National Leaders Len Elmore and Nancy Zimpher to Join Arne Duncan as Knight Commission Co-Chairs

Co-Chair Carol Cartwright to retire at the end of the year

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics announced today that members Len Elmore and Nancy Zimpher will become new co-chairs, joining current Co-Chair Arne Duncan. The new co-chairs will replace Carol Cartwright, the Commission’s longest serving member, who is retiring when her term is completed at the end of the year.

Elmore and Zimpher will help lead the Commission as it advances major recommendations from its year-long examination of college sports, Transforming the NCAA D-I Model: A 4-Part Series, and seeks the implementation of its guidelines for rules changes that will allow new opportunities for college athletes to earn compensation from the use of their name, image and likeness. The NCAA proposed NIL rules changes this year that were similar to the Commission’s recommended guidelines.

Elmore, a former college basketball All-American and professional athlete, served from 2003-2017 before being reappointed earlier this year. He has worked as a lawyer and broadcaster, and is currently a Senior Lecturer at Columbia University in the School of Professional Studies Sports Management program. Elmore chairs the Knight Commission’s Racial Equity Task Force, which was formed in 2020 to examine how the Commission can best address systemic racism in college sports.

“Len’s extensive resume shows the breadth of his understanding of the issues facing college sports,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “From his playing days as an All-American at Maryland to his career in law and sports broadcasting, Len has been a leader who knows how to bring people together.”

Zimpher, Chancellor Emeritus of the State University of New York, was appointed to the Knight Commission in 2015. Earlier in her career, she was the first female chancellor or president at every institution she led: as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1998-2003); president of the University of Cincinnati (2003-2009); and chancellor of SUNY (2009-2017).

“Nancy achieved many ‘firsts’ in her university leadership roles, and her groundbreaking higher education track record will help the Knight Commission continue its important role as a thought leader in college sports,” Ibargüen said.

Cartwright completes her leadership term with the Commission after serving for nearly 20 years, including as vice-chair in 2016 before being appointed chair in 2017.

“Carol’s entire career demonstrates exceptional vision, commitment and leadership, and she is one of the most highly respected voices in higher education,” said Ibargüen. “Carol has been an extraordinary leader, both as a longtime Commission member and as co-chair. Her steady and wise counsel has always been an incredible asset to the Commission.”

During Cartwright’s tenure, the Commission influenced several major NCAA policy changes impacting governance, academic standards and revenue distribution. Specifically, the NCAA adopted Commission proposals to establish an academic threshold for postseason eligibility, which has contributed to record high graduation rates for college athletes; include academic incentives in the NCAA’s revenue distribution; and add independent directors to the NCAA Board of Governors.

Cartwright, president emeritus at Kent State University and Bowling Green State University, was appointed to the Knight Commission in 2000, when original co-founders Bill Friday and Ted Hesburgh reconvened the group almost a decade after its seminal 1991 report.

As a recognition of her exemplary national leadership in college sports, the Mid-American Conference annually presents a member university with “The Cartwright Award,” based on the criteria of excellence in academics, athletics and citizenship.

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 lead transformational change to prioritize college athletes’ education, health, safety and success. To preserve the Commission’s independence, the foundation continues to be its sole supporter, but does not control, or attempt to control, the Commission’s opinions or pronouncements. The Commission recently launched an important review of college sports, “Transforming the NCAA D-I Model: A 4-Part Series.” 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 provides financial data about Division I college sports to enhance financial transparency and accountability. For more, visit www.knightcommission.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.

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