Knight Commission Announces New Co-Chairmen

WASHINGTON—The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics today named R. Gerald Turner and Clifton R. Wharton Jr. co-chairmen. Wharton was a member of the Commission at its founding in 1989 and Turner joined in 1991. Both men have been leaders in the effort to ensure that college athletics programs are conducted according to the educational missions of American universities. Turner is president of Southern Methodist University and Wharton is president emeritus of Michigan State University.

“Gerald Turner and Clifton Wharton are models of excellence and respected by their peers,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the commission’s sponsor. “It’s essential for the Knight Commission that its leaders be principled and knowledgeable, as well as insightful and fair-minded. Gerald and Clif have all of these qualities, and so it is great news for intercollegiate athletics that they have agreed to take on these co-chair positions.”

“We are at a time when the lines between collegiate and professional sports are being blurred as never before,” Wharton said. “The Knight Commission has always believed that college sports need to be linked tightly with the educational mission of American colleges and universities, and the trend toward the professionalization of college sports threatens this vital linkage. ”

Turner added that “college presidents, as well as trustees and faculty members, have the responsibility to make sure that we manage athletics programs in a way that allows the athletes involved to get the same quality of educational experience as all other students.”

The commission also announced William E. (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and former president of The Ohio State University and the University of Maryland at College Park, as a new member. All three attended their first commission meeting in their new roles today in Washington.

Turner and Wharton are succeeding Thomas K. Hearn Jr., president emeritus of Wake Forest University, who agreed to assume the role of chairman in March 2005 but has decided to step down for health reasons. Hearn will remain with the commission as chairman emeritus.

Turner (bio) has been president of Southern Methodist since 1995, and served as chancellor of the University of Mississippi from 1984-95. He has served in a number of NCAA leadership positions. Currently, he is chairman of the subcommittee on presidential leadership of internal and external constituencies for the NCAA’s Presidential Task Force on the Future of Division I Athletics. The subcommittee is charged with examining the relationship between college presidents and their trustees concerning athletics issues. Turner also was the founding chairman of the NCAA Committee on Athletics Certification. He played basketball at Lubbock Christian Junior College.

Wharton (bio) served as president of Michigan State from 1970-78, becoming the first African-American to head a predominantly white major university. He also served as chancellor of the State University of New York system from 1978-87. He is a former chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, which provides retirement and mutual funds for academic and non-profit institutions. A former chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, Wharton ran track as an undergraduate at Harvard University.

Kirwan (bio) served a term as chairman of the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors from 2000 to 2003. He has also served as chairman of the boards of the American Council on Education and the National Association of State Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Kirwan played football as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky.


The Knight Commission 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 has had a major impact on the conduct of college sports through its reports, Keeping Faith with the Student-Athlete (1991) and A Call to Action (2001). The commission will continue to monitor and report on progress in presidential control, academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification of athletics programs. More information can be found at


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