Knight Commission Statements on NCAA Values-Based Revenue Distribution Working Group Recommendations

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has issued the following statements in response to the NCAA Values-Based Revenue Distribution Working Group recommendations, which have been the subject of a recent media report:

September 30, 2016

Knight Commission Chair William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus, University System of Maryland

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics enthusiastically supports recent recommendation from an NCAA working group to change the criteria used to distribute more than $550 million annually to Division I schools, which would incorporate for the first time a financial academic achievement reward for schools.

The proposal made by the NCAA Values-Based Revenue Distribution Working Group is consistent with a recommendation made 15 years ago by the Knight Commission in its 2001 report, A Call to Action: Reconnecting College Sports and Higher Education. In consistently promoting this change, the Commission is guided by the principle that the incentives in college sports must be aligned with the association’s enduring educational values. We are pleased to see that the majority of schools also support this type of change and urge the NCAA Board to adopt the proposal.

While the change is very positive, we remain concerned that the pace of change is much too slow.

The NCAA has always controlled two powerful incentives: criteria for NCAA postseason championships and criteria to receive the money generated from its championships. The Knight Commission has worked to include educational achievements in the criteria for both. In 2011, the NCAA took a big leap forward by adopting the Commission’s recommendation for an academic threshold for postseason eligibility. Now—five years later—the NCAA can further strengthen its commitment to educational values through its incentives by adopting the recommendation to provide financial rewards for academic achievement.

Since its 2001 report, the Commission has urged the NCAA to revise its revenue distribution plan to reduce the amounts awarded for winning teams and instead reward schools for the achievement of academic outcomes. We commend the working group for its thorough and thoughtful examination.

With annual increases to the expanded March Madness contract producing even greater revenues over the next 16 years, it is vital to ensure that educational values are supported by meaningful financial rewards—not just by words alone.

Knight Commission Co-Vice Chair Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education

I’ve often said that more must be done to protect the integrity of college sports and to strike a better balance between athletics and education. The NCAA working group proposal does just that by recommending that academic and not just athletic results are rewarded financially. The NCAA should continue to work more aggressively and urgently to emphasize the importance of educational achievement.

Knight Commission Co-Vice Chair Carol Cartwright, president emeritus, Kent State University

As a Knight Commission member in 2001, I signed the report, A Call to Action: Reconnecting College Sports and Higher Education. Two central recommendations were to require teams to graduate half of their players to be eligible for postseason and to change the revenue distribution to incorporate educational values. The recommendations were dismissed in 2001 as idealistic, but they have proven now to have been a roadmap. It has been a journey that many of us wish had not taken so long, but one that will ultimately lead to a greater emphasis on educational achievement.