Alma Mater Matters

There exists a historic, symbiotic relationship between university academics and sports programs throughout recent American history. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (KCIA) seeks to keep that history alive and thriving. Made up of experts in the fields of athletes, academics, and journalists, the Commission was formed in 1989 to monitor collegiate spending with an eye toward reform. Balance was needed.


The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

The Spread

The commission decided that the public should be allowed to add their voices to the growing discussion. Their goal: to show the trends and relationships between athletic and academic spending disaggregated by conference and university.

To help the commission meet this challenge, we utilized open-source framework Drupal 7 to display these relationships in a visual way, along with complex trending and graphing data visualization. More specifically, the architecture allowed for specific capabilities, such as:

  • Sorting universities into easily indexed and searchable groups. The index itself is based on data self-reported by each institution and related data gathered from official government, newspapers (e.g. USA Today), and NCAA sources.
  • Index data includes institutional information (school state/region, conference, Carnegie classification), academic expenses per full-time student, per player expenses in football and other athletic programs, scholarship costs, coach salaries, and much more.
  • Spending trends over time can be observed with data going back as far as 2005. Projections of athletic spending are also available, ahead as far as 2020.

Fostering Academic Achievement in Postseason Planning

The necessity of transparency in this arena cannot be understated. The balance between academic and athletic achievement needs to be maintained in order for universities to serve their purpose. The opportunity to help promote transparency and open data has made this one of our favorite projects.




  • WebFirst proved to be a great partner for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics as it set out to develop a tool to provide greater transparency for college sports finances and better measures to compare trends in academic and athletic spending. WebFirst designed and developed an online database that has been praised for being exceptionally user-friendly and informative. WebFirst exceeded every expectation!

    Amy Perko
    Executive Director, KCIA

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