletic revenues and expenses , the Knight Commission is not making the case that spending or revenue in athletics should be reduced.  However, there is concern about the unbalanced spending levels and patterns seen at some universities.  On the whole, the most troubling pattern is the continued rapid rise of athletic and football spending at a time of stagnant growth in academic spending.

Below are two graphs that provide aggregate data for Division I to explain “Where the Money Goes” and “Where the Money Comes From”.

“Where The Money Goes”

Distribution of Athletic Expenditures for Division I Public Institutions, 2016

Distribution of Athletic Expenditures for Division I Institutions, 2016

This graph shows the major operating expenses for each Division I Subdivision and each Spending Quartile in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). "Guarantees" are payments to visiting institutions for participation in home games. The “Other expenses” category includes marketing, dues, spirit groups, sports camps, and other miscellaneous expenses. "Excess transfers back to the institution" are net positive revenues transferred from athletics back to the institution's general fund to be used for non-athletics purposes.

The 2016 data are based on 106 public institutions classified in the Football Bowl Subdivision; 78 public institutions in the Football Championship Subdivision and 47 public institutions in Division I that do not sponsor football.

Data Source: USA TODAY’s NCAA Athletics Finance Database.

Source: Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, 2018.

“Where the Money Comes From”

Sources of Athletic Budget Revenue for Division I Public Institutions, 2016

Sources of Athletic Budget Revenue for Division I Institutions, 2016

This graph shows the major operating revenues for each Division I Subdivision and each Spending Quartile in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). "Guarantees" are revenues received for participation in away games. The "other revenue" category includes concessions, endowments, sports camps, third party compensation, and other revenue.

The 2016 data are based on 106 public institutions classified in the Football Bowl Subdivision; 78 public institutions in the Football Championship Subdivision and 47 public institutions in Division I that do not sponsor football.

Data Source: USA TODAY’s NCAA Athletics Finance Database.

Source: Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, 2018.

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About the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 to promote a reform agenda that emphasizes the educational mission of college sports. To preserve the Commission’s independence, the foundation continues to be its sole supporter, but does not control, or attempt to control, the Commission’s opinions or pronouncements. Over the years, the NCAA has adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations, including the rule that requires teams to be on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players to be eligible for postseason competition.

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About the Data and Methodology

This database uses data collected from NCAA Division I public institutions that are required to provide information based on state public records laws. The data are self-reported by institutions via NCAA Financial Report Forms, which are filed with the NCAA annually. Public higher education institutions in the state of Pennsylvania are not required to respond to public records requests; and, the U.S. Military Academy (Army) and the U.S. Air Force Academy only provided data through 2014-2015. Because Pennsylvania State University has periodically provided data, those years with missing data may have an impact on totals or medians for where the school is included. Data from 2016-2017 was collected by the Knight Commission in partnership with Jodi Upton, Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University and USA TODAY.

In Division I, there are athletic programs that offer as few as 14 varsity sports, and programs that offer more than 30 varsity sports — creating vast differences in the number of varsity athletes and the size of athletics revenue and expense budgets.

Each profile page for an institution, conference, or subdivision contains a financial snapshot of the most recent fiscal year. Data from earlier years dating back to 2005 are also available. Trends over time showing percent change in budgets and in aggregate revenue and expense categories are available by using the Custom Reporting feature.

The raw financial data can be accessed using the “download data” tool throughout the database.

For information about the data, methodology, definitions, and sources, go to About the Data.

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