Summary of Media Coverage of Restoring the Balance

Media from across the nation published articles on the financial state of college athletics following the June 17 release of the Knight Commission report, Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports. Below are brief summaries of articles published by several media outlets.

A video from WUSA TV-9 in Washington DC, with comments from Knight Commission co-chair William E. “Brit” Kirwan, can be accessed here.

USA Today reported that the Commission’s report was issued to “restore balance between academic and athletics expenditures across the nation.” The paper focused on the Commission’s recommendation for greater transparency in the reporting of financial information, stating “while presidents and chancellors of schools typically already have access to such information in order to compare their schools’ expenditures with others, the general public does not.”

Inside Higher Ed reported on the Commission’s recommendation for institutions to compare athletics and academic spending. It stated that the reports currently filed in “compliance with the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act of 1994 “lack comparability” because the law allows institutions to “report information in overly broad categories.” Though acknowledging that the NCAA’s standardized reports are “not perfect,” the report argues that they “represent the most accurate athletics financial report available.” Its coverage of Restoring the Balance included data which showed that “in the major conferences, median athletics spending per athlete is from 4 to nearly 11 times greater than the spending on “education-related” activities per student.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the data in the report which helped to inspire the recommendations to bring spending in college athletics more in line with educational values. It stated that “From 2005 to 2008, median spending on athletics at most of the public institutions in Division I-A jumped 38 percent, to $84,446 per athlete. Academic spending per student during that same period, in the meantime, grew by 21 percent, to $13,349.” A graph from the report was included in its coverage. The Chronicle quoted Knight Commission co-chair William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland: “…we feel that we are starting down the path that we hope will bring the right kind of balance to expenditures on athletics and academics.”

The New York Times reported more specifically on the distribution of revenue from football and men’s basketball. The Times noted the Commission’s recommendation to create a fund that would allocate money based on academic success rather than victories or tournament appearances: “The report recommended that the N.C.A.A. cut in half the amount of men’s basketball revenues that are allocated based on victories and appearances — $167 million in 2010, according to the report, or 40 percent of shared revenues — and divert the remaining half into a fund that would be distributed based on how well universities balance academics with athletics. The report recommended a similar system for the B.C.S., with at least 20 percent of postseason football revenues distributed according to academic success.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on the impact of the 2009 Knight Commission presidential survey, in which a majority of presidents “worry that current athletic spending cannot be sustained, especially at a time when schools are struggling to meet the needs of students. The commission’s Restoring the Balance report says that in 2008, schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision spent 6.3 times more per athlete on sports than they did per student on academics. The Pac-10 fared slightly better than the median, spending 6.2 times more. The Southeastern Conference spent 10.8 times more. Among its recommendations, the Knight Commission wants to see some postseason football and basketball tournament revenue redirected to schools that demonstrate a measurable balance between academics and athletics.”

The Wisconsin State Journal reported “The Knight report, meanwhile, is about distributing those riches according to academic criteria. Most prominently it calls for full public disclosure of a school’s athletic finances to better measure them against academic spending; tying revenue distribution from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and Bowl Championship Series pools to academic performance; and re-emphasizes the idea of prohibiting schools that project a graduation rate under 50 percent from postseason participation.”

The NCAA News quoted NCAA Interim President Jim Isch, who stated that “The NCAA and its member schools are overwhelmingly in concert with the Knight Commission. However, we feel there are some aspects of both the data and solutions advanced that require clarification and debate.” While Isch said that the NCAA’s dashboard indicators “provide presidents and chancellors a standardized look at their respective financials as compared to their peers,” he supported the commission’s call for even greater transparency. Isch also noted the commission’s desire to base postseason eligibility on graduation success but said “our current penalty structure that accounts for improvement is fair and has the desired effect – an emphasis on academic success.”