SBD/December 10, 2014/Intercollegiate Forum

Mark Emmert Admits He Served As Face Of NCAA "Too Much" Early In His Tenure

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Emmert feels NCAA facing "most important months in the history of college sports"
When Mark Emmert was hired as NCAA President, he was asked to be the face of the organization. In retrospect, he said today, he “did it too much.” Emmert sat down for a one-on-one interview this morning at the ’14 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum and opened up about how his leadership style has changed during his four years with the association. Emmert: “My high visibility reinforced the wrong position on all that. It should have been, in retrospect, putting more front and center presidents, ADs, student-athletes, to reflect that fact that this is a member association more than an NCAA president-led organization.” Throughout the 45-minute session, he discussed the roles of a variety of decision-makers, particularly within the context of the new D-I Council, which is set to meet for the first time next month. He noted that ADs will make up most of the council, which will put in place legislation regarding issues deemed high priority by school presidents. He stressed that student-athletes, faculty athletic reps and senior woman administrators will also be represented on the council, and that their voice “will be as strong as it’s ever been.” He added that one of the items on the agenda is a recommendation from the NCAA Finance Committee to allocate an additional $19M to its student assistance fund, which would bring the total fund to $100M. He noted that the NCAA will have doubled the fund in the last five years, and that the money has “an incredibly loose structure” when it comes to determining how it can be allocated for student-athletes.

HISTORY ON THE HORIZON? Emmert began the session by saying that the next 36-48 months will likely be “some of the most important months in the history of college sports,” even comparing the climate to that leading up to the creation of the NCAA. He cited economic pressures, legal challenges, the interest of the general public, political intervention and efforts to maintain the welfare of student-athletes as the driving forces behind the wave of change he anticipates. Emmert went into some depth on the complex legal landscape through which the NCAA has been forced to navigate. He reaffirmed the organization’s intent to fight the cases brought by both Ed O’Bannon and Jeffrey Kessler to the Supreme Court, if need be. Emmert characterized the Kessler case as asserting that college sports “has to become a free market with no constraints on college athletes receiving any money from any source for any purpose.” He said that there can be “no middle ground” on that argument. Regarding the O’Bannon ruling in August, which the NCAA is appealing, Emmert suggested that athletic departments be conservative with their financial commitments in the event that the judge’s injunction goes into effect. He added that this would put a lot of administrators “in an incredibly chaotic position.”

QUICK HITS
* On punishing students for selling autographs: “The membership has to decide, 'Do you want this rule, or don’t you?' If you want the rule, do you want the national office to enforce it, or don’t you? … The speed limit on the Beltway in Indianapolis, which is 55 miles per hour, is a stupid rule. But I also know that if I drive 75 and I get pulled over, I can’t say, ‘Well, I think it’s a dumb rule.’ I get the ticket.”

* On UAB shuttering its football program: “It’s not up to me or anybody outside those universities ... to second guess whether that’s the right decision. ... But it’s troubling anytime the opportunity for students to play sports is reduced.”

* On the CFP selection process: “Picking four football teams is bloody hard. I thought they did a really good job. Let’s recognize there’s no way that a group of people can pick four teams ... and have everybody be happy and in agreement.”
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