Impact of Knight Commission Efforts

The following serves to convey the influence of Knight Commission recommendations on the policies, practices, culture and outcomes in college sports:

CLICK HERE for summaries and reactions to the most recent policy changes that are consistent with Knight Commission principles and recommendations.


  • Presidential leadership for athletics – on campus, in athletics conferences and nationally – is embedded in the governance structures.
  • Changes in the NCAA national governance beginning in 2014 are consistent with Knight Commission recommendations to broaden the input received by the Board


  • Graduation rates of athletes have increased since 1991.
  • Accountability systems for academic success are in place: initial-eligibility rules, progress-toward-degree requirements and team-specific benchmarks and expectations to ensure athletes are on track to graduate.
  • Graduation rates and other academic success metrics for teams are transparent (searchable databases for Academic Progress Rate and Graduate Success Rate)
  • An academic threshold is in place for postseason eligibility requiring teams to be on track to graduate at least half of their players to be eligible.
  • Treating athletes as students first and emphasizing their academic obligations is an important Knight Commission principle that has taken hold in national policies and practices to address athletics time demands and allow multiyear scholarships. Some institutions now guarantee scholarships through degree completion and have more robust programs in place to assist athletes with internships and career development.



  • During the two decades following the Commission’s 1991 report, the NCAA’s certification process required institutions to evaluate their athletics programs against the operating principles. The certification program has now been replaced with a new institutional evaluation tool through the Institutional Performance Program.
  • The Knight Commission advanced concepts that promoted greater institutional accountability for athletes’ academic success. The Academic Performance Program, which includes the Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate metrics, was adopted in 2004 to hold institutions more accountable for athletes’ academic success.


William C. Friday and Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, two icons in higher education, were the founding co-chairmen and provided leadership for the Commission’s 1991 seminal report, “Keeping Faith with the Student-Athlete: A New Model for Intercollegiate Athletics.”

This report provided a roadmap for reform and was quickly embraced by higher education leaders. It proposed a new “one-plus-three” model for governing intercollegiate athletics: embedding presidential leadership and control at the campus, conference and national levels and directing that leadership toward ensuring academic and financial integrity in athletics programs.

Most of the Commission’s initial recommendations to strengthen academic standards and improve athletics governance were enacted by the late 1990s.

Subsequent reports and recommendations continue to influence and contribute to positive change. Some prior recommendations that ultimately resulted in NCAA policy include requiring teams to be on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players to be eligible for postseason championships and providing multiyear scholarships instead of one-year renewable grants.

Other efforts, including research on presidential opinions on college sports, have helped shape public and internal discussion and debate about the principles and policies guiding intercollegiate athletics.

The Knight Commission has also made financial data available to educate policy-makers and the public about where the money in college sports comes from and where it goes. The Commission also created an NCAA Division I Athletics and Academics Spending Database.