Arne Duncan, Anna Spangler Nelson and Paul Tagliabue to Join Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

Contact: Hadley Dreibelbis,, 202-667-0901

Knight Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Alberto Ibargüen announced today the appointment of Arne Duncan, Anna Spangler Nelson and Paul Tagliabue to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Duncan recently stepped down as U.S. Secretary of Education; Tagliabue is the former commissioner of the National Football League; and Nelson is chairman of Spangler Companies and serves on the UNC Board of Governors.

Duncan will serve as co-vice chair of the Knight Commission along with long-time member Carol Cartwright, president emeritus at Kent State University and a former member of the NCAA Board of Directors. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus with the University System of Maryland, will continue in his leadership role serving as chair of the Commission.

“Arne Duncan, Anna Spangler Nelson and Paul Tagliabue are national leaders who care passionately about the value of college sports in our universities,” said Ibargüen. “We look forward to having their guidance and leadership as the Knight Commission expands upon its legacy of protecting the educational missions of our universities and improving the experience of college athletes.”

“We welcome these extraordinary leaders to the Knight Commission,” said Kirwan. “They hold strong views about the primacy of educational outcomes for college athletes and will make major contributions to our work.”

“I’m delighted to join the Knight Commission, which has done so much to foster and protect athletics and academics,” Arne Duncan said. “But we have a lot more to do to protect the integrity of college sports and strike a better balance between athletics and education. The Knight Commission must continue to help lead that urgent work.”

“The Knight Commission understands very well both the economics of higher education and the escalating costs of intercollegiate athletics,” Paul Tagliabue said. “I look forward to participating in its work that can help shape new policies reemphasizing the educational opportunities and priorities for student athletes.”

The Knight Commission will continue both its influential and independent role in shaping policies guiding college sports. “Our long-held view that colleges must reduce athletic time demands on students was affirmed as a top priority by athlete representatives and university leaders at the NCAA Convention earlier this month,” said Kirwan. “But with this issue, as with others in college sports, meaningful action is too often delayed. We must be prepared to move forward more rapidly and more boldly in the future.”

The Knight Commission will hold its next public meeting in Washington, D.C. on May 10, 2016.

Arne Duncan served as secretary of education for the last seven years, from 2009 to the end of 2015. His twin career passions are education and basketball. At Harvard University, Duncan was co-captain of the basketball team and a first team Academic All-American. From there, he went on to play professional basketball from 1987 to 1991 in Australia, where he also tutored children who were wards of the state. In subsequent years, he has been the MVP of the 2014 NBA Celebrity All-Star Basketball game and a member of the 3-on-3 national champions Hoop It Up team.

Prior to his appointment as secretary of education, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for eight years. Before taking the CEO helm at CPS, Duncan ran the nonprofit education foundation Ariel Education Initiative from 1992 to 1998, which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children under the “I Have A Dream” program.

Anna Spangler Nelson has served as chairman of Spangler Companies, a private investment firm, since 2005. Nelson is a member of several boards, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina. In addition, she serves as chairman of Fidelity Charitable. Nelson is co-chairman of Project L.I.F.T., a public-private partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools seeking to increase academic achievement. Nelson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College, and an MBA from Harvard University.

Paul Tagliabue served with distinction as NFL Commissioner for 17 years, from 1989 to 2006. He subsequently chaired the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Independent Advisory Committee to assess and revise the Committee’s governance structure and management responsibilities. Since 2006, he has been a member of the Georgetown University Board of Directors serving as chair for six years. He has also served on many non-profit boards dealing with educational and community development issues, including the United Way of America and the National Urban League. Tagliabue has received numerous awards, including the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Leadership Award (2007); Jackie Robinson Foundation, Humanitarian Award (2012); and the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Business Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). Tagliabue attended Georgetown University on an athletic scholarship, was the Hoyas’ basketball team captain and received scholar-athlete honors, graduating in 1962. He earned his law degree with honors at NYU Law School, and is now senior of counsel at the Covington and Burling law firm.

Carol Cartwright, who will serve as the co-vice chair with Duncan, has been a Commission member since May 2003. Her appointment as president of Kent State University in 1991 made her the first female president of a state university in Ohio. Cartwright served as president until 2006, and subsequently was president at Bowling Green State University from 2008 to 2011.

Cartwright has previously served on the NCAA Board of Directors and as chair of the NCAA Executive Committee. She is currently a member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Cartwright’s leadership in college sports is recognized by the Mid-America Conference through the annual Cartwright Award, given to the member university whose athletic program has the best overall record in athletic competition, academic achievement, and public service.

Two years ago, the Knight Commission adopted a system of term expirations for members. Gerald Turner, president, Southern Methodist University, who served as co-chair with Brit Kirwan since 2007, completed his term in 2015 along with Anita DeFrantz, former president of the LA84 Foundation, and Charles Young, chancellor emeritus of UCLA. Chuck Young was a founding member of the Commission, Gerald Turner joined in 1993, and Anita DeFrantz served for 10 years.

“I can’t say enough to thank Anita DeFrantz, Gerald Turner, and Chuck Young for their contributions to the Knight Commission’s efforts, ” said Knight Foundation CEO Ibargüen.”Gerald Turner provided leadership as co-chair for nearly 10 years and served as a member for more than 20 years. We are extraordinarily grateful for his wise counsel and steady leadership.”

For member photos and complete biographies, visit

About the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
The Knight Commission was initially formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 in response to a series of scandals in college sports. The Commission’s enduring goal is to promote reforms to intercollegiate athletics that protect the educational mission of college sports and the health and safety of athletes. Over the years, the NCAA has adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations including the rule that requires teams to be on track to graduate more than 50 percent of their players to be eligible for postseason competition. The Commission’s Athletic and Academic Spending Database provides financial data for more than 220 public institutions to create greater financial transparency on athletics spending.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities, and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit