SBJ/20090126/This Week's News

Business as usual at NCAA despite bad news

The notion that Myles Brand’s treatment for pancreatic cancer will lead to sweeping changes inside the NCAA’s Indianapolis halls is off base, says the man who has sat next to Brand for the last six years.

Myles Brand announced
Jan. 17 that he has cancer.

What seems likely, though, is that some of the NCAA’s top executives would be thrust into more visible roles, starting with Wally Renfro, the senior adviser to the president and Brand’s right-hand man since he became president in 2003.

Like Renfro, many of the top NCAA executives have been with the organization for years and toiled behind the scenes while the president was the face of the group, lending credence to the idea that Brand’s illness won’t affect the NCAA’s inner workings. But publicly, Brand, who is undergoing chemotherapy, won’t be traveling and speaking like he once did.

“There’s a relatively modest shifting, and most of it is in terms of focus,” Renfro said. “There’s not a lot of change taking place. … Myles is still the president of the NCAA and he’s still functioning in that position.”

Specifically, Brand said he’d ask for assistance from executive vice president Bernard Franklin on academic reform and from senior vice presidents Greg Shaheen and Jim Isch on business matters. How that assistance manifests itself remains to be seen, based on how Brand recovers and the toll chemotherapy takes on him.

Stepping Up
The NCAA hierarchy under President Myles Brand
Executive vice presidents:
Tom Jernstedt
A 37-year veteran of the NCAA, Jernstedt oversees the football, baseball and women’s basketball tournaments, while also providing a guiding hand for many of the organization’s other initiatives because of his experience. The NCAA will lean heavily on Jernstedt’s guidance if Brand is away.
Bernard Franklin
Franklin is expected to take on a greater role in the execution of the NCAA’s academic reform programs. The former president of Virginia Union University, he typically serves as the liaison between the NCAA and many of its academic-oriented committees, but also has provided leadership on issues such as the use of American Indian mascots.
Senior vice presidents:
Greg Shaheen
Runs the men’s basketball tournament and is the go-to guy for operations, marketing and media issues. One of the SVPs on the business side whose role is expected to expand.
Jim Isch
The chief financial officer and a leader in the area of fiscal responsibility among universities. He’ll be depended on to provide financial stability through Brand’s treatment.
Joni Comstock
Administers many of the NCAA’s championships and serves as the senior women’s administrator.
Dennis Cryder
The NCAA’s branding and communications chief, Cryder helped engineer the 2006 centennial celebration.
Senior adviser to the president:
Wally Renfro
NCAA veteran of four decades, Renfro will take Brand’s place at certain speaking engagements.

Brand first told NCAA staffers on Jan. 9 that he was dealing with an unspecified illness that would cut into his travel and work hours. Then, on Jan. 17, Brand announced via a news release to those at the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C., that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. “The long-term prognosis is not good,” he said.

Despite Brand’s grim news, the staff has maintained a business-as-usual approach, Renfro said, and Brand is still in the office on a part-time basis.

Renfro, an NCAA veteran of four decades, will occasionally find himself in the role of the president in the coming weeks as Brand undergoes chemotherapy. He was scheduled to speak in Brand’s place at Washington & Lee on Friday, and on Jan. 17 he delivered the state-of-the-NCAA speech for Brand, who was unable to travel to Washington, D.C., for the NCAA Convention after starting chemotherapy the week before.

“Obviously, Myles is dealing with the illness and he has a treatment regimen,” Renfro said. “That regimen means he will need more hands and feet and eyes and ears to assist him. But in terms of dramatic changes in day-to-day operations, I don’t think you could read into that.

“Myles has put together terrific leadership, he’s clearly laid out strategic directions and we’ll keep the wheels on the vehicle moving forward. Myles continues to have a leadership role in all of that, THE leadership role.”

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