Letter of Transmittal

Alberto Ibargüen
President and Chief Executive Officer
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
200 South Biscayne Blvd., Suite 3300
Miami, FL 33131

Dear Mr. Ibargüen:

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 the increasing tendency of athletics programs to operate independently of university oversight. The trustees of the Knight Foundation feared that these persistent problems, found in all too many major college sports programs, threatened the very integrity of higher education. The report created a detailed roadmap for reforming college sports and was quickly embraced by higher education leaders.

Since then, presidents and other leaders of Division I institutions have done much to improve governance policies and to raise academic expectations. The result has been better classroom outcomes for athletes and greater accountability for their coaches, teams, and institutions. Yet while we are proud that the Commission’s 1991 report and its subsequent work have had a positive impact, we are acutely aware of how much remains undone.

Most urgent of the remaining goals set out in the Commission’s 1991 report is financial reform. The costs of competing in big-time intercollegiate sports have soared. Rates of spending growth are breathtaking. This financial arms race threatens the continued viability of athletics programs and the integrity of our universities. It cannot be maintained.

Despite our deep concern about this problem, we believe firmly that—at their best—intercollegiate sports bring enormous benefits to their universities and communities. Indeed, we take as our starting point the mission articulated by James L. Knight, Chairman of the Knight Foundation in 1989: “We recognize that intercollegiate athletics have a legitimate and proper role to play in college and university life. Our interest is not to abolish that role but to preserve it by putting it into perspective.”

This report sets forth reforms that are achievable and that, if implemented, will create a foundation upon which future reforms can build. Our blueprint for restoring educational values and priorities begins with strengthening accountability for intercollegiate athletics in three ways:

1. Requiring greater transparency, including better measures to compare athletics spending to academic spending
2. Rewarding practices that make academic values a priority
3. Treating college athletes as students first and foremost—not as professionals

We express our deep gratitude for the continuing support Knight Foundation has provided to this effort. We hope that our recommendations, like those of previous Commissions, will significantly advance much-needed policy changes in college athletics.


William E. Kirwan
University System of Maryland

R. Gerald Turner
Southern Methodist University

Val Ackerman
Adjunct Professor, Columbia University
Founding President, Women’s National Basketball

Michael F. Adams
President, University of Georgia

William W. Asbury
Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs,
Pennsylvania State University

Henry S. Bienen
President Emeritus, Northwestern University

Nicholas A. Buoniconti
Board of Trustees, University of Miami

Hodding Carter III
University Professor of Leadership and Public Policy,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Carol A. Cartwright
President, Bowling Green State University

Anita L. DeFrantz
President, LA84 Foundation

John J. DeGioia
President, Georgetown University

Leonard J. Elmore
Chief Executive Officer, iHoops

Elson S. Floyd
President, Washington State University

Janet Hill
Vice President, Alexander & Associates Inc.
and Trustee, Duke University

Sarah Lowe
Graduate Student, Department of International
Development, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

Andrea Fischer Newman
Senior Vice President - Government Affairs, Delta Air Lines, and Board of Regents, University of Michigan

Jerry I. Porras
Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and
Change Emeritus, Stanford University

Sonja Steptoe
Former Journalist, Time, Sports Illustrated,
The Wall Street Journal

Clifton R. Wharton Jr.
President Emeritus, Michigan State University
Former Chairman and CEO, TIAA-CREF

Judy Woodruff
Senior Correspondent, The PBS NewsHour
and Trustee Emerita, Duke University

Charles E. Young
President Emeritus, University of Florida
and Chancellor Emeritus, University of California,
Los Angeles

Chris Zorich
Manager of Student Welfare and Development,
The University of Notre Dame


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