Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Calls for Clearer Model of Division I-A Football Governance

Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Calls for Clearer Model of Division I-A Football Governance


Notre Dame Football Coach Tyrone Willingham and Former Texas A&M Coach R.C. Slocum Offer their Testimony

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics today welcomed recent efforts to reform the postseason bowl structure and to tighten requirements on academic performance by NCAA athletes, but acknowledged that more work needs to be done.

The Commission heard a report on Division I-A postseason football. It included an update on recent efforts by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Presidential Oversight Committee and the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform to reunify Division I-A and resolve issues concerning postseason bowl access and revenue distribution. Members of the Commission agreed afterward that the current governance structure of Division I-A postseason football needs to be substantially altered to advance the “collegiate model of athletics” put forth in the recently approved NCAA strategic plan.

“For the overall health of college athletics it is imperative that the NCAA be able to govern postseason football,” said William C. Friday, Knight Commission chairman and president emeritus of the University of North Carolina. “This objective should command the immediate attention of the NCAA Board of Directors.

The BCS is a consortium originally designed and implemented in the early 1990s by conference commissioners to control Division I-A postseason football. The NCAA has no role in the BCS and prior to the formation of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee last year; presidents of institutions in the BCS conferences also were not involved in its governance.

The Commission also reiterated its recommendation from its 2001 report, A Call to Action, to base revenue distribution plans not on winning and losing, but on improving academic performance, enhancing athletes’ collegiate experiences, and achieving gender equity.

Meeting here today, the Knight Commission heard from college football coaches, antitrust experts and members of NCAA committees as it continued its work seeking reform in college sports.

Former football coaches Bill Curry and R.C. Slocum lamented the reality that coaches are evaluated solely on wins and losses, and that the current emphasis on winning is inconsistent with the role of athletics as an integral part of the educational process. The coaches noted that although academic performance and social development of the athletes are emphasized by presidents, coaches are rarely evaluated for their achievements in those areas.

The Commission also heard testimony about antitrust laws and their application to college athletics. Gary Roberts, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University Law School, advocated that the Commission support an antitrust exemption to control expenses and rein in the commercialization of big-time college sports. The Commission will continue to consider whether an antitrust exemption may be the best avenue to achieve control and meaningful reform of college sports.

The Commission also discussed the recently adopted NCAA academic incentives/disincentives program, and commended the NCAA committee members in attendance for their work. The Commission identified the important work yet to come in academic reform – establishing demanding thresholds to trigger penalties to create improved academic performance, and urging faculty to fulfill their obligations as stewards of institutional academic integrity.

Finally, the Commission reviewed the most recent report of the NCAA Task Force on Recruiting. Commission members say they firmly believe that only\ wholesale reform of recruiting rules and practices can lead to a recruitment process grounded in the academic missions of colleges and universities.

“The overarching theme we heard today is that the emphasis on winning and revenue generation are the driving forces in big-time college sports,” said Hodding Carter III, Knight Foundation president and CEO. “Those forces are totally inconsistent with the educational principles and aspirations of the nation’s colleges and universities. They must be addressed by collective action that can firmly establish the primacy of academic integrity and break the dynamic between winning and revenue that now dominates intercollegiate athletics.”

Joining Friday were commissioners Michael F. Adams, president of University of Georgia; Carol Cartwright, president of Kent State University; Mary Sue Coleman, president of University of Michigan; Len Elmore, ESPN analyst and president of Pivot Productions; Elson Floyd, president of the University of Missouri system; Adam Herbert, president of Indiana University; Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University; Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University; and Charles E. Young, former president of University of Florida. Thomas K. Hearn, president of Wake Forest University, was unable to attend Monday’s meeting. Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, serves as an ex officio member.

The Commission welcomed two new members: Peter Likins, president of the University of Arizona, and Clifton R. Wharton, former chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF. Dr. Wharton also served as a member of the original Knight Commission.

The Commission plans to hold a press conference this summer to review work it commissioned related to the effects of winning on alumni giving and the quality of a university’s admissions pool.