The Knight Foundation’s president and chief executive officer, Alberto Ibarguen, announced Wednesday the appointment of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as co-vice chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
Duncan joins Carol Cartwright, the president emeritus as Kent State University, as a fellow vice chair. William “Brit” Kirwan, the chancellor emeritus with the University System of Maryland, is the commission’s chair.
“I’m delighted to join the Knight Commission, which has done so much to foster and protect athletics and academics,” Duncan said in a statement. “But we have a lot more to do to protect the integrity of college sports and strike a better balance between athletics and education. The Knight Commission must continue to help lead that urgent work.”
Along with Duncan, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Spangler Companies chairwoman Anna Spangler Nelson were appointed to the commission Wednesday. Tagliabue expressed his interest in helping “shape new policies reemphasizing the educational opportunities and priorities for student-athletes,” while Spangler expressed interest in educing athletic time demands on students, which the NCAA touched upon at its annual convention earlier this month.
The commission, founded in 1989, aims to emphasize “academic values in an arena where commercialization of college sports often shadowed the underlying goals of higher education.” In a 1991 report, the commission urged secondary schools to help restore the value of education in athletics while deprioritizing financial results. Three years later, it took a hard stance in support of proposed tougher academic standards that would raise the expectations for incoming student-athletes.
In recent years, the commission unveiled an interactive database tracking the amount of academic spending and athletic spending per athlete at more than 220 Division I colleges and universities. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, spending per athlete increased far more substantially than academic spending, the commission found.) In 2011, when the NCAA hiked the minimum GPA for incoming student-athletes, then-commission co-chairman Gerald Turner commended the association for its action.
Based on Duncan’s background as the education secretary, one can only imagine he’ll be primarily focused on academic-based work while serving with the commission. Seeing as the NCAA’s academic requirements are set to jump once more this coming school year—incoming student-athletes must earn a minimum 2.3 grade point average in high school and complete 16 core courses, including 10 before their senior year, to be immediately eligible as freshmen—Duncan and the Knight Commission will have plenty to monitor over the coming months.
Here’s hoping his new role leads to another appearance at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.