WASHINGTON, D.C., -- The Knight Foundation is establishing a national blue-ribbon commission to develop and build support for a reform agenda for intercollegiate athletics.
Creed C. Black, president of the foundation, announced the decision at a press conference here today. Appearing with him were the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, who will chair the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and William C. Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina, who will be vice chairman.
Black also announced that Richard Schultz, executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, would be a member of the commission. Other members, he said, will be chosen later. "We're looking for a balanced and representative group," he said, "but we want it small enough to make sure it's not unwieldy."
"We have a lot of sports fans on our board, and we fully recognize that intercollegiate athletics have a legitimate and proper role to play in college and university life," Foundation Chairman James L. Knight said following approval of the commission Sept. 22 by the foundation's trustees.
"Our interest is not to abolish that role but to preserve it by putting it back in perspective. We hope this commission can strengthen the hands of those who want to curb the abuses which are shaking public confidence in the integrity of not just big-time intercollegiate athletics but the whole institution of higher education."
Black said he expected the selection of the full commission and a staff would be completed by the end of the year and hoped the work of the commission could be wrapped up within two years. He said a detailed budget had not been approved but that a "ballpark cost figure" would be around $2 million.
He described the expenditure as a natural corollary to the foundation's program of grants to higher education and as "a constructive use of funds in addressing a serious problem in contemporary American society."
"That problem doesn't require extensive description here today," Black said. "Hardly a week passes without still more disclosures of scandalous abuses and rules violations in big-time college athletics. The need now is to build a consensus on a realistic reform agenda."
Black emphasized that the commission will be an independent body with no mandate except to make whatever additional study of the problem it considers necessary and then propose specific, workable solutions.
He called Father Hesburgh and Dr. Friday two of the most respected figures in American higher education and said the foundation was fortunate to have the benefit of their combined 65 years of experience presiding over major universities which were also athletic powers.
Black also said the foundation was encouraged by Dick Schultz's willingness to serve on the commission and said he and Schultz had discussed the process for getting the commission's proposals on the NCAA's legislative calendar.
The Knight Foundation of Akron, Ohio, is an outgrowth of one of America's major newspaper publishing enterprises and the philanthropic impulses of James L. Knight and the late John S. Knight. With assets of almost $600 million, it is one of the 25 largest private foundations in the United States.
The foundation is wholly independent from Knight-Ridder Inc. but supports worthy causes and organizations in communities where Knight-Ridder has newspapers. It also makes selected national grants in journalism, the arts and higher education.