Calculated Reactions: More than you'd ever want to know about AFAs

CIS released athletic scholarship data this week, both by school and sport. A month ago or so, I looked at the previous years' data but without anything available past the 2008-09 academic year, I put it on the shelf for a future post.

Well, that future post is coming to you now. And it's a long one.

Let's start with the blindingly obvious:

Athletic financial awards (AFAs) ($) per athlete, by conference
Canada West$1,041$1,006$1,254$1,211
(Schools are organized by "non-hockey conference" since some OUA and RSEQ teams play out-of-conference in both directions. The numbers are also adjusted for inflation.)

Yes, that means Ontario and Quebec schools now pay less than half per athlete than schools anywhere else in the country. Of course, the gap was even wider back before the OUA schools could offer scholarships. You can see the '06-07 numbers up there. They aren't great. Quebec schools were twice as high (per-athlete), West schools more than four times as high, and down east they were more than five times as high.

Using "per athlete" as the baseline is somewhat helpful in comparing large schools to small schools, but if one school has a lot of lower-profile sports, those athletes count even if they likely don't receive much financial assistance. This may be (in fact, almost certainly is) the case in the OUA, for example. Western, at an average of $442 per athlete over the last four years, is behind Mount Allison ($540), Lethbridge ($816), and UPEI ($979). Nothing against any of those schools, but those per-athlete figures don't put them ahead of UWO as an athletics school--especially when it comes to, say, alumni donations. (Quick joke interlude. Q: How do you know someone went to Western? A: They'll tell you!)

It's certainly easier to have a higher dollar-to-athlete ratio when the "athlete" part is smaller: there are nearly 1,700 Mustang athletes included here, and just 1,942 at those three schools put together.

But even then ... let's ignore the number of students and just look at the top 10 in total AFAs awarded in the last four years:

Alberta $1.73M
Regina $1.73M
Acadia $1.71M
SMU $1.52M
Dalhousie $1.40M
Manitoba $1.38M
Saskatchewan $1.35M
Calgary $1.28M
StFX $1.16M
UNB $1.10M

No Western, but do you notice anything else missing from this list? Perhaps a school located east of West Hawk Lake and west of the Eastern Townships?

I should point out that Ottawa is next on the list, and Windsor (14th), Toronto (15th), Carleton (16th), and Western (18th) are close behind. So the OUA isn't totally at the bottom here. (Yes, that means aside from Ottawa, Windsor's handed out a higher AFA amount than anyone else in Ontario. No, I didn't know that either.)

Also, eight of those schools offer football, and UNB has a men's hockey program you might have heard a thing or two about. It only makes sense that the sports offered by a school will affect that school's scholarship structure. So let's look at the numbers by sport.


Take men's basketball as an example. There were 570 athletes in that sport last year (5.4% of all athletes in CIS), and $1.16M or so in AFAs given to those athletes (10.9% of all AFAs). That's quite the over-representation, 10.9 vs 5.4 (ratio of 2.0). And it makes sense, given that men's basketball is one of the more high-profile sports.

We can divide sports into two groups based on these ratios, and if I asked you to group CIS sports into "main" and "other" then I think you would come up with something very similar to this:
Basketball M5.4%10.9%2.03
Basketball F4.9%9.7%1.98
Hockey M8.2%15.1%1.84
Volleyball F4.6%7.5%1.63
Hockey F5.9%7.6%1.30
Football M13.1%16.6%1.27
Volleyball M3.8%4.6%1.20
Soccer F9.1%8.6%0.95
Wrestling F0.9%0.7%0.73
Soccer M9.1%6.5%0.71
Track F5.0%2.4%0.48
Swimming M3.5%1.4%0.41
Field Hockey F2.3%0.9%0.39
Wrestling M1.8%0.7%0.37
Track M5.7%2.0%0.36
Swimming F3.7%1.3%0.34
Cross-country F3.2%1.0%0.32
Cross-country M3.2%0.8%0.25
Rugby F6.5%1.6%0.25

Those top seven sports represented less than half of all CIS athletes last year, yet made up 72 per cent of the AFAs. And, at a rough guess, 99.9% of the words we published here. General media coverage tends to follow the same grouping, except there are more short profiles on, say, soccer players in your average local paper.

Someone may misinterpet this correlation, so I'll make it clear that one thing (more money to athletes in a sport) doesn't lead directly to the other (increased media coverage), or vice versa. What's more likely is the greater general interest in the top seven sports (plus soccer) leads to increased media coverage and, ultimately, it's also what trickles down into more scholarships.

Does this mean we (and everyone else) are overcovering those sports at the top of the list? Well...of course we are. We're overlooking somewhere between one third and one half of the athletes in CIS. However, we can only cover we know about (and given that this is a volunteer-run site, what we care about). Needless to say it wouldn't do anyone any good if I started covering cross-country every week.


But let's return to the school-specific numbers for a moment, and bring in some outside data, from the Financial Information of Universities and Colleges Survey. (It's based on a voluntary survey, so the statistician part of my brain wants to ignore it entirely, but I'll cope.) The most recent report, for the 2008-09 academic year, is available here.

We'll compare the AFA dollar amounts awarded against the university's total "student services" expenditures (which include "intramural and intercollegiate athletics" in addition to a bunch of other stuff we could probably analyze long into the night if this were The Learning Where Your Student Fees Go Blog). This allows us to compare schools without relying on athlete totals, which as mentioned above can be misleading.

The results for the 25 "largest" universities in Canada (i.e., the 25 spending the most on student services):

AFAs as percentage of student services expenditures

This is not a ranking of "best athletics schools" --notwithstanding what the bottom of the list implies -- so don't read it that way. It's just a broad-strokes way to compare AFAs at universities of different sizes. Toronto is much larger than Windsor in nearly every way you can measure, after all.

Again, larger schools' presence at the bottom doesn't mean that they care less about athletics; rather, it's likely that they (and their alumni) just care more about other things. The Munks didn't give U of T $35 million to drive the expansion of the volleyball teams, just like Waterloo's $100-million donation didn't go toward making the hockey arena somewhat comfortable. Those donations wouldn't necessarily be included in the percentages above, but you get the point.


Next, a fun little ranking.

For each school and sport, I weighted last year's regular-season record by the overall AFA ratio for that sport. So Carleton men's basketball, already very good, counts for double (the 2.03 from above). Sports without true win-loss records required a little more finessing, so I just took the last top 10 ranking from the 2009-10 season (or the championship results, if appropriate) and converted them, roughly, to a winning percentage.

First, the ranking of all 15 schools which offer all seven major sports:
SchoolAdjusted RecordMajorMinor

Waterloo and York at the bottom make it easy to blame this all on football, but that's not the case: none of the four basketball programs at those schools had winning records last year.

How about the schools offering at least three major sports, but not all seven? To account for the missing teams, we'll assume each school could field a .333 team in its missing sports (so Laval could win one of every three games were they to start hockey tomorrow), and adjust the records up accordingly:
SchoolAdjusted RecordMajorMinor
Saint Mary's.45263
Cape Breton.40432
Simon Fraser.35242
Trinity Western.33542
Thompson Rivers.14340

Not too many surprises here (especially for our Cam Charron, I bet). Laval and StFX are two schools doing well enough in the sports they do offer that even adding a below-average team for their missing major sports wouldn't bring them down too much in these rankings.


To conclude, let's take a closer look at football, the largest single sport both by the number of athletes and by AFAs given out.

27 schools offered football last year, and football players received just over $1.76M in AFAs. That's $65,277 per school, or $1,266 per athlete. How does that compare with recent years? (Again, adjusted for inflation.) Well...quite favourably, in fact.
AFAs, football only
SeasonPer team ($)Per athlete ($)

Depending how you want to count it, that's an increase of between 80 per cent and 90 per cent in six years, or between 10.3 and 11.3 per cent annually. Which is ... a lot.
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  1. Good job Rob.

    A couple of other facts from the latest CIS AFA data for those not keen enough to go through the two sheets:

    51% of male hockey players received an AFA, and on average that was $3,625. Only male basketball players average more per person - $3,706. Since CHL education packages (which are mostly equal to tuition) are NOT included in AFA stats, it is safe to say that male CIS hockey players are the best funded student athletes. No surprises there.

    Since many AUS hockey schools (and probably Canada West as well) have 75% to 100% of their student athletes receiving some value of AFA, the OUA must be really cheap to drive the national average down to 51%.

    Since the CIS will not release individual university breakdowns by sport, let's use St. Thomas as a representative example since they one male CIS sport - hockey. 24 male athletes get 61.13% of the STU AFA pot of $167,050. So that's $102,117.67 for men's hockey AFA's. Divide that equally by 24 hockey players and you get an average of $4254.90 each.

    That is roughly $630 more than the national average of $3625 per hockey player who are actually among the 51% of hockey players who receive an AFA.

  2. Still with the AUS, let's look at three schools without football teams that have male hockey, basketball and soccer teams. These three sports are ones where there is reasonable competitive balance in the AUS and recruiting competition which could lead to the reasonable conclusion that this is where their AFA's would be concentrated. Again, we don't know how much money is allocated to each sport at each school.

    Dalhousie: 121 male athletes share $266,021, or an average of $2198 each (although some many not receive an AFA).
    UNB: 102 male athletes share $205,406, or an average of $2014 each.
    UPEI: 65 male athletes share $110,526, or an average of $1700 each.

    Not a big difference between Dal and UNB, and a bit of a drop off to UPEI. This could be because the Panthers don't have men's volleyball.

    Looking at Lakehead, a non-football school with a nationally competitive hockey team, the male AFA pool divided by all male athletes = $996. For UQTR it is $992 each. For Nipissing on the cusp, just $181 each. Of course, this isn't a calculation of hockey AFA's just a comparison of how well some hockey schools support all of their male athletes.