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Division I Colleges Increase Athletics Spending at Far Faster Rate Than Academic Spending

Washington—Athletic programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision spent on athletes at a rate that far outpaced academic spending per student during a recent five-year period, according to new research reported by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Spending per athlete grew by 50 percent in the FBS during the five-year period, while academic spending per student increased by 22 percent, according to the report, which was produced by the Delta Cost Project and is slated for release on Monday morning at the commission’s meeting here.

See the PDF for full resolution: The blue line represents athletics spending per athlete.

The pattern was similar among programs in the Football Championship Subdivision, which—as we reported back in June—saw spending on athletics grow at nearly twice the rate of academic spending.

In Division I programs without football teams, the dollar amounts were more modest, but athletic spending, which grew by 31 percent, still outstripped academic spending twofold. (Click here [PDF] to see a chart.)

At the conference level, median athletic spending in the FBS exceeded academic spending by three to nearly 12 times. The league with the greatest gap between the two was the Southeastern Conference, where median academic spending per student was $13,471 in 2009 while athletic spending per athlete was a whopping $156,833. The smallest disparity was in the Mid-American Conference, whose median athletics outlay of $48,185 was roughly five times its spending on students in 2009. (Click here for a table showing FBS conferences’ spending on athletics and academics.)

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