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January 12, 2010 - Calls for change at NCAA Scholarly Colloquium

At the NCAA Scholarly Colloquium on January 12, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics presented findings from its recent Presidential Survey on the Cost and Financing of Intercollegiate Athletics, which found that a majority of presidents at major college football institutions found that the current costs of college sports were unsustainable.  The presentation was covered by several news outlets, including the Associated Press and the NCAA News.

Knight Commission co-chair R. Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University, called for a collective effort to change the current financial model of intercollegiate athletics. "Change will require a national effort," Turner said. "It can't be done just at the conference level and certainly not at the institutional level."  Turner stated that the best chance for effective change might be in the transparency of Division I’s spending patterns. Turner said efforts like the NCAA’s dashboard indicators project may shed the necessary light on athletics behavior. He compared the effort with academic reform, saying the publicity that surrounded the public release of graduation rates became the tipping point for change. 

The Associated Press quoted a response by Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips, who stated that while the salaries for football and basketball coaches leave a poor public perception, the competitive nature of intercollegiate athletics will likely lead to difficulty in reforming the economics of college sports.  "Because of that drive for competitive excellence, immediate reform simply will not happen," Phillips said. "We're as bad as anybody. We pay our coaches well. ... It's a difficult situation that we're in. We want to be as competitive as the next man."

The NCAA News reported on a response from J. Douglas Toma, a professor at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education. Toma stated that proposals to reform the financial model of college sports should not lose sight of the strategic advantages that athletics affords, since it offers most schools a national branding opportunity and gives communities an easy entry point to the institution. He also said that the budget challenges facing athletics are being replicated in other areas of higher education as well.