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Introduction

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UPDATED FINANCIAL DATA

At the nation’s most prominent universities, intercollegiate athletics has always played a dual role in campus life. On the one hand, its participants are students and it is managed for the benefit of students. On the other, it inspires the interest and passions of thousands, if not millions, of fans. For most teams at most institutions, these roles can be reconciled. But in high-profile sports, tensions often surface between the core mission of universities and commercial values.

These tensions have grown significantly over the past two decades. The pursuit of television contracts and slots in football bowl games, together with the quest to win championship tournaments in basketball, have had a destabilizing influence on athletics programs. Among other worrisome developments, the intensely competitive environment at the top levels of college sports has prompted four rounds of realignment among athletic conferences since 1994; a bidding war for prominent coaches; and escalating expenses across the board.

The growing emphasis on winning games and increasing television market share feeds the spending escalation because of the unfounded yet persistent belief that devoting more dollars to sports programs leads to greater athletic success and thus to greater revenues.

In fact, only a tiny number of athletics programs actually reap the rewards that come from selling high-priced tickets and winning championships. But this reality is often obscured by headlines about money in college sports, such as the recent 14-year, $10.8 billion television rights deal for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and yet another round of conference realignments and expansions designed to increase television market share.

Table of Contents

Letter of Transmittal

Almost 20 years ago, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released a landmark report about major college athletics. It criticized low athlete-graduation rates, questionable academic standards, and...

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Introduction

At the nation's most prominent universities, intercollegiate athletics has always played a dual role in campus life. On the one hand, its participants are students and it is managed for the benefit of students. On the other, it...

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Principles and Recommendations

Before detailing our specific proposals, we begin with two broad principles that have guided our discussions and informed our final recommendations...

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Recommendation I

Real long-term progress in athletics financing across all NCAA Division I institutions requires...

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Recommendation II

A. Strengthened eligibility standards for participation in championships...

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Recommendation III

The following recommendations are focused on treating college athletes as students first and foremost through budgeting, policies, expectations, and in the staffing devoted to their athletic development. While...

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Conclusion

It is time for colleges and universities to resist the never-ending pressure to increase spending on intercollegiate athletics. Even at institutions with the most successful athletics programs, revenue streams are...

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Appendix

Section I in the Commission’s report outlines a specific recommendation to strengthen accountability through transparency and the reporting of better assessment measures...

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Endnotes and Acknowledgments


Knight Commission member Sarah Lowe on the purpose of college sports


Knight Commission member Len Elmore on putting college athletics into perspective


Knight Commission Co-Chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan on financial reform