President Turner calls for national athletic spending cutbacks

SMU President R. Gerald TurnerThe big-spending habits of big-time college sports programs will only respond to change from a national level, says SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

As co-chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Turner has called on the NCAA “to save presidents and athletic directors from themselves,” according to a report from The Associated Press.

College and university presidents agree on the need for change, but do not see themselves as the change agents, he told the NCAA Scholarly Colloquium Jan. 12, 2010.

The Knight Commission released a survey of 95 presidents at major football schools in October 2009. The commission also is preparing a comprehensive report to be released this spring.

Turner says that greater fiscal transparency will be the foundation for change.

“The commission believes that the first step among the actions that are necessary to put the financial model into some proper perspective involves the transparency surrounding athletic spending,” he says. “This has the greatest agreement among university presidents. Eighty percent of them stated that they thought that this was the first step toward some kind of financial reform.”

In addition, he compares the movement for financial reform to NCAA academic reform 30 years ago.

“Academic reform hit a tipping point when graduation rates were first shared publicly, and we think the same can be true when it comes to greater transparency around financial data of our institutions,” he says. “The environment is ready for change. We simply need to go about implementing it.”

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