Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database tracks college sports finances

The Newhouse School has announced a multi-year $840,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in support of the Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database project. Spearheaded by Jodi Upton, Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism, the project tracks more than 15 years of college sports finances.

“The mission of this project is educational—to make sure policy-makers, journalists, researchers and fans understand how college sports are financed, and to monitor the impact of fundamental changes happening in college sports,” Upton says. “The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has played a major role in boosting financial transparency for college sports to show how universities support college athletes’ education, health and safety.”  

“This latest collaboration reaffirms the Newhouse School’s longstanding relationship with the Knight Foundation and underscores our commitment ensuring our students are trained in the important field of data journalism,” says Newhouse dean Mark J. Lodato.

Newhouse students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are working on the project. To get a full picture of revenue and spending, they collect reports for more than 230 public schools in NCAA Division I.

Meyer McCaulsky
Meyer McCaulsky, a graduate student in magazine, news and digital journalism, discusses investigative sports reporting in a class with Washington Post columnist Kevin Blackistone. McCaulsky has written for, the NewsHouse and—like all the students in the class—had recent credits in USA TODAY for data journalism work. Undergraduate students Micah Goldstein and Sean Manzella look on. (Photo by Leigh Vo)

The grant will also support research using the data, as well as the Newhouse School’s first postdoctoral fellow, who will work with other scholars and Ph.D. students to develop a research agenda and publishable work.

In addition, the project provides user-friendly features to help professional journalists and researchers access college sports data. The downloadable data includes detailed revenue and expenses as well as interactive charts and graphs identifying trends among schools, conferences and subdivisions. The website is unique in its tracking of athletics debt, accessibility, visual explanations and custom reports.

This effort and related projects provide benefits and opportunities for Newhouse students. Students in the sports data course will also get credit in a USA TODAY article this spring for their data work monitoring the money in college sports. Additionally, two sports journalism students who have experience with open records and data will have the opportunity to intern at USA TODAY and Gray TV this summer. Developing student expertise with these data have led to other projects, such as a recent USA TODAY article on women’s basketball coach pay equity and today’s investigative story detailing Title IX shortfalls that have led to inequities in spending between men’s and women’s sports 50 years after the law was passed.

The database project continues work started by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a Knight Foundation-funded group created in 1989 to strengthen the educational mission of college sports. The commission has a legacy of influencing major policy changes, including athlete graduation benchmarks in order to participate in championship games and revising revenue distribution to include financial incentives for graduation outcomes.

“We are excited that this new partnership will greatly enhance financial transparency at this pivotal moment in Division I college sports,” says Knight Commission CEO Amy Privette Perko. “Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about college sports finances, and understanding the finances is critical to developing solutions for the future.”

The Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database can be found at Stay up-to-date on the project on Twitter via #KnightNewhouseData.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
We are social investors who support democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. Learn more at and follow @knightfdn on social media.