N.C.A.A. Extends Emmert’s Deal, Surprising Athletic Leaders
Just over a month ago, when the NCAA was embroiled in yet another crisis on its own, 21 board members participated in a hastily convened videoconference with Mark Emmert, the constantly besieged president. of the governing body of university sports.
During the 69-minute session, they heard about the disparities between their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and had, according to meeting minutes, “a discussion regarding the desirability and substance of the game. President Emmert and his team ‘response to a debacle that had embarrassed NCAA amid its annual signing showcase.
Then on Tuesday night and with a review of deep-rooted gender equity issues still in its early weeks, the association’s board of governors stunned the rest of the varsity sports world by announcing that it had extended the contract. Emmert until the end of 2025. It was a multi-million dollar pledge, if Emmert’s past pay remains any guide, to the man who is among the greatest symbols of the gap between daily reality of university athletics and its management.
The choice was instructive, suggesting that for all of the turmoil that has surrounded the NCAA under Emmert’s watch, which began in 2010, the board has little to no interest in ramps up from politics or government. personal, or the feeling that he might need it soon. It was also an assertion of power: a reminder that, despite the influence of conference commissioners, coaches and athletic directors who have grunted and bitched at Emmert for years, the NCAA’s most important authority rests on widely selected part-time board members. in the ranks of university presidents.
In a summary of Tuesday’s board meeting, the NCAA, which declined to make a board member available for an interview, disclosed Emmert’s extension with just 16 words under the title “other business”. The association has taken up more than double the space to talk about a plan for fewer in-person board meetings – sessions where, presumably, members will maintain the brisk pace that the NCAA stands for as a defining and necessary feature of ‘a group with around 1,100 member schools.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote extended Emmert’s deal for two years. It also bolstered the board’s membership in a president whose era included a storm of controversies, not all self-inflicted, ranging from the NCAA’s handling of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State to a splashing television rights deal that might yet have underestimated tournaments that draw millions of viewers.
“I’m not committing,” said Emmert this month, whose last publicly disclosed salary was worth around $ 2.7 million a year. “The board does that. I know there have been a lot of things that have been done wrong or missed over the years. I am certainly happy to take my share of the responsibility for it. I don’t claim to be infallible, that we did everything perfectly, or that I did everything perfectly. I made a lot of mistakes and learned from them.
No NCAA executive will ever be completely immune to criticism; to be the target of complaints, justified or not, is essentially a birthright of the concert. But the surprise board decision – conference and school leaders said they had no idea an extension was even being considered, let alone made final – reflects a particular mark of stubbornness as the NCAA faces calculations that define legacy and define the industry on everything. financial devastation of the coronavirus pandemic to the extent of the power of the association.
The fallout from the federal college basketball corruption investigation continues. State governments openly challenge the association’s rules as to whether and how students can profit from their fame, and Congress, despite Emmert’s exhortations, does not appear to be as eager to step in as the NCAA is. would prefer. The findings of a civil rights attorney’s investigation into the issues that have torn public consciousness over the women’s basketball tournament are expected this summer.
Emmert now thinks he sees the NCAA through much of it – and maybe all of it. He has a supportive board of directors who have not been publicly bothered by his performance, even though he has to contend with a disgruntled cadre of sports administrators on campuses and in conference offices.
“Stunning,” said a commissioner of a Division I conference who said “the presidents seem hopelessly out of touch” and spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid severing the conference’s relationship with the NCAA.
“Definitely a little shocked at the timing because of some of the recent issues, but nothing surprises me outside of Indianapolis anymore,” a college athletic director wrote at a Power 5 conference in a text. ‘also expressing on condition of anonymity. message, referring to the city where the NCAA is based. The athletic director added the emoji of a man shrugging his shoulders.
The board, which includes prominent American politics, sports and affairs in addition to university leaders, likely has plenty of explanations for making a new deal with Emmert.
Members may have sought to give a dose of stability to the NCAA, which has seen a range of senior officials planning their departures for one reason or another. (Just last week, the White House announced that President Biden had selected Donald M. Remy, NCAA Director of Operations, as its candidate for Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs , Denis R. McDonough, was a member of the NCAA Board of Directors until last year.)
They may believe that a presidential reshuffle would signal a surrender to the myriad of industry fights. Perhaps they think Emmert deserves recognition for keeping the NCAA afloat during the pandemic, even though he lost nearly $ 56 million in the fiscal year that ended in August. 2020.
It could be as simple as the board being friends with Emmert, who previously ran the State of Louisiana and the University of Washington and said in an interview in January that he had “no interest in s. ‘get away from it anytime soon.
A board, of course, should offer a measure of independent oversight and try to stay above the daily turmoil and tensions of a sprawling industry. There is a danger, however, that a board or its chosen executive is too far away, or even appears to be.
Yet that’s what the NCAA got into this week, unleashing a wave of shock and fury and once again offering evidence of a disconnect that has long left college sports prone to surprise and internal wrangling. .
The outrage was predictable, perhaps even somewhat avoidable. But with the NCAA, that’s almost always the case.
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