25 public records sports reporters can and should request

Knowing how to submit a public records request is crucial if you want to elevate your reporting and get your hands on information you won’t learn in press conferences. 

You can compare spending between men’s and women’s programs, check out your school’s track record for disciplinary action or fact check what the athletic director said about a policy. A reporter even found evidence of the rebooted EA Sports’ college football video game through public information record requests. 

A lot of public records are just great to have on background. Since public records requests often take time to be fruitful, think ahead. What about if you ever want to double check what the athletic department spends on women’s soccer compared to softball? Are you curious about the bonus clauses in the football coach’s contract? Maybe you just want to flip through the athlete handbook for odd policies. There is nothing wrong with being curious, and you may stumble into a great story or hold onto documents to use months later. 

Public records requests operate off the assumption that records asked of a public body are fair game and should be given to the requester; it is up to the curator of those documents to give a reason why the requester is not entitled to them, citing to a state law or an exception to this assumption.

If you need help formulating your request, try using the SPLC’s Public Records Letter Generator.

Be sure to check your state’s public access law as well. Reading through may give you more ideas on documents to request as well as items that are off limits. For example, many states are adding privacy clauses to its NIL laws, so colleges do not have to reveal much or any information. To learn more about your state’s NIL laws, check out the state-by-state NIL legislation guide.

Here’s 25 ideas of documents and information you can submit a public records request for:

  1. FOIA log and records retention schedule
  2. Master list of forms
  3. Manuals, policies & regulations
  4. Expense reports 
  5. Payroll records
  6. Employee rosters and contracts
  7. Discrimination complaints
  8. Credit card statements
  9. Surveillance photos & videos
  10. Text messages with state phones
  11. Title IX violations 
  12. Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act data
  13. Coaching contracts or hiring letters
  14. Athletic department budgets
  15. Schedule contracts
  16. Broadcasting contracts
  17. Athlete handbook
  18. Receipts for bowl games, NCAA Tournament expenditures or other events
  19. NCAA violations
  20. Itemized receipts for expenses incurred during the recruiting weekends
  21. Athletic director’s emails to boosters or other important people
  22. Coach’s or athletic director’s electronic calendar
  23. Student athlete exit interviews
  24. Documents student athletes receive regarding how to identify and respond to concussion symptoms
  25. NIL documents, agreements or master lists / spreadsheets (unless there is a state privacy clause)