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Volume 25 No. 66
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NCAA's Mark Emmert Keeping Close Eye On Esports, Sports Betting

Mark Emmert never envisioned when he was hired as NCAA President that he would have a to-do list that started with esports and legal wagering. But that’s the reality for Emmert, who just started his ninth year on the job atop the governing body. Addressing a roomful of sports executives today at the ’18 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York, Emmert said developing a strategy for esports is one of his most pressing priorities. “Everybody recognizes esports at the campus level is exploding,” Emmert said. “It’s a phenomenon I don’t think any of us have ever seen before. That brings with it some interesting opportunities and challenges. We’ve already got collegiate championships run by game publishers and they’re asking for some structure to that. They’re asking if that’s something we want to do. It’s an interesting question and it raises some points. How does it square with traditional athletics? It’s a male-dominated sport; how does that fit in with what we stand for? Some of these games are hyper-violent. … We’ve got a working group exploring the options. The real question is whether the NCAA can produce some leadership in that arena to address some of those negatives.” Emmert said it is important to establish a firm stance on esports by the end of '19.

QUICK HITS:

  • On college basketball reform: “There are a lot of changes coming that aren’t particularly visible right now, but they’re very important. What I’m really pleased with is that we sat here last year and said that we’ve got to get this done, and we did. By NCAA standards, we’ve moved at light speed.”

  • On the Rice Commission not coming out against amateurism: “If you’re one of those people who said the root problem is that college basketball players aren’t being paid, you were guaranteed to be unhappy because it was clear that nobody in a college leadership position was interested in going in that direction.”

  • On the G League creating a path to the pros with a $125,000 salary for select players: “We’ll find out this year, but I think we’ll have a lot of really talented players who think playing college basketball is a pretty good deal.”

  • On legalized wagering: “We’re not looking at it like, ‘How are we going to monetize this great opportunity?’ For us, it’s about maintaining the integrity of the game, how do you work with media partners. … So, we’ve been working with Congress, working with professional leagues, on how to create a national set of guidelines, guardrails if you will, so we don’t have 50 different guidelines across the country on inappropriate betting, variables on prop bets, and other inappropriate behavior.”