Knight Commission Urges Presidents to Show Strong Support for Academic Reforms

[ Sessions and audio with NCAA staff on academic reforms; and fiscal responsibility ]

1. Academic integrity (Podcast: rss, iTunes. Audio: mp3).
NCAA APR Presentation – powerpoint

2. Fiscal responsibility (Podcast: rss, iTunes. Audio: mp3).
NCAA Financial Presentation – powerpoint

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, presides over first meeting as co-chairman; Northwestern President Henry Bienen and NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti join Commission

On the heels of the NCAA’s announcement that 112 Division I teams will be penalized for failing to meet minimum academic performance standards, and are aware that tougher times are ahead, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics strongly urged college presidents to resist pressure to weaken the reforms.

The Commission heard and discussed an NCAA report on Division I academic performance standards projecting that unless they make significant academic progress, 45 percent of men’s basketball teams, 40 percent of football teams, and a third of baseball teams could lose scholarships or be subject to other penalties beginning in the fall of 2008 when more teams become eligible for sanctions.

Knight Commission Co-Chairman and Southern Methodist University President R. Gerald Turner said, “We expect that as more teams are penalized, more pressure will be exerted to weaken the reforms. But these reform measures must be implemented. As we’ve seen before, behavior changes when standards are raised, and we are already seeing the positive effects of these new measures.”

The Commission also heard Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg, a member of the NCAA baseball working group, discuss sweeping rules changes addressing academic underperformance by baseball players. The Commission unanimously commended the group for its proactive recommendations and the NCAA Division I Board of Directors for their swift approval.

Presiding at his first meeting as Knight Commission Co-Chairman, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, added, “The higher profile men’s basketball and football communities should learn from baseball’s example and swiftly undertake a serious study to examine whether rules changes specific to these sports could help improve the academic performance of their players.”

The Commission noted that in addition to the 112 institutions receiving penalties, another 134 teams failed to meet the graduation standards but avoided penalties by receiving a waiver. The Commission urged the NCAA to maintain a high threshold for granting waivers, particularly next year when waiver requests are projected to surge as more teams become eligible for penalties.

At the meeting, NCAA officials released financial data showing that only 7 percent (22 of 313) of Division I athletics departments generated more money than they spent when institutional subsidies such as student fees are excluded—contrary to the public perception that athletics departments generate profits for their institutions. Those 22 financially successful athletics departments all belong to the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly Division I-A. NCAA numbers show that the remaining Division I athletic departments not competing in the FBS subdivision receive approximately 70 percent of their revenue from non-athletic sources.

Kirwan assumed the co-chairman position previously held by Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. Kirwan has been chancellor of the University System of Maryland since 2002. Prior to being chancellor, Kirwan served as president of Ohio State University for four years and as president of the University of Maryland, College Park for 10 years.

“It is good news for the Commission and college sports that Chancellor Kirwan continues to provide leadership on these issues,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen. Turner added: “I’m pleased to work with Brit to promote athletic reform.”

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics also announced that Henry Bienen and Nick Buoniconti have joined the Commission. Bienen has been president of Northwestern University since 1995 and prior to that was the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Buoniconti, a University of Miami trustee, was a member of the 1972 and 1973 Miami Dolphins teams that won the Super Bowl and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

The Commission will host the first Faculty Summit on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington, D.C. on October 15, 2007 at the National Press Club.

In the News:

1.) Academic reforms for baseball may be overturned. By Andy Gardiner, USA TODAY. May 15, 2007.
2.) Most Division I colleges have to subsidize sports, NCAA finds. By Frank Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer. May 15, 2007.
3.) Tracking Sports Spending. By Elia Powers, Inside Higher Ed. May 15, 2007.

Other News References:

4.) Daunting task: Getting college baseball players to graduate without a shorter season. By Joseph White, ASSOCIATED PRESS. May 14, 2007.
5.) Reformers set to battle ‘wall of fire.’ By Maureen Groppe, Gannett News Service. May 15, 2007.
6.) College baseball kicks up fuss. By Bob Dart, COX NEWS SERVICE. May 15, 2007.
7.) Knight Commission: Stay strong on academic reform. By Heather A. Dinich, Baltimore Sun Reporter. May 14, 2007.
8.) Buoniconti on a new athletic mission. By MANNY NAVARRO, The Miami Herald. May. 15, 2007.
9.) Pollard: Financial disclosure needed. By JANE NORMAN, Des Moines Register. May 15, 2007.

10.) NCAA to Reveal New Data on Coaches’ Severance Pay and Total Compensation. Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, By Brad Wolverton. May 14, 2007.
11.) Colleges urged to back up reforms. By Heather A. Dinich, Baltimore Sun. May 14, 2007.