The NCAA can take a year or two before it runs out of oxygen unless it gets fixed

NEW ORLEANS – Mike Krzyzewski had questions. In fact several of them. The opportunity came during an aside in Duke’s media availability here for the Final Four.

Somehow, the conversation veered from the great coach’s pursuit of a sixth national championship to the upcoming press conference with NCAA President Mark Emmert.

“I have a lot of questions [of Emmert]“Coach K said. “I think the first is where are we going? And who will be in charge? Not that I’m saying that [Emmert] shouldn’t be. But what are we doing?”

These questions have been asked for years – decades, in fact. There is now a soft August 1 deadline for your responses. That’s the deadline for the NCAA Transformation Committee that is trying to do the heavy lifting of the dirt that the association is stuck in. That committee is expected to forward a series of recommendations to recast the NCAA Constitution that could change the look of college athletics forever. .

Speaking on the post-Krzyzewski Thursday at his annual Final Four availability, Emmert made it sound like the NCAA had accepted his diminished role. There was the same old man asking Congress for help on NIL which may never happen. The NCAA’s credibility in this matter has already been altered by two huge antitrust losses in federal court (the O’Bannon and Alston cases), as well as name, image and likeness.

Then Emmert dropped a bombshell.

“We have a relatively short time window in my estimation – a year or two, those decisions need to be made because of the dynamics that are going on right now,” he said.

“The legal landscape as it exists today is simply not going to support and sustain the way college sports are conducted today,” added Emmert.

A year or two or what? Add this to Krzyzewski’s list of questions. It is quite false to blame “the legal landscape” for the current state of college athletics. The NCAA helped shape this legal landscape. Now the association is increasingly powerless to prevent college athletics from becoming a semi-professional enterprise at the highest level.

A year or two or what? No more NCAA? There are already signs that Congress may step in and run the company. A bipartisan bill is expected to be introduced this week to speed up the enforcement process. https://www.si.com/college/2022/03/29/ncaa-infractions-cases-congress-bipartisan-bill

Meanwhile, the NIL… did it work? It certainly wasn’t the bane of college athletics. For decades, the NCAA’s legal defense when any sort of player compensation arose was the same. If players were paid, TV ratings would go down, audiences would go down, interest would go down. This defense no longer holds. Neither in court, nor in the court of public opinion. In fact, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt on Thursday released a number of audience benchmarks that were achieved with the men’s and women’s tournament.

I asked Emmert directly: What evidence did he have that interest, ratings, and attendance have declined since the July 1st implementation of enabling NIL offsetting.

“Clearly, the social and political landscape has changed significantly in many ways in the last 12 to 24 months,” Emmert said. “We will be ready, willing and able to change dramatically.”

That avoided the question. The truth is, the NCAA received terrible legal advice to bring Alston to the Supreme Court. He chose to go to war for giving more educational benefits. Emmert said “lawyers from the conference, attorneys from the NCAA and our outside attorneys” made the decision. The NCAA Board of Governors approved.

This June 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court caused the association to reconsider its constitution. Now, that transformation committee has until August to “fix” the NCAA.

Transformation Co-Chairs Greg Sankey (SEC Commissioner) and Julie Cromer (Ohio AD) met with media on the side following Emmert’s comments. Their pairing signifies the monumental task ahead. Sankey is the head of the most powerful conference in the country. Cromer’s departmental expenses are $26 million. In Alabama, that number is $170 million.

There is no certainty that the committee’s two major tasks will be completed on time. This is reducing oversight and deciding the adhesion dilemma. That is, who exactly should be in Division I.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone will like the process. It doesn’t mean it will be perfect,” Sankey said of the committee’s work in progress.

But will it make it on time and what is Emmert talking about with a vague one to two year company-wide deadline? Coach K, among others, would like to know.

“He’s not the only person who is disenchanted with the current system,” Cromer said.

And now the clock is ticking. Sankey said the committee asked the Board of Governors: Are you serious about this assignment? Do you want all this done by August?

“The board said be quick but thorough. I think there’s a level of flexibility, but I don’t think any of us are looking at this co-chairman role as a retirement opportunity,” Sankey said.

That statement suggests that the 21-person committee could dissolve after Aug. 1. Other committees could take over – the NCAA stands on them – but that doesn’t solve the problem of saving the NCAA in the next two years.

“We have legal results that say no change is not an option. How this manifests is yet to be seen…” Sankey said. “They were [membership] very good at creating rules, not very good at deleting rules.”

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