NCAA President Mark Emmert says his association must stay open to reform

NEW YORK >> NCAA President Mark Emmert hopes the lessons learned from navigating the pandemic will lead top athletes leaders to be more open to future reforms and prioritize opportunities for athletes when it comes time to cut costs .

In a 25-minute interview today with The Associated Press, Emmert said the NCAA and its member schools have shown an unusual ability to be agile and responsive in addressing issues related to eligibility, scheduling, recruitment, transfers, and holding. of championship events.

“We’ve done a whole bunch of things, many member schools of which have said in the past, ‘No, no, no, we can’t do that. That is not true.’ Well, we do. And the sports world has not collapsed, ”Emmert told AP. And so if we go on, we can say, for example: why can’t we keep doing that? Why can’t we continue to offer more flexibility? Why can’t we continue to think more creatively about planning models and how we run different elements of the associations? ‘

He added, “I hope those lessons are not lost.”

It was a grim 2020 for college sports after all. Between the cancellation of last season’s lucrative NCAA basketball tournaments and the loss of revenue from football tickets due to limited attendance, athletics divisions large and small have been forced to make hefty cuts.

For example, the state of Ohio has plans to lose more than $ 100 million, cutting wages and jobs, but not teams. Other schools plan to ban sports, including Iowa and Stanford, which plan to ditch 11 programs from one of the nation’s largest athletics departments.

At lower levels, Furman retired from his baseball team and Akron dropped cross-country. Cutbacks have been made in dozens of programs because budgets have been reduced.

And I know everyone has to make tough financial decisions. We had to earn a lot within the national office. But trying to support these students in as many ways as possible has really been the hallmark of it all, ”said Emmert. “When you look at how the schools have stepped up their health and safety support for students, it’s quite remarkable. It has been extensive. It was difficult, but it was truly remarkable. And we have to say, “Okay, if we can do that, why can’t we do these other things?” ”

South Carolina fired soccer coach Will Muschamp last month for about $ 12 million to buy out the rest of his contract. That move came after the athletic department implemented leave to deal with an expected $ 50 million in lost revenue. There is also speculation about the future of football coach Tom Herman, whose buyout with his staff is said to be more than $ 20 million.

“The pandemic and the financial struggles that come with it, even in very well-funded schools, are making those choices clearer and a little grimmer,” Emmert said of the big buyouts that have become common in big college football. ‘And I hope that it will make people think longer and harder about those kinds of allocation decisions. And that’s not to be critical of South Carolina or Texas or anyone. That just means that we must be mutually clear about why we are involved in this activity and what we are trying to achieve, collectively and individually. “

Emmert spoke to the AP after participating in the Sports Business Journal’s annual Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. The event is held virtually.

Recently, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an advocacy group, recently proposed removing the top tier of Division I football, known as the Bowl Subdivision, from the NCAA structure. It recommended the creation of the National College Football Association, an independent body that oversees the FBS.

Major college football, the committee concluded, has created inequality in all NCAA sports and hinders the association’s ability to govern fairly.

Emmert called the recommendation ‘exactly the wrong thing to do’. He told the AP that he agrees that football has “too much of an impact” on college sports.

“But that’s a reflection of the popularity of that particular sport,” he said. “And by changing the organizational structure of football, that question does not change in any way.

So if there is a proposal to just say let’s change the organization of football, take away all other sports, somehow that will change the decision making around football. I think it is very unlikely that it will happen that way. And I think it very likely has the opposite effect. “