USA Today Story: $5,000 per student in athletic fees

by September 28, 2010
Radford University basketball team prepares to be introduced by Flickr user Aaron McDowell

USA Today’s lede anecdote tells how a student at Radford University, whose 2009 basketball team is pictured here, could pay $5,000 in student fees to support athletics by the time she graduates. Photo by Flickr user Aaron McDowell.

Steve Berkowitz, Jodi Upton, Michael McCarthy and Jack Gillum of USA Today continue their look at college athletics with a story about how some schools fail to disclose the exact amount students pay for athletics. The story starts with one parent’s reaction to learn that her daughter will likely contribute $5,000 to the athletic program by the time she graduates. The story says:

“Like most other schools in NCAA Division I, Radford [University] relies on student fees to help support ever-expanding athletics budgets. Many schools, including Radford, do not itemize where those fees go for those who pay the tuition bills, USA Today found in an ongoing examination of college athletics finances. The amounts going to athletics are soaring, and account for as much as 23% of the required annual bill for in-state students.”

Today’s Tip: Track data over time, Steve says.

Steve Berkowitz, USA Today's sports projects editor

Steve Berkowitz speaks at a Reynolds Center workshop.

Steve says the story came from revenue and expense data that college athletic departments file with the NCAA every year. Because the NCAA isn’t a public agency, the paper filed separate open records requests with each public school to collect the data, which is available on USA Today’s website back to 2004-05 for more than 200 public schools. It’s a great resource that you can use to check up on athletics spending at your local institutions.

“It’s important to track these things over time [to see] how a given year fits into the trend,” he says.

Other stories that USA Today has developed out of the database include one in January on how much college and universities spend on their programs. It did a story in April about rising coaches’ salaries.

Steve spoke at the Reynolds Center’s  “Investigating the Business of College Athletics” workshop in March 2010 at Indianapolis. His and colleague Jodi Upton’s presentation starts at about the 104-minute mark in this video.