Where does the NCAA go without Emmert from here?

Last week, the NCAA released a press release announcing that NCAA President Mark Emmert would step down from his executive role “by mutual agreement.” Emmert had held the position since 2010 and only last year had his contract extended until 2025, but that was then. Many, many things changed in the year that followed, and it is now clear that not only will the NCAA have to radically change its forms of control, but it will also have to fight hard just to survive as an institution.

I’m an old guy and I’ve seen the NCAA evolve, but I’ve certainly never seen it so weak. While we can’t put all the blame on Emmert, things fell apart on his watch. maybe the coup de grace for it came at the trophy presentation that followed the NCAA National Basketball Championship game. It was embarrassing enough that Emmert had to hand the award to Bill Self and Kansas, a basketball program the NCAA has been investigating for at least a few years (seems like an eternity). But then the distraught Emmert called the national champions the “Kansas City Jayhawks.”

Yes, “mutual agreement”.

Black eyes for Emmert’s NCAA

Inequalities between men’s and women’s sports. Specifically, this issue arose in relation to the NCAA basketball tournament and involved programming, television coverage, facilities, etc. Title IX of 1972 of the Education Amendments Act prohibits sex discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal financial assistance. They all do. Title IX led to the proliferation of women’s sport, as the number of scholarships available had to be approximately equal to that available to male athletes. In big football schools, these 85 football scholarships spawned many women’s football, lacrosse, gymnastics and track and field teams. That was in 1972. The NCAA should already be paying more attention to equity.

sexual abuse scandals. Jerry Sandusky is just one of many, but he was at the Big Ten Penn State institution. More and more cases arose against coaches, coaches and team doctors. The NCAA’s inclination appeared to be covered up to protect its members. Shame.

academic fraud. The case of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the most notorious, but not the only one. The pressure to succeed, the pressure to make a lot of money, leads to cheating. As cases like the UNC one become public, the very idea of ​​the “academic athlete” raises eyebrows. As the NCAA continues to lose power and influence, no longer Big Brother overseeing everything, can individual institutions be counted on to do their own policing?


The NCAA, of course, has the inherent problem of trying to govern the athletic programs of its more than 1,100 member institutions. These schools are as diverse in size, mission, location, budget, and sports emphasis as you can imagine. I realize that the NCAA is divided into “divisions”, but even then the one-size-fits-all regulatory policy certainly doesn’t fit all of them.

As a policy, the NCAA has hung its hat – and its existence – on two principles: equity among member schools and the concept of amateurism for academic athletes. And it is the all-important protection of amateurism that the NCAA claimed entitles it to exemption from antitrust laws. Under Emmert, both principles collapsed. It could have happened under any NCAA president, but Emmert was unable to fend off attack after attack.

The notion of equity has always been a farce. When I was on the Southern Miss athletic committee in the early 2000s, the athletic budget was about 7% of the state of Ohio. However, both were from the First Division and could have played against each other. They didn’t, but in football Southern Miss played Alabama, Auburn, and LSU quite regularly, and also played Illinois, Indiana, and Pitt while I was on the committee. Although the Golden Eagles won some of those games, there was no “fairness”. And during Emmert’s tenure, inequality grew tremendously — largely as a result of television contracts and conference expansion. As the OSU gets richer, Southern Miss now finds itself, with its very small media market in Hattiesburg, joining the Sun Belt Conference in a sort of desperate move to stay afloat.

As for amateurism, the US Supreme Court overturned that notion with its 9-0 decision (amazing that all nine justices could agree on anything) in Alston v. NCAA, a decision handed down last June. While the decision technically removed the NCAA’s cap on academic-related “benefits,” it actually opened the door to “pay for the game.” Many Division I institutions are paying academic athletes a monthly stipend for “academic expenses”. Real salaries, like those of resident assistants, are undoubtedly on the horizon. And why not?

There are many important ramifications of the removal of the NCAA exemption from antitrust lawsuits and the unmasking of fairness and amateurism. I’ve compiled a list of issues or problems that largely arose during Emmert’s time in charge. I don’t claim to be complete, but these are issues that affect all member institutions, including the Ohio State Buckeyes.

the end of amateurism

ANYTHING. Collegiate players are now being compensated for the commercial use of their name, likeness (i.e. photos) or likeness (in video games, for example). It all started some time ago when a UCLA basketball player asked aloud and later in a lawsuit why he wasn’t paid for his character in a video game – after all, professional players were compensated for the use of his imagery. The case reached the courts, the NCAA fighting all the way. But then, state legislature after state legislature passed the compensation for NIL, and it was a consumed fact.

Now, of course, players negotiate NIL contracts upfront as they commit or transfer. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that the NCAA was so tough on Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes for trading autographs and memorabilia for discounts on tattoos.

single transfer rule. Not long ago, a player had to wait an entire year to play for a transfer school. Who says? Well, the NCAA said. Then there were lawsuits and exemptions for “difficulties” or other reasons, to the point where the rule simply did not apply. It was replaced by “one-time transfer”, allowing a player to transfer once without penalty during a college career. Why not unlimited transfers? Non-athlete students may transfer an unlimited number of time without penalty. This rule is a temporary compromise and won’t last long, I don’t think.

transfer portal. The portal is clearly related to the transfer rule above, but what is interesting about it is its public nature and its transparent appearance. A player announces entry into the portal. Let the bidding begin. It’s a kind of open market or free agency, without the use of agents or direct cash payment. I’m really curious about what happens to the portal in the next 10 years or so.

super conferences. First, the NCAA was divided into divisions. Then, Division I football was subdivided into Power Five and Group of Five conferences. Now, we’re going to super conferences. Let’s face it, in football, there’s the SEC and the Big Ten. With their network television contracts and their fat war chests, these two conferences play the cards in big college football. There is not even a stance on equity. It’s all about bigger, richer.


What’s in store for the future?

I’m not an oracle, but I’m going to offer some ideas that I think could come to fruition in the next ten years or so.

NCAA President. Facing more and more lawsuits, the NCAA will no longer hire a former university president or athletic director as its leader. The NCAA, like professional sports, is more about power and influence than athletics. The organization goes to a well-known political figure who can influence legislatures and courts.

collective bargaining. A few years ago, the Northwestern University football team unionized. Both the university and the NCAA blocked him, but the action got people talking. I hope that players will begin to plead their own cases and, following the examples of their professional colleagues, form a players’ association to engage in collective bargaining. In many strong labor states, senior assistants are unionized – a precedent for athletes.

“Money Sports” Division from other athletic programs. The NCAA does a very good job with their Division One basketball tournament. It’s exciting, fair and profitable. I love that. Smaller schools lose money on all sports; they are funded by student fees. Division I institutions expect to earn money annually from basketball and football. Aside from the tournament, I see the NCAA losing even more control of money sports. This is where amateurism and fairness are most false.

Conference breakup in football. The SEC and Big Ten will expand further, then separate from the NCAA for football and run their own national championship. With their own media networks and with national networks (Fox, CBS, ESPN) negotiating contracts with conferences, rather than the NCAA. I see this separation as almost inevitable. Players in the super conferences will be compensated and will essentially provide a farm system for the NFL.

Three years after high school rule. A process waiting to happen, the NCAA rule (which the NFL accepts so as not to rock a boat too good) requiring players to wait three years out of high school before turning pro is going, going, going. In basketball or baseball, for example, there is no such rule. The public argument in favor is that the NFL is so violent that younger bodies are simply not ready for that level of competition. There may be some medical evidence, but my hunch is that some court will decide it’s a case-by-case situation. Not all bodies develop at the same speed.


With all these changes on the horizon, the NCAA will undergo a complete overhaul to stay relevant, to stay alive. What will Ohio State football be like in 10 years? 20 years? Even bigger. No more games against Akron, but on the other hand, more than we’ve been used to in the last couple of decades – much more!

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: