Knight Commission to meet June 17 to discuss academic reforms, penalties for major rules violations

FOR RELEASE—May 14, 2008.
CONTACT AND RSVP: Brian Wachur, Widmeyer Communications, 202.667.0901 or

Media Advisory

Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt and University of Hartford President Walt Harrison to discuss the academic challenges in men’s basketball and the impact of academic reforms

Who: R. Gerald Turner, President of Southern Methodist University and Co-Chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor, University System of Maryland and Co-Chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
Other members of
the Knight Commission, including new members: Sarah Lowe, former University of Florida women’s basketball athlete; Sonja Steptoe, former Time and Sports Illustrated journalist and Christopher Zorich, former football All-American at Notre Dame

What: Knight Commission meeting to discuss the NCAA Academic Performance Program; recommendations to improve the academic performance of basketball players; and, trends in NCAA violations and recommendations to revise the penalties for major rules violations (agenda below)

When: Tuesday, June 17, 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST
Reporters will have a chance to talk with panelists and Commission members during breaks or at the conclusion of the final session.

Salon II in The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd St., NW (corner of 22nd and M Streets), Washington, D.C.

The NCAA recently announced that 218 teams at 123 institutions will be sanctioned for failing to meet minimum academic benchmarks established as part of the Academic Performance Program. In 2001, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics advocated that teams be ineligible for postseason competition if they failed to graduate at least 50 percent of their athletes. Although the current benchmarks are lower than those advocated by the Commission, the Commission has supported the full implementation of the NCAA’s program since its adoption in 2004.

During this meeting, the Knight Commission will receive a report on the program’s administration and impact. Of particular interest to the Commission is the process that allowed nearly 70 percent of teams with scores under the minimum benchmark to avoid penalties. Also, the Commission will consider academic enhancement proposals from a group of basketball coaches and administrators.

The Commission will also hear a report from current members of the Division I Committee on Infractions on trends in major rules violations and possible changes to the penalty structure.

The Knight Commission will welcome three new members at this meeting.

Sarah Lowe graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida in May 2006. Lowe was a leader on the women’s basketball team serving as team captain three of her four years. Following her graduation, she studied in Costa Rica as a Fulbright Scholar. She received numerous awards for her academic and athletics excellence including the Arthur Ashe, Jr. 2006 Female Sport Scholar of the Year.

Sonja Steptoe serves as client development manager at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm based in Los Angeles. Prior to joining O’Melveny in 2007, Steptoe served as a senior correspondent and deputy news director for Time Magazine for five years following a successful career in sports journalism. Steptoe reported and wrote for CNNSI sports network, HBO’s RealSports with Bryant Gumbel and Sports Illustrated. Her investigation of East Germany’s systematic doping of Olympic athletes earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Journalism. Steptoe earned degrees in economics and journalism at the University of Missouri. She received a law degree from Duke University.

Christopher Zorich was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. A two-time All-American at Notre Dame in 1989 and 1990, Zorich played in the NFL for seven seasons. Zorich received his bachelor of arts in American Studies from Notre Dame in 1991 and his law degree from Notre Dame Law School in May 2002. He is chairman of the Christopher Zorich Foundation, which provides scholarships and other financial assistance to students and families in the Chicago area. Following his graduation from Notre Dame, he was the first student-athlete in Notre Dame’s history to fund a scholarship at his alma mater.

The meeting sessions will be accessible via podcast on the website after the conclusion of the event. The Commission will meet again in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008.

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 promote a reform agenda that emphasized academic values in a climate in which commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education. The commission, which presented recommendations in a series of reports in the early 1990s and in the subsequent A Call to Action in 2001, continues to monitor and report on progress in increasing presidential control, academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification of athletics programs.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. For more, visit


Tuesday, June 17 – Salon II, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd St., Washington D.C.

8:30 – 10:15 a.m. Academic Integrity: Report on the NCAA Academic Performance Program and the recommendations to improve the academic performance of basketball players

Walter Harrison, President, University of Hartford, and Chairman, NCAA Committee on Academic Performance

Paul Hewitt, Head Basketball Coach, Georgia Institute of Technology

Kevin Lennon, Vice President for Membership Services, NCAA

10:30 – 12:00 p.m. NCAA Infractions: An examination of trends and recommendations to restructure penalties and challenges

Mike Glazier, Attorney, Bond, Schoeneck & King

Gene Marsh, James M. Kidd Professor of Law, The University of Alabama Law School, and NCAA Committee on Infractions member

Chad E. McEvoy, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Recreation and Coordinator of the Sport Management Program, Illinois State University

Josephine “Jo” Potuto, Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Nebraska School of Law; chair, NCAA Committee on Infractions; and Nebraska’s Faculty Athletics Representative

12:00 p.m. Media Availability with Commission members and guests