Knight Commission Continues Reform Efforts

Meetings Focus on Bowl Championship Series, Television Contracts and Financing of College Sports

Nov. 24, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With reports on the financing of intercollegiate athletics, television contracts and the status of the Bowl Championship Series, a streamlined Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics met here today to resume its seminal work seeking reform of college sports.

The morning session of the Commission meeting focused on the issue of financing of college athletic programs, and featured Farris Womack, former chief financial officer of the University of North Carolina and University of Michigan; and Dan Fulks, accounting professor at Transylvania University and author of NCAA revenues and expenses reports.

A panel in the afternoon looking at TV contracts and the Bowl Championship Series featured Scott Cowen, president, Tulane University and founder of the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform; and Robert Khayat, chancellor, University of Mississippi and member, BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. Also testifying was Mike Aresco, senior vice president for programming at CBS Sports.

With four new members in attendance increasing the Commission to 13 members total, the Knight Commission also heard from Gordon Gee, chancellor of Vanderbilt University, who took steps this fall to reorganize the Vanderbilt program, bringing athletics under the higher education umbrella.

The goal of the Commission meeting was to reignite high-visibility efforts among a number of organizations to address the problems in intercollegiate athletics and maintain momentum for reform.

The Commission continues to monitor the intense commercial and professional pressures hindering college sports, serving as a reminder of the higher education role sports plays in college life and support those working toward reform.

“True reform of college sports remains an elusive, though still desirable, goal,” said Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “Whether that happens rests largely on the strength of will of the presidents, trustees and athletic administrators who have a stake in the enterprise.”

The Commission discussed ways to track progress and move forward on the recommendations presented in the original 1991 report, its early 1990s successors, and in A Call to Action in 2001. The 2001 report decried a general lack of progress in reforming college athletics and again suggested a new “one plus three” reform model — an echo of the panel’s recommendations from the early 1990s that put control of intercollegiate sports in the hands of school presidents.

The Knight Commission has consistently called for presidential control, financial integrity and independent certification of athletics programs. Among the Knight Commission’s recommendations in 2001: By 2007, football and basketball teams that do not graduate at least 50 percent of their players should not be eligible for conference championships or for postseason play.

Those in attendance included William Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina and chair of the Knight Commission; and current college presidents Michael F. Adams, University of Georgia; Carol Cartwright, Kent State University; Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan; R. Gerald Turner, Southern Methodist University; and Charles E. Young, University of Florida. Joining the Commission is Len Elmore, ESPN analyst and president of Pivot Productions; Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University; and college presidents Elson Floyd, University of Missouri, and Steve Sample, University of Southern California. Unable to attend Monday’s meeting were Thomas K. Hearn Jr., Wake Forest University, Adam Herbert, Indiana University, and Shapiro. Knight Foundation President Carter is an ex officio member. The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, served as co-chair of the Commission with William Friday until he stepped down earlier this year.

The Commission will reconvene Feb. 1, 2004, to continue its latest round of work.

About the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

The Knight Foundation 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 goal of the Commission 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. The Commission, which presented a series of recommendations in a 1991 report, and A Call to Action in 2001, will continue to monitor and report on progress in increasing presidential control, academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification of athletics programs.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.