Purpose

The purpose of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is to develop, promote and lead transformational change that prioritizes the education, health, safety and success of college athletes.

Overview

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is an independent group with a legacy of leading reforms that 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 new “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; reducing athletics time demands on college athletes; and requiring coaches to disclose outside income from shoe and apparel companies. The Knight Commission has also successfully pushed the NCAA to make improvements to its coaching education programs and establish basic credentialing for coaches to ensure that coaches are prepared for their roles to protect the health, safety and well-being of college athletes.

The Knight Commission has long had an impact on the governance of college sports. In the 1990s, for example, the Commission successfully pushed for presidential leadership at the national, conference and institutional levels. And in 2019, member colleges and universities voted to add five independent directors to the NCAA’s highest governing board at the Knight Commission’s urging, in response to a wide-ranging college basketball scandal.

The Commission’s other efforts and research have helped shape public and internal discussion about the principles and policies guiding college sports, including recent debates about rules to allow college athletes to earn compensation from the use of their name, image and likeness.

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

The Commission’s College Athletics Financial Information (CAFI) database (cafidatabase.knightcommission.org) provides financial data for more than 220 public Division I institutions, creating greater financial transparency for where the money comes from and where the money goes in college sports.

All reports, news releases, studies and white papers can be accessed on knightcommission.org. You can follow us on Twitter on @KnightAthletics.