SBD/April 5, 2013/Colleges

NCAA President Emmert Spars With Media In Final Four Press Conference

Emmert took an often defensive attitude in a session with reporters in Atlanta
Striking an “often defiant tone, NCAA President Mark Emmert spent much of his Final Four press conference on Thursday defending his record and that of college sports' governing body as continuing controversy around the organization threatened to overshadow its marquee event,” according to Rachel George of USA TODAY. Emmert's 41-minute meeting “became a referendum on the challenges the NCAA faces.” If his appearance was “casual … Emmert's tenor was not.” He “trumpeted reforms from the past year, highlighting changes to the rulebook, academic-progress rates and the enforcement process.” But after his “17-minute opening statement," he spent the rest of the press conference "addressing questions critical of several recent problems and news developments.” Emmert "offered little new information on the problems the NCAA faces," as his tone was “often defensive, sometimes incredulous and seldom relaxed during the question-and-answer part of the press conference.” Disagreeing with “the premise of one reporter's question, Emmert told him he wasn't trying to ‘pick a fight.’" Addresing a reporter who wrote Emmert should lose his job following the mishandling of the Univ. of Miami case, Emmert said, "By the way, thanks for the career advice. Kept my job anyway" (USA TODAY, 4/5). The AP’s Paul Newberry wrote Emmert was “downright defiant with anyone who questioned whether he's leading the organization in the right direction.” He said, "If you're not getting sued today, you're not doing anything. I don't know anybody that doesn't have litigation pending, so I'm not going to apologize for the fact that we have a very litigious society and there's plenty of reasons to file suit against large organizations" (AP, 4/4). Emmert said, “Anyone would describe this as [a] challenging, dynamic, occasionally difficult time in intercollegiate athletics. I was brought in because they wanted to see a lot of changes made. There was a lot of concerns about what was going on in intercollegiate athletics. We outlined an agenda and we’ve worked hard on it ever since” (NYTIMES.com, 4/4).

MARK VS THE MEDIA? SI.com’s Andy Glockner noted Emmert’s comment that he kept his job anyway “oddly ... was edited out of the official transcript released afterward.” His remarks were “feisty, but in an oddly defensive way that didn’t make him come off as very much of a leader” (SI.com, 4/4). YAHOO SPORTS’ Pat Forde wrote the “only thing missing from Mark Emmert's Final Four meeting with the media was Jay Bilas firing a tranquilizer dart into the NCAA president's neck, felling him on the spot, then posing for pictures over the carcass.” Otherwise, just about “every element of a big game hunt was in place.” Emmert was “the quarry,” and he did “his best to evade capture.” But reporters “kept up the pursuit, eventually cornering Emmert and aiming every weapon in their arsenal at a bloated target that couldn't run forever.” Part of it is “personal with Emmert: his cowboy approach to applying outside-the-box justice to Penn State struck many as a grandstand move.” And his style of leadership has “rubbed plenty of people wrong on both the inside and outside of the association.” But the “far bigger problem is the very entity of the NCAA,” as it remains a “slow, secretive and complex organization in a time of unprecedented societal impatience and transparency” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4).

LIGHT MY FIRE: ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil wrote Emmert’s remarks were “equal parts defiant, combative and downright snippy,” and he got “as close to a verbal duel with the media as maybe anyone in NCAA history.” Emmert's “verbal sparring and in most cases, downright refusal to answer any pointed questions with direct responses, only heightened the notion that both he and the organization he heads are under fire like never before in their history.” Emmert kept mentioning “change as the culprit, as if the problem here is that the NCAA has decided to deregulate the rulebook or offer new recruiting rules.” But O’Neil wrote the “problems are much deeper, systemic and personal than that.” Either Emmert is “naïve in thinking that this is about some simple change, or too stubborn to acknowledge the depth of his organization's mess” (ESPN.com, 4/4). In Chicago, Rick Telander notes Emmert is a “career college sports administrator who always has been able to leave Dodge just before the sheriff arrives” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/5).

MAKING A CASE FOR THE CASES: The Univ. of Miami is calling the investigation into its athletic department "corrupted from the start." Miami has told the NCAA's Committee on Infractions that it “would agree to any properly corroborated allegations against the Hurricanes if the case is brought to a swift end and without any further penalties.” The AP’s Tim Reynolds noted the school "made that offer in the motion filed last week to dismiss the case." UM wants “the infractions committee -- which is not the NCAA's investigative arm, but a separate group -- to use the broad power it has under the association's bylaws to end the case before it even goes to a hearing, scheduled to begin in June.” Miami also “makes several accusations that the NCAA lied to the school.” It is unclear “what happens next -- when the motion will be heard, if the motion will be heard and who would even actually hear the motion” (AP, 4/4). Meanwhile, in Syracuse, Donnie Webb noted Emmert “declined to address the investigation into the Syracuse University men’s basketball program.” He was asked if the NCAA “had the power to change a pattern of programs like Syracuse, Connecticut and Kansas appearing in the Final Four while either under significant investigation or on probation.” Emmert said, “You know what the association has the power to do? It's not me, it's the membership itself, the membership has the authority to create rules; it has the authority to have the staff of the NCAA conduct enforcement investigations” (SYRACUSE.com, 4/4).
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