New NCAA president ready to make his ‘Mark’
Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 6:26 pm
By: By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP, Associated Press Writer
SEATTLE (AP) — University of Washington president Mark Emmert has spent three decades in higher education and become a master at building support.
Emmert will now take his skills to a new level: The NCAA picked Emmert as its new president Tuesday, ending a search for Myles Brand’s successor by picking another university leader as its fifth CEO.
Emmert, who will begin serving his five-year term Nov. 1, said he would continue the era of “academic accountability” ushered in by Brand, who died of pancreatic cancer last September.
“That has been a highly successful initial effort that’s beginning to now bear important fruit,” he said. “My intention is to continue that trend and to work very closely with the presidents and their colleagues to make sure that we keep our eye on that ball.”
Less than a week ago, the NCAA announced a new $10.8 billion television package for the men’s basketball tournament, its signature event. The deal means even more money will be flowing to the member conferences and schools of the NCAA — and the NCAA itself.
“The real question for me is one of intention: what are you raising those dollars for, what are you doing with them?” Emmert said during a news conference in Indianapolis. “I’m very comfortable with the position we’re in right now.”
The 57-year-old Emmert has led Washington to second among all U.S. public and private institutions in research funding with $1 billion in grants and contracts per year. During his tenure, which began in 2004, the university completed its most successful fundraising campaign in history, bringing in nearly $2.7 billion.
Replacing Brand won’t be easy.
It was Brand who championed landmark academic legislation to put a stronger emphasis on class work and endeared himself to coaches and athletes, surprising some because he had no previous experience running an athletic department. The former Indiana University executive also was revered inside the halls of the NCAA headquarters and by university presidents.
Now Emmert faces the daunting challenge of adding teeth to Brand’s policies and trying to carve out his own niche.
“I want to sit down with the membership and talk about what’s working and what’s not. The fact is that these reforms are so young that it, takes time to measure the impact of them,” Emmert said. “I don’t foresee revolutionary change in terms of academics issues, I see an evolutionary change as we go forward.”
Most figured the front-runners for the NCAA presidency were Georgia president Michael Adams, longtime NCAA vice president Bernard Franklin and University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, the architect of the Academic Progress Rate — the system that holds schools accountable for how their athletes perform in the classroom.
Instead, the NCAA settled on Emmert, who became Washington’s 30th president six years ago after serving as LSU’s chancellor. A native of Fife, Wash., Emmert graduated from Washington in 1975 with a degree in political science. He received his master’s degree in 1976 and his doctorate in 1983, both in public administration, from Syracuse University.
Emmert is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, as well as several national university groups. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and is active in other local business organizations.
Emmert and his wife, DeLaine, have been married for more than 30 years. They have two children.
Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee and president at Oregon State, said Emmert is capable of representing the NCAA in virtually any venue.
“We all feel that this is sort of a bully pulpit type of thing, and you saw how he handled the questions today,” Ray said. “Many of the questions that were asked were the same questions or similar questions to what he was asked by the committee.”
Indeed, Emmert sidestepped a question for his opinion on a college football playoff.
“Do you have any controversial questions?” he joked, drawing laughter from NCAA employees. “What I look forward to is having conversations with the presidents about what’s in the best interests of their schools, but I do not expect the NCAA to be leading that charge.”
The NCAA did not release terms of Emmert’s contract, though Brand reportedly earned about $1.7 million per year.
Emmert earned $906,500 in total annual compensation at Washington, second to only Ohio State’s E. Gordon Gee among public university presidents. The salary has been a target for critics in Seattle who note his university has recently cut services and eliminated more than 850 staff positions.
Emmert was key to Washington’s recent return to national prominence in athletics, specifically in football and men’s basketball.
About 16 months ago, Emmert approved athletic director Scott Woodward’s recommendation to commit $13.5 million from their self-sustaining athletic department to the hiring of first-time head football coach Steve Sarkisian, two coordinators and two other assistants.
This month, Emmert and Woodward gave a 10-year contract extension to basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies won the Pac-10 tournament championship this year and reached the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
Asked about Emmert’s qualifications to run the NCAA, Woodward said: “His ability, his leadership skills primarily. He’s an incredible leader of people and just a bright guy. And he’s been doing higher education his entire life.
“He really, really cares about student welfare and it’s a big focus on what he will do as president of the NCAA.”
Emmert was a regular at Huskies football and men’s basketball games. In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Emmert said Washington’s performance in the NCAA tournament was one of the highlights of his year.
“That was a pleasure and a delight to watch,” said Emmert, who usually sat a couple of rows off the baseline across from the Huskies’ bench at home games.
Now he will have his pick of NCAA championships to attend as president.
“It was never a job I aspired to,” Emmert said. “But as I was approached by this position and looked at how I could bring skill and talent to it, I had to take a look at it.”
AP Sports Writers Michael Marot in Indianapolis and Gregg Bell and Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.