The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has proposed a restructuring of the distribution of more than $3 billion in annual revenue generated by college sports, which would include a significant increase in funding for athletics programs at smaller schools.
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The Knight Commission released a proposal on Wednesday that would require the NCAA, the College Football Playoff, and Division I conferences to restructure how they distribute more than $3 billion in annual revenue, a model that the NCAA can use as it considers sweeping changes to its current governance structure.
The commission’s study, titled “Connecting Sports Revenues with the Educational Paradigm of College Sports (C.A.R.E. ),” seeks to stop what it calls a “runaway financial race” that threatens to upend and weaken college athletics’ educational model.
The Knight Commission predicted that yearly payouts would exceed $4.5 billion in the next several years, thanks to an anticipated growth of the CFP, which is handled independently from the NCAA, and increasing television rights for FBS conferences.
“Burgeoning NCAA, CFP, and conference income will be spent disproportionately on coaching pay and athletics facilities, accelerating Division I college athletics’ competitive arms race and increasing the trajectory toward a professional sports model,” according to the study.
The panel came to the conclusion that systemic transformation, not incremental reform, is required. It recommended that the model’s five key principles be implemented “in legislation, regulation, and/or conference rules to govern the financial system”: transparency, independent supervision, gender equality, broad-based sports opportunities, and financial responsibility.
The study said, “Each of these principles is missing, in whole or in part, from the present system.”
The C.A.R.E. approach offered recommendations to the conferences rather than requirements. Conferences, for example, may mandate that each Division I school spend at least half of its “shared sports income distributions” on the education, health, safety, and well-being of college athletes and/or university academics.
The “shared athletics income distribution” that is subject to the 50 percent criterion includes money received from the NCAA and/or CFP (either directly or indirectly through their conference), as well as conference-generated earnings from media contracts and conference tournaments. According to the data in the study, the majority of Division I institutions already fulfill the 50 percent threshold. Schools that do not get substantially larger amounts from shared income distributions would be forced to enhance educational advantages, add scholarships or sports, or shift money to university academics.
Another suggestion was a “luxury tax” on high coaching wages, which would impose financial penalties if overall coaching earnings exceeded a particular threshold. The study proposed that the United States Congress or conferences establish limits or minimum financial levels to restrict sport-specific expenditure, and that conference rules be made public and approved by a new independent monitoring body.
According to the study, the organization should be headed by a majority of individuals who aren’t affiliated with the NCAA, CFP, member schools, or media partners, and at least one-third of the members should be current or past college players.
The NCAA’s “discriminatory gender-based rewards” in men’s and women’s basketball were particularly mentioned in the study, with the Basketball Performance Fund awarding more than $160 million yearly for winning tournaments in men’s basketball. According to the C.A.R.E. model, athletic income distribution should be gender-balanced.
The model also recommends that financial incentives be created to reward schools for supporting more teams than the Division I membership minimums in order to provide more “broad-based sports options.”
In a prepared statement, Knight Commission co-chair Nancy Zimpher stated, “Concrete and meaningful income distribution and spending restrictions are required now because the financial system and incentives in Division I college athletics are broken.” “The sad reality is that current governance at the NCAA, conference, and school levels has failed to keep an education-centric funding structure in place.”
The C.A.R.E. model may be enforced by law or by individual conferences in the United States.
On Tuesday, the panel delivered its most recent report to members of the NCAA’s constitutional committee. It was also sent to the top decision-makers in college sports, including Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, who serves on the CFP board of managers, the NCAA board of governors, and the LEAD1 Association, which includes 131 FBS athletic directors.
The Knight Commission also submitted their idea for a new regulating body for FBS football, independent from the NCAA, to the constitutional committee. The committee completed a year-long investigation in December with the goal of having the NCAA oversee all sports except football.
“My impression is that they’re extremely serious about their goal,” said Amy Perko, CEO of the Knight Commission. “They are aware that the NCAA’s last major reorganization, which included substantial revisions to the constitution, occurred in 1973 when Divisions I, II, and III were established. They’re receptive to hearing new ideas, and we were pleased by their openness, questioning, and lively debate on this topic, both in terms of income distribution adjustments and the big move we suggested in December to separate FBS football from the NCAA.”
The Knight Commission proposed restructuring the distribution of more than $3 billion in annual revenue generated by college sports. This would be done by creating a new entity that would distribute the money to schools based on their athletic performance. Reference: fbs ncaa.
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