“The LEAD1 Angle” Episode 5: Amy Perko, Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

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Written Recap

Today, LEAD1 Association released its fifth episode of the “LEAD1 Angle with Tom McMillen,” which the association announced as a podcast and video series in July. In this episode, LEAD1 CEO & President, Tom McMillen, is joined by Amy Perko, the CEO of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an independent group that has led reform agendas in college sports since 1989. The interview highlighted some of the pertinent points in the Knight Commission’s recently released “NCAA Division I Governance and Organizational Competitive Structure Survey.

According to Perko, the purpose of the Commission’s recent survey was to reexamine the NCAA’s Division I governance structure, with a specific aim of ensuring that incentives (largely financial) are properly aligned in college sports. The current NCAA Division I governance structure was created in 1974, with perhaps, the only real “significant change” occurring in 2014 with the changed structure for autonomy five institutions. Of note, more than three-quarters of respondents (comprised of various college sports stakeholders including national, conference, and campus leaders) believe that the NCAA needs major and immediate reform. Historically, however, this has not always been the case as university presidents and chancellors have been hesitant for any sort of congressional involvement in college sports. But times have changed with the majority of respondents, for example, in strong support of an antitrust exemption for college sports.

The survey also engaged in the possibility of certain restructuring with respect to the current multi-sport conference structure. The survey, for example, outlined the possibility of creating a new and separate (fourth) division within the NCAA for all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) sports except basketball and separating FBS football into a new entity funded by the College Football Playoff (CFP), which is currently a separate entity that administers the FBS football postseason tournament. According to Perko, “surprisingly,” there was “openness” to this type of reorganization.

The other major discussion topic addressed the financial “arms race” in college sports, which alludes to the what some have coined “outrageous” and increased spending among FBS institutions during the last several decades (obviously more exacerbated in recent years). According to the survey, the majority of FBS institutions believe they are spending too much trying to compete. Therefore, Perko believes that action is needed with respect to NCAA revenue distributions. Along these lines, Perko mentioned that there has been some confusion over the years due to the NCAA not administering a championship in FBS football. According to Perko, because of this, NCAA revenue distributions should only be based on sports in which the NCAA administers a championship, and, thus, FBS football should not count with respect to any calculations related to revenue distributed to FBS institutions.

More on these reform ideas and potential congressional involvement in college sports can be found in the interview.