The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 in response to more than a decade of highly visible scandals in college sports. The Commission’s initial goal was to recommend a reform agenda that emphasized academic values in an arena where commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education. Since 1989, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has worked to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities.

As a result of the Commission’s efforts, significant strides have been made to reconnect college sports with the educational mission of American colleges and universities. Among the Commission’s recommendations adopted by the NCAA are:

  • Stronger academic standards for athletes leading to improved graduation rates.
  • Presidential control and leadership over NCAA decisions and athletics conferences achieved through governance changes.
  • Increased campus engagement and accountability through the NCAA’s certification process.
  • Standards that require team accountability for academic performance by sanctioning teams with subpar retention and graduation rates.

However, much work remains to be done. The cost of intercollegiate athletics is rising faster than other university expenses, and coaches’ salaries and facility expenses are increasing at unsustainable rates. While the majority of Americans believe that high profile sports generate profits for universities, NCAA President Myles Brand reports that only six institutions consistently generate positive net revenues. Today, most athletic programs operate at a deficit and need university subsidies to maintain operations. Additionally, the role of athletics on campus has been strained by pressures to win and generate revenue through giving more control over to television broadcasters and corporate partners.

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is continuing its work to address these current challenges and to promote more transparency to ensure academic and fiscal integrity in college sports.