The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is guided by the following principles:

  1. Athlete health, safety and well-being must be a guiding imperative.
  2. The educational experience and outcomes of college athletes must be paramount.
  3. Institutions and their associations must demonstrate fiscal responsibility and prioritize athlete health and safety, athlete education and campus academics in the allocation of athletics revenues.
  4. The governance of associations must demonstrate integrity, advance the educational missions of institutions and the well-being of college athletes and share voting power with college athletes.

Mission

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.

Overview

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is an independent group with a legacy of promoting reforms that support and strengthen the educational mission of college sports.

The Commission was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 to recommend a reform agenda in response to highly visible athletics scandals and low graduation rates for college football and men’s basketball players that threatened the integrity of higher education.

The Commission is composed of current and former university presidents and chancellors, university trustees and former college athletes, as well as nationally-regarded thought leaders from organizations with ties to or involvement in higher education or college sports.

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 “one-plus-three” model for governing intercollegiate athletics: presidential control directed toward academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification. By the late 1990s, the NCAA had enacted a majority of the Commission’s recommendations to strengthen academic standards and improve athletics governance.

Subsequent reports and recommendations continue to influence and contribute to positive change. Among the Commission’s recommendations that led to policy changes: requiring teams to be on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players to be eligible for NCAA postseason championships and bowl games; including academic incentives in the NCAA’s revenue distribution plan; and reducing athletics time demands on college athletes.

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

The Commission’s meetings provide a public platform for thoughtful discussion of the most pressing issues facing college sports.

The Commission’s interactive Athletic and Academic Spending Database for NCAA Division I (spendingdatabase.knightcommission.org) is a user-friendly tool designed to improve financial transparency and the long-term financial health of college sports.

More About the Commission’s Impact