Duquesne University School of Law

Rooksby co-authors national report on athletics and academic spending

Monday, October 24, 2016

Associate Dean Jacob Rooksby is one of three authors of a new report on institutional spending, Big-Time Research & Big-Time Sports, which looks at institutional funds invested in patent investment and protection compared to athletics at schools with Football Bowl Subdivision athletic programs. The report upends common public perceptions about spending.  

“There is a popular belief, often furthered by press accounts, that colleges and universities are spending enormous amounts of money on their athletic programs, in ways that are inconsistent with academic priorities," said Rooksby, who specializes in intellectual property law and higher education legal issues. "This report actually supports a different story.”

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics funded the study in part by awarding Rooksby and two other researchers a challenge grant and allowing them to access data found in the Commission’s NCAA Division I Athletics and Academic Spending Database. The Commission works to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities. It does not take a position on findings of the research.  

“Data show that institutions are spending money on athletics, of course," said Rooksby, "But these investments—particularly at the largest research universities—pale in comparison to institutional support for protecting and commercializing the fruits of academic research. For those who believe that higher education should be investing more in science and innovation than sports, our findings are bound to attract attention, as our report suggests that most institutions have their priorities straight, at least from the perspective of financial investment. The report, however, also points to important considerations for the future.”

Dr. Jennifer Hoffman and Professor Greg Hay of the University of Washington co-authored the report with Rooksby. The authors noted several implications of the findings in Big-Time Sports and Big-Time Research, including:

  • Institutions contribute more institutional subsidy to patents per student among institutions with Carnegie Research University-Very High classification and an FBS football program.  
  • Athletics are the canary in the coal mine. Institutions should examine and compare the direct contribution to athletics and patent activity relative to the overall institutional budget to understand if commercial interests are aligning with institutional mission. 
  • Big-time sports spending remains a concern. Although per student subsidy in athletics is less than the per athlete subsidy figures, both revenues and expenses in athletics outpace spending in many other aspects of higher education. 
  • Conference alignment matters beyond the gridiron. Relevant questions include: Will institutions that aspire to join today’s Power 5 or Group of 5 conferences elevate commercial subsidy in athletics only or will they take on other characteristics of commercialization as they pursue new FBS affiliations?

The University of Washington’s Center for Leadership in Athletics details the report and its findings. The site also provides more information about the Knight Commission's challenge awards

Jacob H. Rooksby is associate dean of administration and assistant professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, where he teaches courses in intellectual property, torts, and higher education law. He is also Of Counsel to the intellectual property group at Cohen & Grigsby, P.C. He holds a Ph.D., M.Ed., and J.D. from the University of Virginia and an undergraduate degree from the College of William & Mary. Rooksby’s latest book on IP law and policy issues in higher education, The Branding of the American Mind: How Universities Capture, Manage, and Monetize Intellectual Property and Why It Matters, is available through Johns Hopkins University Press and Amazon. 


Faculty Referenced In Article

Jacob H. Rooksby, J.D., M.Ed., Ph.D.Associate Dean of Administration and Associate Professor of Law