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New Database Tracks Collegiate Athletic, Academic Spending Per School

Athletic spending per athlete expanded far more rapidly than academic spending per student at National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I schools from 2005 through 2011, according to an interactive database released by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics on Wednesday.

The database, which draws upon NCAA financial reports collected by USA Today and documents each institution must file with the federal government, aims to provide greater transparency regarding athletic and academic spending at more than 220 Division I colleges and universities.

High school student-athletes interested in continuing their athletic careers during college can now use this database to examine exactly how much financial support a typical athlete receives at a given institution. (For an example, check out The Ohio State University's page.)

For schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (previously known as Division I-A), athletic spending per athlete grew by 58 percent between 2005 and 2011, going from $61,218 to $96,948. Academic spending, meanwhile, only increased by 24 percent, going from $11,082 per full-time student to $13,736.

In this custom table I created using the Knight Commission's database, you can see the changes in academic and athletic spending for each Football Bowl Subdivision institution in that time frame.

The database also breaks down how much each conference in the subdivision spends on each football player. The Southeastern Conference leads the way by spending $259,251 per football player, followed by the Big Ten Conference ($210,787), Atlantic Coast Conference ($190,306), and Pacific-12 Conference ($181,498). Football spending per scholarship football player rose 68 percent among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools between 2005 and 2011, going from $82,233 to $138,424.

Below, you can see the visual representation of those findings, via the Knight Commission's database:


"College athletics has the potential for so much good, but the current trajectory of spending is unsustainable," said William E.  Kirwan, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland and co-chairman of the Knight Commission, in a statement. "We already see levels of spending at some universities that require them to divert substantial resources from their core academic responsibilities."

It should come as little surprise that spending levels between athletics and academics aren't nearly as out-of-whack among collegiate institutions without football. Academic spending in such schools rose 21 percent between 2005 and 2011, jumping from $10,435 to $12,662, while athletic spending increased 30 percent, going from $28,484 to $36,953.

Will all high school student-athletes start basing their collegiate decisions on where they'll receive the most academic and/or athletic support? Unlikely. But having this resource available can add yet another dimension to student-athletes' college choices, giving them more to go off than the typical U.S. News & World Report college rankings. 

Photo: A visual representation of athletic and academic spending at all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision institutions. (via the Knight Commission's database)

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