In its 1991 report, Keeping Faith with the Student-Athlete, the Knight Commission identified the “one” in its “one-plus-three model” as Presidential Control: “Presidents are accountable for the major elements in the university’s life. The burden of leadership falls on them for the conduct of the institution, whether in the classroom or on the playing field. The president cannot be a figurehead whose leadership applies elsewhere in the university but not in the athletics department.” The Commission recommended that presidents control the NCAA and athletics conferences, and that trustees affirm presidential authority on institutional athletics governance.
Presidential control and leadership has been a consistent theme in shaping the NCAA’s policy agenda since the Commission issued its recommendations in 1991. Due in large part to the Commission’s recommendations, the NCAA restructured in 1997, giving presidents full authority for the governance of intercollegiate athletics at the national level. Heretofore, such control had been in the hands of a council of athletics administrators and faculty representatives. Today, the NCAA’s board of presidents continues to make progress solidifying and expanding its control over college sports. Presidents are also more fully engaged at the conference and institutional levels in a number of tangible and substantive ways.
As a result of the restructured governance system and presidential engagement, presidents were able to push through sweeping academic reform legislation in 2004. Resources are available that can provide assessments of presidential leadership and control as well as recent recommendations.