Women’s History Month: Celebrating Amy Perko

aperko spry women history month

Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful women in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Amy Privette Perko, CEO of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. The Knight Commission is an independent group focused on leading reforms that strengthen the educational mission of college sports. This independent group consists of university presidents, trustees, faculty and former student-athletes who advocate for governance and policy changes in college athletics to ensure that athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their universities.

Below is a summary of our conversation.

A brief history of Amy’s life and career: 

  • Amy is a graduate of Wake Forest University where she is a member of the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame, honored for her success on the basketball court. Though she graduated with a BA in History, Amy always wanted to work in sports. After earning her master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Richmond, she worked at the NCAA, University of Kansas, and for the NBA as Team President for one of its inaugural Development League (now G-League) teams. Amy recognized her passion for collegiate sports and in 2005, began working with the Knight Commission when it re-engage in its college sports reform efforts.
  • The Knight Commission’s purpose is to lead transformational change to prioritize college athletes’ education, health, safety, and success. Two major NCAA policy changes influenced by the Knight Commission during Amy’s tenure are factors in the record high graduation rates that Division I athletes achieve today:
    • In 2001 and again in a 2010 report, the Knight Commission recommended that for any team to compete in a postseason championship, the team must be on track to graduate at least 50% of its players. The NCAA adopted the measure in 2011.
    • The Commission also recommended that the NCAA revised its annual revenue distribution, which exceeds $600 million annually, to include academic incentives. The NCAA adopted this change in 2016 and began phasing in the academic incentives. By the end of the current March Madness contract (2032), the NCAA will have distributed $1 billion to schools based on the academic outcomes of college athletes.

What inspired you to want to pursue a career in intercollegiate athletics? 
When asked what inspired Amy to pursue a career in collegiate athletics, she quickly responded, “passion and a love of sport.” Amy strongly believes in the intangibles learned through sports, for example, the importance of diversity (within a team), recognizing everyone’s unique skills, and working as a collective group to achieve a shared goal. Through her own experience with sports, she learned that “small things done consistently over time will yield big results.”

If you could share one bit of advice with tomorrow’s future leaders, what would it be?
When asked to share advice with future leaders, Amy said that you should never stop learning, and it is critical to continually learn from others. That doesn’t just mean learning from people who have been in “the business” longer than you. College athletes, for example, have critical perspectives that must be valued. We can also learn from others in our everyday interactions. Amy also emphasized the value of listening reflecting on the quote –“seek first to understand, rather than to be understood.”

When asked about her role models growing up? In sports, in business?

Amy mentioned several mentors who mentored her, trusted her and gave her important opportunities:

  • Bob Frederick, former AD at the University of Kansas, was an incredible leader and would end every meeting saying, “remember to treat everyone with respect.”
  • Bill Friday, founding co-chairman of the Knight Commission, was a giant in higher education who led the development of the UNC system. He was the ultimate example of a humble servant leader. He was so kind to everyone.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received was?
“Respect the people around you!”

Finish the sentence, “The best part of my job is….”

  • …working with leaders from across the spectrum who all care deeply about the future of college sports and are trying to develop a future model that is as strong as it can be for college athletes.
  • … seeing the impact of our work in national policy changes that ultimately impact the experiences of millions of college athletes. For example, the current standard, in place since 2011, that requires APR scores that show at least half of a team’s players are on track to graduate, has been an influential factor in the record-high graduation rates that DI athletes experience today.
  • … working with others to create innovative solutions for the future. Over the past two years, the Knight Commission has been working on recommendations to transform the D1 Model. This includes research-based recommendations to change the DI structure, governance, and financial framework.

My favorite flavor of ice cream is:
Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

 

Read the next article in Spry’s Women’s History Month series: Celebrating Missy Conboy, Senior Deputy Athletic Director at the University of Notre Dame