May 2009 Knight Commission Meeting

kirwan.jpg“We built an enterprise under revenue assumptions that we have to change… we have just always assumed that corporate revenue, media revenue would just continue at the same pace, and that is obviously not going to be the case,”

~ Brit Kirwan, Co-Chairmen Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

The conclusion of another academic year marks the start of new fiscal year. Unlike previous budget cycles, higher education administrators are bracing themselves for potentially drastic cuts to academic initiatives. Funding decreases such as these are in direct contrast to the escalating expenditures of elite intercollegiate athletic programs. USA Today recently reported that according to a report commissioned by the NCAA, “major college programs increased their operating budgets by nearly 11% annually – bumping up expenditures by well more than a third over a recent three-year span.” The increase “more than doubled the average 4.9% annual rise in universities’ overall spending.”

Brit Kirwan, co-chairmen of the Knight Commission and Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, criticized the spending trends in an earlier interview with CBS Sports that aired on April 4, 2009. Kirwan projected that the latest headlines of sports being dropped were only “the tip of the iceberg.” He continued, “I think cuts to intercollegiate athletics are going to be quite significant in the next year or two.” Kirwan advocated for more transparency of college athletics expenditures to better inform the public and help build support to reduce the operating budgets that have been growing at unsustainable rates.

NCAA researcher Dan Fulks highlighted the disparate athletic and university growth rates as well as rising athletics deficits at the Commission’s Oct. 2008 meeting. Fulks presented data that indicated the median net deficit for the majority of Division I institutions increased more than 20 percent since 2004. That discussion was the first in a series of meetings the Commission has scheduled to examine the financial issues in college sports.

The next discussion is planned for May 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Knight Commission will hear presentations from higher education and college sports experts about the impact of the current financial conditions on athletics programs and their projections for the future as well as their opinions on the strategies that must be considered. John Cheslock, professor of higher education at the University of Arizona, and Tim Curley, athletics director of Pennsylvania State University, will discuss the impact of financial pressures on the number and scope of varsity sports programs supported by institutions.

The upcoming Knight Commission meeting is open to the public and those planning to attend should RSVP to Complete details on the meeting’s agenda and brief biographies of the presenters can be found here. Following the meeting, podcasts of the sessions can be found here.

You can also get updates on the Knight Commission’s activities and news alerts by following them on Twitter: