May 14, 2007

Knight Commission urges presidents to show
strong support for academic reforms

Washington, D.C. – The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics today strongly urged college presidents to resist pressure to weaken reforms as some college athletic programs across the nation face possible penalties for poor academic showings.

While SMU’s 16 athletic teams exceeded the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates requirements, some 112 other Division I teams face penalties for failing to meet minimum academic performance standards, the NCAA announced May 2.

The NCAA’s report projected that unless those schools make significant academic progress, 45 percent of men's basketball teams, 40 percent of football teams, and a third of baseball teams could lose scholarships or be subject to other penalties beginning in the fall of 2008 when more teams become eligible for sanctions.

"We expect that as more teams are penalized, more pressure will be exerted to weaken the reforms,” said Knight Commission Co-Chairman and Southern Methodist University President R. Gerald Turner. “But these reform measures must be implemented. As we've seen before, behavior changes when standards are raised, and we are already seeing the positive effects of these new measures."

The Knight Commission also heard Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg, a member of the NCAA baseball working group, outline sweeping rules changes addressing academic underperformance by baseball players. The Commission unanimously commended the group for its proactive recommendations and the NCAA Division I Board of Directors for their swift approval.

"The higher profile men’s basketball and football communities should learn from baseball’s example and swiftly undertake a serious study to examine whether rules changes specific to these sports could help improve the academic performance of their players,” said Knight Commission Co-Chairman William E. "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

The Commission noted that in addition to the 112 teams receiving penalties, another 134 failed to meet the graduation standards but avoided penalties by receiving a waiver. The Commission urged the NCAA to maintain a high threshold for granting waivers, particularly next year when waiver requests are projected to surge as more teams become eligible for penalties.

At the meeting, NCAA officials released financial data showing that only 7 percent (22 of 313) of Division I athletics departments generated more money than they spent when institutional subsidies such as student fees are excluded -- contrary to the public perception that athletics departments generate profits for their institutions. Those 22 financially successful athletics departments all belong to the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly Division I-A. NCAA numbers show that the remaining Division I athletic departments not competing in the FBS subdivision receive approximately 70 percent of their revenue from non-athletic sources.

The Commission will host the first Faculty Summit on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 15, 2007, at the National Press Club.

About the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 in response to more than a decade of highly visible scandals in college sports. The goal of the commission was to study and report on reform efforts that recognize and emphasize academic values in a climate in which commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education. The commission, which presented recommendations in a series of reports in the early 1990s and in the subsequent A Call to Action in 2001, continues to monitor and report on progress in increasing presidential control, academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification of athletics programs.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invest in U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. For more, visit

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