Reintroducing the Extra Points FOIA Directory
Here's what we're collecting, why, and how:
Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Today, by popular demand, I’m happy to announce that we have re-established the Extra Points FOIA Directory, a tool that I hope will help reporters, academics, industry professionals, and curious fans.
What is the FOIA Directory?
FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act, a federal law that allows reporters and regular ol’ John Q. Public to inspect copies of various ‘public records.’ Every state has its own version of open records laws, but for the sake of simplicity, I refer to all open records requests as FOIAs.
These requests are a significant part of my reporting strategy here at Extra Points. They allow the public to inspect coaching contracts, athletic department budgets, and vendor contracts, and to better understand the thought process behind various decisions.
I request a lot of documents that don’t make it into immediate Extra Points newsletters…the sorts of documents to help us better understand industry trends, institutional profiles, conference realignment decisions, and more. I am adding all of the documents I obtain for pure-research data collection to the FOIA Directory, so anybody can look at them.
What sort of documents are in the FOIA Directory?
We have requested the following documents from well over 100 institutions across D-I and D-II:
The current contract of every head coach of an NCAA sponsored sport
The current contract of the sitting athletic director
The current contracts for non-coaching FBS football personnel (think Director of Recruiting, Operations, Director of Scouting, etc)
The FY21 and FY22 FRS reports for the athletic department (itemized budgets)
The current contracts for athletic apparel, NIL consulting, MMR sales, and (if possible), streaming/local broadcasting
If enough people are actually interested, I could file requests for other document types en masse and add them to the Directory.
Who can access the Extra Points FOIA Directory?
Access to the FOIA Directory is currently behind our paywall. It is open to premium Extra Points subscribers and D1.classroom partners. An Extra Points subscription is just eight bucks a month, or $75/year, and you can subscribe here:
Wait, didn’t this used to be free? Why are you charging now?
Great question. This was not an easy decision for me or our team.
There are a few reasons we’re doing this. For starters, filing many FOIA requests, especially requests for D-II and other smaller schools, isn’t free. Many schools charge fees for large requests, and those fees generally have to be paid by mailing a physical check, which adds cost to the process. If we’re going to try and create as complete of datasets as possible, that means we’ll need to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on FOIA fees.
Organizing this data into something useful also takes a ton of time, much more than I had originally anticipated when I first pitched the idea of a FOIA directory. Schools don’t always respond to requests with uniform file types, and uploading, categorizing, and organizing the data takes real time and effort.
After months of conversations, our team decided that the best way to properly resource this project is to put it behind the paywall.
If you don’t have a premium EP subscription, but you contribute documents to the directory, I am more than happy to give you comp access. You can email documents to [email protected].
You don’t have all of the documents yet. Where are the missing ones?
It’s true, we don’t have a complete data set yet for every document type we’re collecting…but we figured we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and wanted to share what we have. If a document you’re looking for isn’t in the correct folder, there may be a few reasons for that.
We might have the documents, but they aren’t categorized and sorted yet. All of the FOIA’s we’ve gotten back but haven’t indexed can be found in our TO BE SORTED folder. We are chipping away at this folder every week, but readers are welcome to look through there for a particular PDF.
We might not have filed the request yet. Some states require state residency to file, and we don’t have users in Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia or South Carolina to help us file requests (if you live there and would like to help, please send me an email). We are also still working our way through filing at the D-II and D-III level. We file new requests every week.
We may have filed for the documents, but the school hasn’t responded yet. Some schools can take upwards of five months to respond to even straightforward contract requests, thanks to weak state open records laws and understaffed records departments. I don’t have the money or time to sue over these, sadly.
If the school is private, I can’t file an open records request for their documents. If somebody wants to leak me any of those documents, I can share them, but I can’t make a private school share a contract with me, no matter how nicely I ask.
In a few cases, the school may have declined our request and we’re in the process of trying to figure out how badly we want to fight for that MMR contract.
I have another question
I’m all ears. If you have documents you want to share, data visualization ideas, research proposals, document requests, or anything else, please hit me up at [email protected].
This is a living directory, one that we will be updating very regularly. It’s also a project we’re running while also writing four newsletters a week and updating a computer game and supporting D1.classroom, without a staff of 30 people or an institutional newsroom. Our best projects have involved feedback, ideas, and support from our community, and I’m sure this one will too.
Besides uploading hundreds of contracts and sorting them into folders for us to peruse, what else did we do this week?
Glad you asked!
I wrote about my deep frustration with the realignment and consolidation news last week, and how I feel it represents not just an institutional failure of leadership, but a shot at the very core of what makes college sports so special. I got more feedback from this story than nearly anything I’ve ever written for Extra Points…it clearly touched a nerve for not just many fans, but a lot of ADs and administrators as well. Many, many, many people in college sports are deeply uncomfortable with the rush into the SuperConference era.
Thanks to Open Records (and a little reporting), I shared info about how EA Sports College Football is treating rivalry games, as well as a little more info on the licensing legal drama surrounding the game.
We published a freelance story on the world of college Table Tennis…who dominates, who runs the sport, and why there’s DRAMA in the Table Tennis world.
I made several new updates to Athletic Director Simulator 3000. New high scores are now possible, thanks to the ability to play multiple seasons as a high major AD (multiple players have now recorded budgets over 80 million). We also added several new questions (about staffers getting DUIs, balancing limited tailgating space, conference realignment, uniform launch failures, NCAA investigations, and more. I’m really proud of the game and I hope you enjoy playing it.
That’s a lot for one week! I’m still working to finish up some reported realignment stories, future-of-NIL industry trend stories, the intersection of college athletics and high finance, some freelance stories, and hopefully, a silly piece in there or two as well.
Should be a fun ride. Thanks for taking it with us.
Have a great weekend. I’ll see you in your inbox on Monday.
If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS3000, good news! They’re affordable, and we have openings this season. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky.