The Emmert era, such as it is, continues
Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, got an extension through 2025 the other day, a move the organization heralded grandly in a 15-word announcement buried at the bottom of an NCAA board of governors quarterly report.
Not that it was trying to stave off potential criticism, but the NCAA did everything but encrypt the sentence marking Emmert’s extension.
Next, we expect Boeing’s board of directors to announce a raise for the designer of the 737 Max, maybe with an endorsement quote, something like, “Meh. What’s a little turbulence?”
Emmert, 68, the Washington grad and former UW president (2004-2010), thus can continue for another four years a remarkable run at the NCAA, doing . . . what, exactly?
It’s a lot easier to calculate Emmert’s swings and misses in his decade-long run in Indianapolis than it is his accomplishments. Emmert is the six-year-old Little Leaguer who gets unlimited cuts at the ball on the tee rather than the traditional three.
Let’s see: He could have shepherded the NCAA to an enlightened path on the thorny issue of name-image-likeness rights for student-athletes. He could have provided leadership – and who knows, maybe a smidge of urgency – in the interminable resolution of several high-profile basketball programs’ culpability in an FBI-launched investigation of shoe-company involvement (for instance, Kansas’ case has been ongoing since just after Phog Allen quit coaching there).
He could have helped take college football on a more enterprising playoff path than the tired, sleepy – let’s face it, it’s downright boring – four-team trudge, to which Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State apparently have homestead rights.
Emmert could even have overseen an equitable split of male-female championship amenities, so the NCAA could have avoided the immensely embarrassing reveal weeks ago of how the women’s NCAA tournament exercise facility was a poor second to the men’s. (Is it folly to think that the whole issue could have been headed off by an NCAA liaison asking a couple of coaches, “What do you need?” And then getting it for them?)
I’m reminded of one of Emmert’s first moves as NCAA president. That was to fire – by phone – Tom Jernstedt, the respected, longtime vice president who guided the basketball tournament into prominence.
It would be unfair to ding Emmert for every misstep made by the NCAA, an unwieldy entity that seems to resist any easy solution. But at some point, the sheer weight of the organization’s ineffectiveness has to reflect on his stewardship.
Emmert’s imperviousness rings a bell. For several years, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott – outgoing now, at long last – bungled everything from his own extravagance to officiating, but his bosses, the presidents, signed off on it. So it is with Emmert and the board of governors, a group largely composed of presidents and chancellors.
He’s one of them, in other words. And that means many of them identify with Emmert’s tilt toward being a political animal with cover-your-ass instincts.
After the weight room controversy broke, The Athletic did an extensive, highly critical piece on Emmert’s leadership of the NCAA, interviewing eight commissioners and 17 athletic directors who were granted anonymity.
“I don’t think he’s thinking of any of this (the male-female disparity) beyond it being damage control,” one commissioner was quoted.
A Power Five athletic director, referring to Emmert’s $2.7-million salary, said, “I can’t think of anything that has, in recent years, been made better because of that $2.7 million.”
So, one thing we can discern, other than that the NCAA will continue to react feebly:
Guess the board of governors doesn’t subscribe to The Athletic.