Knight Commission Applauds New NCAA Policy to Reward Schools for Meeting Academic Expectations

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The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics applauded the NCAA today for passing a groundbreaking new policy that will, for the first time, financially reward colleges and universities that meet academic expectations for sports teams and athletes.

The policy approved Thursday is consistent with one the Knight Commission made 15 years ago in its report, A Call to Action: Reconnecting College Sports and Higher Education. The Commission has persistently promoted this change ever since, including at its fall meeting at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. earlier this week.

Brit Kirwan, the Commission chairman, who is retiring at the end of the year, has been in leadership positions with the group for most of those 15 years.

“It’s especially gratifying, in my final months on the Commission, to see the NCAA take this game-changing step to place a higher value on education in college athletics,” Kirwan said. “It is critical to align the incentives in college sports with educational values.”

Arne Duncan, incoming co-chair and former U.S. Secretary of Education, said, “More must be done to protect the integrity of college sports and to strike a better balance between athletics and education. This change does just that by financially rewarding academic and not just athletic results on the field or court.”

Carol Cartwright, incoming co-chair and president emeritus of Kent State University said, “In 2001, the Knight Commission’s concept to reward academic outcomes through the NCAA revenue distribution plan was dismissed by many as idealistic, but today’s action shows that it was a roadmap. We commend the leadership of Christine Copper and Philip DiStefano who co-chaired the NCAA working group that developed the proposal adopted today.”

The new policy goes into effect in 2019-20. Under the NCAA’s current revenue distribution formula, nearly 40 percent of the annual $550 million payout for March Madness is awarded based on the success of men’s basketball teams in the tournament. But under the new policy, more than $10 million and eventually more than $100 million of the media revenues from the March Madness tournament will be awarded to conferences to distribute to member schools, based on how their athletic teams meet academic-based criteria.

The Commission also urged leaders of the College Football Playoff (CFP) to adopt the same NCAA academic-based criteria for a portion of the annual CFP distributions.

About the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
The Knight Commission was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 to promote reforms that support and strengthen the educational mission of college sports. 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 at least 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 Division I institutions, creating 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