Commentary

Emmert: "Don't lie. Don't steal."

The NCAA president's year has been, shall we say, eventful

Updated: December 2, 2011, 9:44 AM ET
By Seth Wickersham | ESPN The Magazine

Mark EmmertNick Laham/Getty ImagesMark Emmert thinks through every possible implication of new NCAA rules.

This article appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 12, 2011 "Interview Issue."

WICKERSHAM: With all the recent scandals, what changes can we expect from the NCAA?

EMMERT: You'll see a significant change in the rulebooks, away from a lot of the picayune, largely irrelevant, largely unenforceable components of the rulebook and an emphasis on the real threats to the integrity of sports. I always say the things our mothers taught us. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal.

What would happen to the NCAA if you had four major conferences that decided to operate their basketball programs like their football ones -- without the NCAA taking a portion of the cash? I don't know. I mean, I don't know why they'd want to do that.

Well, to keep the revenue. Last year, you signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion agreement for the rights to the NCAA Tournament. I think one of the many attractions of the NCAA Tournament is that you get these David and Goliath stories. Without the NCAA, you'd just have the best teams competing in a tournament. If you turn it into just the Sweet 16, I think that's much less attractive. And I don't think it's as strong a -- if you want to talk about it in commercial terms -- as strong a media property.

What about allowing student-athletes to have endorsements, to use their celebrity to make money? That wouldn't come out of an athletic budget. Just imagine the compliance issues. Two universities that happen to be in the same state want a young man to come play football for them. One says, "Well, you know, we can't provide you with any money, but the bank down the street we know is looking for somebody to endorse their bank." And the other school says, "Yeah, but we have a car dealership, and they want to endorse you." Before you know it, you've got this war going on between institutions over who can throw the most money at some youngster. You've converted the whole system from a collegiate model to a pay-for-play one. You've just disguised the money.

You recently had the rule changed so that conferences could offer scholarship athletes a $2,000 stipend. How are the conferences that can't afford that -- such as the Sun Belt Conference -- going to compete with the ones that can, such as the SEC? When you look at a student who's being recruited by heavily funded institutions, those kids are rarely asking, "Do I go here, or do I go to an institution that has less money?" If students have the opportunity to go to that dominant athletic program, they're going to go.

So you don't see it affecting teams in the mid-majors, by virtue of the fact that some athletes will go to a team that can afford that stipend? I don't think any of the Butler kids were recruited by, you know, by Kansas.

Seth Wickersham is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He interviewed Emmert on Nov. 17, 2011. Follow The Mag on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Seth Wickersham

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs. Email him and follow him on Twitter at @sethwickersham.