Study Reveals College Presidents Want To Slash Athletics Costs


If your college president had his or her way, funding for your favorite collegiate football team would be slashed. That sentiment comes from a study conducted by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics who surveyed more than eighty percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) university presidents. The survey questioned the presidents’ attitudes and perceptions about the challenges, benefits and costs of supporting intercollegiate athletic programs.

Knight CommissionThe Knight survey revealed that athletic costs are rising at a faster rate than educational budgets, underscoring the urgency of reining in expenditures.

Inasmuch as university presidents would like to see dramatic changes implemented they know that this is something that they cannot do alone. Key findings from the presidential survey conducted by Art & Science Group include:

Dilemma of reform – While presidents recognize the need for reform, there is a lack of clear consensus about the best way to effect change. Nearly three-quarters believe that athletics present unique challenges as compared to other areas of the university when trying to control costs on their own campus. A majority believe institutions must act collectively to address these escalating costs.

Sustainability – Less than a quarter of presidents believe intercollegiate athletics are sustainable in their current form at FBS institutions nationally. Two-thirds view their own programs as sustainable; but nearly half (48%) express concern that the current economic outlook will affect the number of varsity sports their institution can support in the future.

Salaries – When asked about salaries across FBS institutions nationally, an overwhelming majority (85%) of FBS presidents indicate they feel compensation is excessive for football and basketball coaches. Viewed as the greatest impediment to sustainability, coaches’ salaries are costs that are difficult to control.

Growing Divide between Haves and Have-Nots – A major concern is the growing imbalance between financially strong and weak programs. Presidents of less competitive institutions feel that their programs are unfairly exploited.

Transparency – More than 80% of presidents believe greater financial transparency is needed.

Benefits of Athletics – College presidents perceive athletic success provides substantial benefits to the institution, such as generating higher levels of fundraising, attracting better qualified students, enhancing school spirit and raising the profile of the institution. Although research generally does not support a significant correlation between athletic success and increased donations or better student quality, FBS university presidents are swayed by personal experience that there are cross-institutional benefits of winning sports programs.

Athletic Oversight

The Knight Commission was formed in 1989 in response to a number of scandals besetting collegiate athletics during that decade. Initially the commission set out to help colleges emphasize academic achievement over the commercialization of college sports, refining its purpose to promote stronger academic standards for student athletes in a bid to improving graduation rates; pressing the NCAA through governance changes; and sanctioning teams with subpar retention and graduation rates.

The executive summary and full research report on presidents’ perceptions of the benefits and costs of intercollegiate athletics as well as College Sports 101 – an interactive, Web-based report that provides an overview of the business and economic landscape of college sports – can be found at

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Categories: Collegiate Sports