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Knight Commission Survey of College Leaders Finds Openness to a Power 5 Breakaway

Three-fourths of college athletics leaders believe the NCAA governing structure needs major, immediate reform, and more than half of Power 5 college administrators support breaking away from NCAA Division I to form a fourth division solely made up of the division’s top 65 schools.

That’s according to a sweeping survey of college leaders this summer conducted by the Knight Commission, a longstanding independent group that promotes reforms that support the educational mission of college sports. The commission’s survey, conducted from June 18 to July 14, produced a 180-page report that provides a window into the thinking of NCAA leadership. 

Those surveyed included more than 350 college presidents, conference commissioners, athletic directors, college athlete leaders and institutionally designated faculty athletics representatives and senior woman administrators. Data for the survey’s respondent base are accurate within a 5% margin with a 95% confidence level, the commission said during a presentation Tuesday revealing the data.

Overall satisfaction with current NCAA Division I governance

Overall, the survey showed a strong attitude toward governance reform, low satisfaction with inequalities in college athletics finances and, maybe most notably, an openness for a radical restructuring of Division I’s competition levels, such as creating a new division for Power 5 programs in all sports except basketball, or separating Football Bowl Subdivision football from the NCAA.

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Likelihood to support implementing proposed potential change

In fact, 61% of Power 5 administrators say they are more likely to support creating a fourth division of the NCAA that includes only Power 5 programs. Just 15% of Power 5 administrators say they are against such, with 24% being neutral. All other segments of Division I—Group of Five, FCS and non–football playing members—are categorically opposed to the Power 5 breaking away, the survey found.

Meanwhile, 44% of leaders support keeping together FBS programs but separating FBS football from the NCAA, while 31% are against that. One-quarter of respondents answered that they are neutral or undetermined.

Survey results around future strategies for Division I

A whopping 74% of respondents want to see governance structure at the NCAA change, with just 7% disagreeing with that. Despite a weighted model that gives them more power, Power 5 administrators, at 42%, are most dissatisfied with the NCAA governance compared to any other group. In one of the most unifying topics, 77% of leaders say March Madness should not undergo any changes.

As for college athletics spending, 67% of respondents seek an antitrust exemption in order to reduce athletics costs, and 62% would agree to capping sports budgets, such as coaching salaries. In fact, three out of four school presidents agree with both of those models of decreasing sports spending.