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Who’s investigating college sports?

By Virginia Ward

A series of small compromises between players and coaches often lead to high-risk operations within sports organizations. Syracuse University professor Jodi Upton, USA Today database editor Christopher Schnaars and Raycom investigative producer Jill Riepenhoff shared their experience investigating college and youth sports.  

From major infractions to Title IX investigations, journalists are uncovering scandal after scandal within college sports. When Upton reported with USA Today, she investigated college football coaches’ salaries.

Schnaars and his investigative team at USA Today spent the past 10 years creating a salary survey for coaches within power conferences. His tips for reading financial reports include:

  • Focus on the big numbers
  • Know what the numbers mean
  • Read the comments
  • Look at how numbers have changed
  • When looking at numbers from different years, adjust for inflation

Schnaars said when reporters request contracts, they commonly forget to ask for amendments and records of bonuses paid. More often than not, contracts contain perks packages filled with automobiles, country club memberships, vacations and private use of aircraft.

Upton said the FBI found 29 schools that were involved in bribery scandals, with one-third of those schools in the Power Five conferences.

“Don’t think for a minute that there is no story locally,” Upton said. “This is going on in, I guarantee you, every major university in the country.”

Riepenhoff said there are many untold stories within youth and high school sports. In her work, she’s found that media rarely investigate high school athletics. Because these organizations wield immense power over teenagers and collect large sums of cash from state tournaments, Riepenhoff said journalists should start exploring public records from these nonprofits.

Here are Riepenhoff’s tips for investigating sports organizations:

  • CPSC NEISS (tracks injuries)
  • NCAA EADA (the scholarship myth)
  • Youth sports IRS form 990 (NTEE code)
  • Look at police reports surrounding youth sports tournaments.

Virginia Ward is a journalism student at the University of Missouri.

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