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An influential leadership group has proposed sweeping changes to the Division I model that would distinguish the Football Bowl Subdivision from the NCAA, transforming the highest level of competition in the sport into a separate entity responsible for its own governance and revenue distribution.
The suggestions offered by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which is composed of current and former leaders in education and athletics, include the formation of the National College Football Association, a new governing body outside of the NCAA umbrella.
"Our commission recognizes that far-reaching governance reform will not take place overnight," said commission co-chair Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education. "At the same time, it believes that discussion on a new governance structure for Division I can, should and must begin immediately."
Under the proposal, the NCFA would govern the current Football Bowl Subdivision and be funded by College Football Playoff revenue, which amounted to a combined $549 million to FBS conferences and schools in 2018-19, according to NCAA documents reviewed by USA TODAY Sports.
The NCFA would conduct all FBS operations and the national championship while managing issues related to eligibility, rule changes and enforcement, regulatory functions, athlete safety, and revenue disbursement.
In the Knight Commission proposal, members of the NCFA would remain members of the NCAA in all other sports. The NCAA would continue to operate the Football Championship Subdivision, which generates far less revenue than FBS competition, and the men's basketball tournament would remain under the current structure.
USA TODAY Sports has reached out to the NCAA for comment.
If put into action, the commission's suggestions would make the college football model "more complete and unified to shape the future of the sport," said co-chair Carol Cartwright, and would "more effectively serve the vast majority of NCAA athletes."
The split into the NCFA would also create a "reset opportunity," Cartwright said, for schools to decide whether to transition football programs into the new governing body or remain part of the NCAA.
"It provides a reset to say, it may not be in the best interest of our values and our goals here to have everything follow our football affiliation," said Knight Commission CEO Amy Perko.
According to a survey conducted by the Knight Commission, roughly a quarter of Division I presidents, athletics directors and conference commissioners were happy with the current FBS revenue-distribution model, and the only subset of surveyed respondents with a positive view of the model came from the Power Five conferences.
Roughly a third of respondents said all Division I schools share common values in terms of defining what athletics means to their institution. Nearly 75% said they would like to see some form of Division I reform of governance.
"There was no clear solution identified by an overwhelming majority, but the overwhelming majority did say we need big solutions, and there was consensus around the problem," Perko said.
While an independent body, proposals made by the Knight Commission have influenced NCAA governance. For example, a proposed policy tying graduation rates to bowl eligibility, first suggested in 2001 and reiterated in 2010, was adopted by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors prior to the 2011 season.
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