College Basketball Nation: Dr. Mark Emmert

Podcast: NCAA president Emmert

March, 25, 2013
NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert comments on the fallout from the investigation of Miami, the handling of the Penn State case, the NCAA tournament and more.

NCAA president beefs up security

January, 20, 2011
Without getting too far into political discussion on an otherwise lighthearted college basketball blog, one of the key themes that has emerged since the tragic and inexplicable shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8 has calls for increased security for members of local, state, federal governments. You wouldn't think this theme would be somehow relevant within college athletics, but it apparently is.

According to the USA Today, NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert's security team has recently beefed up its efforts. Why? Because more college sports fans than ever -- from in-person mobs to Facebook throngs -- have flooded Emmert with ugly rhetoric on everything from Ohio State football players to Cam Newton to Enes Kanter. And in many cases, that rhetoric has crossed the line from nasty to downright threatening. From Steve Wieberg:
The [security] detail wasn't new, says Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. But the necessity was underscored by loud, often angry and occasionally alarming reactions to a series of recent rulings [...]

Via phone and e-mail, blogs and social networks, Kentucky followers have been particularly outspoken, flooding Emmert's Facebook page with so much vitriol that the NCAA was compelled to block posts by outsiders. Without specifying the source or subject, Williams says he got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago warning, "You'd better check your car."

"People have a tendency to express their opinions," Williams says. "Sometimes, it's constructive. Other times, it's not. You have to deal with the rant factor. And in this day and age ... you take everything seriously. If someone just says they don't like your decision or they think you're an idiot or whatever, that's one thing. If they threaten you, that's something else."

I really, really, really shouldn't need to write this, but I will anyway: Can everyone just settle down? No, you don't have to like the BCS. No, you don't have to agree with the NCAA's convoluted Cam Newton logic. No, you don't have to agree with the fact that Enes Kanter can't play college basketball. And sure, if you want to express your displeasure with any or all over the above, please do so.

But if you're actively threatening someone you don't even know, you've got problems. If you're actively threatening someone because of sports -- sports! -- then you should ask a family member to check you in to the nearest mental health care facility as soon as possible. I'm not even joking. If you're one of these people, you need to get help. It's bad enough when political rhetoric gets this heated. But we're talking about sports here. Sports. Games. Oblong balls and blown whistles, cheerleaders and fight songs. This stuff is supposed to be fun. It's not supposed to matter. It's not supposed to lead to threats.

The NCAA is probably used to this, and more often than not, I'd wager, threats stem from fans blowing off steam rather than any actual malicious intent. But the fact that it happens at all is bad enough.

There's probably more to be discussed here. A look at why college sports fan bases tend to produce such passionate, partisan and, yes, angry fans is desperately needed. But that's a conversation for another time. For now, let's just go with this: settle down, everyone. Let's all just take a deep breath. Count to 10. Punch a pillow. Discard that angry draft with "" in the address field. Have a cocktail. Check out a sunset. Play a video game. Just, you know ... relax.

See? I bet you feel better already.

NCAA president talks tourney expansion

October, 11, 2010
The announcement in April that the NCAA was expanding the men's basketball tournament to 68 teams came with the caveat from interim NCAA president Jim Isch that the number in the field would stay in place "for now."

And what does the incoming NCAA president have to say about this? Mark Emmert, the former university president at Washington who starts Nov. 1, offered this comment last month in an interview with FanHouse about the changes to the tournament.
I'm very pleased with where we wound up. I think we're in a good position from a competitive point of view. I think the decision that has been made to play that first round at a single site at Dayton, I think that will work really well. I think it's a very good place to start this new model. And I think it will prove to be quite stable. That doesn't mean change won't occur soon (laughs).

Um, about that laughing. Does he mean "haha, soon, yeah right" or "mwhahaha, get ready for 96?"

Well, it's probably somewhere in the middle, based on Emmert's latest interview with the Seattle Times where he's asked if further expansion is inevitable and how soon it will come.
I don't see anything in the near future. We obviously haven't played a tournament with the 68 yet, to see how it all works. I think it will be exciting. Let the future bring what it may. I'm very pleased with the structure we have now.
On Tuesday, new NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert spoke to Seattle radio host Mitch Levy. The interview covered a range of topics, but most interesting were Emmert's thoughts on the much-maligned one-and-done rule. The key quotes:
"I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they've got to play for three years or until they're 21," Emmert, who is leaving the University of Washington to take the helm of the NCAA, said in the interview. "I like that a good deal.

"But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn't an NCAA rule," Emmert said during KJR's interview. "That's a rule of the NBA. And it's not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association."

This probably isn't the first time you're reading these quotes, but if it was, did you notice that tingly sensation? Could you feel your ears perking up? Don't be alarmed: That's a natural reaction to what, at first glance, would seem to be an encouraging stance from the NCAA's new president on the difficulties presented by the NBA's one-and-done rule. Most college hoops fans agree: The one and done stinks. Baseball's system is better. This, therefore, is an interesting start.

Of course, it's not that simple. Nothing about the one-and-done rule is ever that simple. Which led to Rush The Court's very thoughtful (and much-praised) argument against Emmert's ideas, and the baseball system in general. It's far too long to blockquote effectively, but RTC lays out a few ideas worthy of summary. They are:
  1. The NBA doesn't care about college basketball's opinion, anyway. It created the one-and-done system to help its teams stop drafting unproven talent. It likes this new system. It isn't liable to change it, nor is the NBA Players Association.
  2. Even if you ignore the NBA reality and simply discuss what's best for college hoops, it's still a bad idea. The NCAA needs star power to lure casual fans, and one-and-done players do that. Casual fans equal money. The NCAA needs money.
  3. Before the one-and-done rule, coaches spent lots of time recruiting elite prospects only to learn at the 11th hour those prospects intended to take their talents to South Beach to the NBA. Such coaches were left in a recruiting lurch.
  4. "For better or worse, NCAA basketball is the NBA's minor league." Meaning: The NBA doesn't have a minor-league system comparable to the MLB's, so the best way for players to develop -- and the best way for the NCAA president to ensure the best interests of those players -- is by playing, if only for a year, at the college level.

That's a lot to parse (you should absolutely be reading the entire blog post anyway), and those are all good reasons why universities, coaches, and college hoops fans should be against an optional baseball-style system. There's only one problem in there. What about the players?

Perhaps this argument will seem trite. It's certainly been made before. That's because most of the opposition to the one-and-done rule has come from a different angle -- from those who wonder why players like John Wall and Derrick Favors are (not totally, but essentially) forced to play a year of college basketball when they could be signing a lucrative NBA contract instead. I happen to be one of those people.

Of course, I selfishly enjoy the one-and-done rule; I love getting to watch the best young talent in the country play amidst the atmosphere and hoopla that oftentimes separates college hoops from its pro equivalent. It's great.

But it also forces players, a handful of which have no business in college basketball, into an exploitive system that makes millions each year from their ability and pays them little in return. This system is less egregious when applied to four-year players with little chance at the NBA, because those players got a free college education out of the deal. Players bound for the NBA have no such reward. They have eight months of classes, and that's it. All the while, they risk injury, the fluctuation of draft status, and any other number of things that could put their NBA futures -- in other words, their financial futures -- in jeopardy.

And why? So the NBA can protect foolish GMs who can't resist the lure of potential. (Which still happens anyway; say hello to Daniel Orton.) It hardly seems fair.

Which is one of the reasons -- probably the best reason -- to like baseball's system. The handful of players who belong in the NBA at the age of 18 are given the freedom to pursue that route, same as any golfer, tennis player, Olympic swimmer, professional marksman, or whatever. The rest of the batch, those who shouldn't risk losing their ability to develop as a collegian, must take that college decision seriously. It provides for freedom on the one hand and stability on the other. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would work.

Rush The Court is right to say that's not in the best interest of college basketball fans, or coaches, or universities, all of whom benefit from the compulsory one-year apprenticeship currently being served by even the game's most League-worthy talent. It'd be much better if all players had to stay for three years; we'd get John Wall for two more years! Awesome! Where do I sign?

But that's wrong. John Wall should be free to pursue his NBA career. He should have been free before he ever stepped foot on Kentucky's campus. College, as they say, isn't for everybody.

In proposing a baseball-esque system for college hoops, Dr. Emmert did two things, both of them inadvertent: He made an argument against the well-being of college basketball, and for the professional freedom of college basketball's prospective athletes. What it comes down to is: Which is more important?