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Saturday, February 12, 2011
Mark Emmert: Transparency is vital

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA president Mark Emmert says transparency is critical to the future of the NCAA, though he doesn't yet know the best way to accomplish that goal.

Emmert, four months into his tenure as president, spoke to a meeting of Associated Press sports editors on Saturday night on the campus of IUPUI.

He said he considers better understanding by the media and public about how the NCAA deals with rules infractions and enforcement an important issue facing the organization.

"We want to do as much of that in as open away as we can," Emmert said.

Emmert is the former University of Washington president who became the NCAA's fifth president last October. He told the group he wanted the NCAA and media to work together "so that we can raise the level of understanding on our side and on your side about what these processes are and what they aren't."

Getting it right is often in the eye of the beholder. The cases we saw this fall were highly controversial and highly debatable. I understand that, and some of them were even enormously frustrating to me.

-- NCAA president Mark Emmert

Emmert raised the idea of holding a mock hearing in which media members participate, and noted that the NCAA instituted a similar process to help media better understand the selection process for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

"We did a mock selection process," Emmert said. "Right now, we're working on trying to put together a model just like that for an infractions hearing."

Emmert said he sees the NCAA in something of a "no-man's land" when it comes to providing information to the public regarding its processes.

"We used to predominantly not make comments on cases," Emmert said. "We've started providing a lot more information and in some respects, we've provided lots of people ammunition to thump us with. We have to provide more information or we have to go back the other way and say, 'Look, we can't comment on this.'

"Right now, we're kind of stuck in the middle here, and we need to provide you all with a lot more information and be as forthright as we can about it. We're working on it. It's going to take us a while."

Emmert also said he was frustrated by several high-profile cases this past fall, including the case of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, whose father, Cecil, the NCAA determined sought money from Mississippi State during his son's recruitment.

The NCAA ruled Newton eligible to play, and he led Auburn to the national title.

"We try hard to get it right every time," Emmert said. "Getting it right is often in the eye of the beholder. The cases we saw this fall were highly controversial and highly debatable. I understand that, and some of them were even enormously frustrating to me.

"I said very loud and clear that I think it's absolutely a fundamentally wrong for a father to try to sell the services of his son or daughter to the highest bidder, to a university. We ought never to allow that to happen, but yet, having not anticipated that, we didn't have any rule or structure that said it was a violation of any of our rules. I found that grossly inappropriate that didn't have a structure in which we could say, 'No, you can't do that.'

"There was no evidence that money had changed hands and there was no evidence that Auburn University had anything to do with it. We would up making a decision that felt to many people morally objectionable, but that fit the facts and the circumstances.

"We find ourselves making those kinds of judgment calls often."

Emmert also was asked about student athletes being paid, to which he responded, "No, it will not happen -- not while I'm president of the NCAA."

"I don't like that idea, I loathe that idea," Emmert said. "I can think of all kinds of compelling reasons why not to do it. I can't think of a compelling reason why to do it. . . . There's a constant discussion that we ought to stop pretending that student-athletes are amateurs, that they're really professionals, that they ought to be paid.

"I understand that perspective, but I just profoundly disagree with it."