Ballpark Figures

Ballpark Figures

Organisation: The Texas Tribune (United States)

Publication Date: 04/15/2016


Size of team/newsroom:large


Athletics continues to be a high-dollar enterprise for Texas colleges. The eight public Texas universities that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision — the top level of college football — spent more than $525 million on athletics in the 2014-15 school year. Football is consistently the top revenue-producing sport, followed by men’s basketball. This app, using data from NCAA financial reports, looks at the finances of those eight universities’ athletic departments. (Private universities also have to file the reports but don’t have to make them public under open records laws.) Use this app to review where athletics department money is going and how much is being earned back. You can also compare schools to see how one stacks up against another.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Ballpark Figures uses data that hasn't been explored in a sport-by-sport basis before because it is difficult to wrangle. More specifically, this project examines NCAA financial reports for the 2014-15 school year filed by each of the eight public Texas universities that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. We requested these reports from each of the universities under the Freedom of Information Act. The reports were returned to us as PDFs, and the data was manually entered. That is why few, if any, news orgs have tackled sports data, at least in a comparative fashion like this before. The upshot is the app makes clear how the NCAA works at the university level in each sport. By delineating the give and take of each sport, we give users a clear look at which sports make money and which ones lose money. In addition, Ballpark Figures allows users to compare schools side-by-side, which helps users compare and contrast the same sports across universities.

Technologies used for this project:

Ballpark Figures is a Django app built with from NCAA financial reports submitted by the eight Texas public universities that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The data is stored in a PostgreSQL database. Every year universities file these reports, which come to us as PDF's that we then hand-enter into a google form. We then use the resulting spreadsheet to update our project. Static assets are managed with Node.js powered tools. The styles are written in SCSS. A Gulp.js script ties this all together. Deployment is managed using a combination of Docker containers. One houses the Django app itself, another builds the static assets, and another runs Nginx to serve as the proxy. Everything is deployed to an Amazon EC2 server, which sits behind a load balancer.
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