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Volume 25 No. 27
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NCAA's Mark Emmert Believes That Systemic Change Will Come to College Basketball

NCAA President Mark Emmert took the stage at the ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum determined to deliver his message that systemic change in college basketball is coming. While acknowledging that skeptics exist, even within the NCAA’s ranks, he said he will have “profound disappointment and shock” if we reconvene at this conference a year from now without sweeping reform to college basketball. The call for change was brought about by the FBI sting in September that led to fraud and bribery charges against 10 people, including four college assistant coaches. “The worst possible outcome would be that, confronted with these facts, the association just moved on,” Emmert said during his annual IAF interview with SBJ/SBD Exec Editor Abe Madkour.

CREATIVE MINDS AND OPEN MINDS: Emmert led off by discussing the role of the NCAA’s College Basketball Commission, which is being chaired by Condoleezza Rice, but he touched on a number of subjects in his 30-plus minutes on stage. In evaluating the relationship between shoe companies (Adidas was implicated by the FBI) and universities, Emmert said, “The shoe companies are some of the most creative marketers in the world. I’ve got to believe they can sell shoes without bribing people.” He also was asked about what appears to be changing attitudes toward gambling at the pro level of sports. The NCAA has had a longstanding rule against staging events in states that allow wagering. But he also is open to a debate about reforming that restriction, especially after a number of conferences have hosted successful events in Las Vegas. “The world didn’t turn upside down,” Emmert said. “I’m willing to explore that.”

KNOWING WHEN TO SAY WHEN: Emmert addressed last year’s decision to pull NCAA events out of North Carolina over the HB2 law, and he stood by the decision while also acknowledging that the NCAA cannot get wrapped up in every social cause. To that end, Emmert and his staff created a system to guide them when evaluating causes. “We shouldn’t be in the social advocacy business for the sake of social advocacy,” he said. “But what we have is a flow chart for when to act on social issues. It has to affect student-athletes, it has to be something that attacks our core values, and it has to be something we can be impactful on. We get approached about every social issue you can imagine. But that’s not what I or the board wants to do. So we have a decision tree."