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 1991, 2001, 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 DI subdivisions. Division I athletics financial data is not available from private institutions because of open records’ exemptions claimed.
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.
“Where The Money Goes”
Distribution of Athletic Expenditures for Division I Public Institutions, 2016
“Where the Money Comes From”
Sources of Athletic Budget Revenue for Division I Public Institutions, 2016
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.
About the Data and Methodology
This database uses data collected from NCAA Division I 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 are required to make the NCAA forms available, except in states with explicit exemptions (Pennsylvania, for example). The U.S. Military Academy (Army), U.S. Air Force Academy, Pennsylvania State University and others have periodically provided data; years with missing data may have an impact on totals or medians when the school is included. Data from 2016-2019 was collected by the Knight Commission in partnership with Jodi Upton, Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications 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.