An incomplete list of Mark Emmert lowlights

An incomplete list of Mark Emmert lowlights

NCAA president was an embarrassment for 12 long years

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Mark Emmert is stepping down from the NCAA.
Mark Emmert is stepping down from the NCAA.
Image: Getty Images

It’s hard to know what standards soon-to-be former NCAA President Mark Emmert held himself to. His idiocy, incompetency and overall aloof nature have been well documented. It’s an interesting topic in the changing landscape of college athletics what the role of overseeing those sports and athletes should be. Whatever marks a leader needed to hit, Emmert whiffed and worse, sometimes never swung at a beer league softball pitch over the middle of the plate.

The NCAA announced Emmert would step down once his replacement is named or by the end of June 2023 and painted it as a mutual decision despite the 69-year-old having a contract through 2025. Why would he step away from a $2.7 million per year deal early, when he’s shown he’s tone deaf to everything?

Emmert has consistently stumbled in the public eye and steered the NCAA’s ship with his head turned the other way, or with no hands at all. He’s shown the evolution of collegiate athletics in a post-pandemic, name, image and likeness-driven universe passed him by. Then again, the 1984 ruling declaring the organization’s television restrictions were illegal would’ve been too much for him to handle. Here’s the most notable atrocities from the fall and further plummet of Emmert’s dozen years atop the NCAA.

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The ‘Kansas City’ Jayhawks

The ‘Kansas City’ Jayhawks

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There’ll be a theme in a lot of Emmert’s low points, how poorly the NCAA regulated the sport over the past decade and how perpetrators are acting as if all is normal. We’ll travel back in time a measly three-and-a-half weeks to find a recent face plant. Emmert had to stand elbow to elbow with Kansas head coach Bill Self to present the national championship trophy, while the Jayhawks’ boss has been under NCAA investigation. He’s only facing five Level I violations for illegal recruitment activity in an ongoing case that started being investigated in 2017. Yup, five years later and no ruling. Spectacular.

The case against KU has gotten coaches fired and sent Adidas employees to prison. Somehow Self and the Jayhawks haven’t felt any harm from their wrongdoings, with Self receiving a lifetime contract with the program last year. Emmert looked flustered during the entire trophy presentation, calling the new national champions the “Kansas City Jayhawks” before handing the plaque to Self. Kansas City is Missouri’s most populous city, nearly 40 miles across a state border from Lawrence, Kansas, and KU has one of the richest basketball histories in the country. And Emmert didn’t even try to correct himself. Slick.

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The hardest job in America

The hardest job in America

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Last December while speaking at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, Emmert thought it was time to cast pity on himself and those with similar jobs. The former LSU and Washington president blurted out the sentence “being a university president is the hardest job in America.” Did he think that one over? Or was it the word vomit he’s become accustomed to having as normal vitriol?

There are mundane parts to every job but how could Emmert’s $762,000 haul-in during 2004, more than $300,000 the national average for college presidents per Forbes, at Washington be considered harder than another American struggling to make ends meet? Especially since Emmert said this at the beginning of the Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it comes off incredibly insulting to those who faced true hardships over the last few years.

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Federal government, help us!

Federal government, help us!

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With how politically driven the United States Supreme Court is these days, do you know how bad someone’s case must be for a 9-0 verdict not in your favor? Welcome to the NCAA vs. Alston. The decision stated the NCAA can’t limit compensation when it comes to education-related benefits, and as Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion: “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”

Emmert’s ineffective leadership led to hopes the federal government could mandate something to better define the rules of amateurism. In the checks and balances of Washington, it appears all three branches of governments are represented by people who know the NCAA failed. The ruling, penned by Justice Neil Gorsuch, says that schools could provide education-related benefits for college athletes, like a laptop. The ruling didn’t exactly relate to the name, image and likeness legislation. It’s the biggest elephant in the room, and even Emmert’s dumbass saw that.

“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” Emmert said in a statement after the decision. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.” Congress’ response has wreaked of “shouldn’t you have figured this out for yourself?”

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Plain-sight sexism at marquee events

Plain-sight sexism at marquee events

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Last March, the inequities between men’s and women’s sports under the NCAA banner came to the forefront in a disturbing, ugly, should’ve-gotten-Emmert-and-several-others-fired way. The NCAA didn’t have photographers for the women’s basketball tournament, while each men’s game had multiple, that the women weren’t getting the same COVID-19 tests as the men and that the weight room set-up could’ve doubled as a space provided at a seedy motel. The gift bags given at the men’s tournament looked luxurious with a book and so much swag, compared to basic party favors for the women. The differences went viral in part due to a TikTok from then-Oregon star Sedona Prince.

Not to mention soon after, the women’s volleyball tournament didn’t plan to have commentators. They reversed course. Teams did have to change in tents at courtside with parents and others an earshot away, instead of private locker rooms until the Elite Eight. Outrage was the deserved reaction to the disparity. The firestorm was met with longtime women’s coaches explaining the imbalance is normal.

Emmert didn’t rush in to help players in need who were willing to take time away from competing for national championships to talk about the issues. He stalled talks until the tournaments ended, abdicating responsibility. Eventually, the women’s basketball tournament got to use the official March Madness logo for its 2022 event. Message received.

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FBS football = $$$ = endangering student-athletes

FBS football = $$$ = endangering student-athletes

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA decided it wouldn’t hold any fall championships. Except FBS football. The biggest cash cow in collegiate athletics getting prodded around despite obvious health risks, everyone was unvaccinated then, to make sure the NCAA can get close to its bottom line. Before NIL, it was unsafe to hold soccer, volleyball and several other sports. But those aren’t true revenue sports.

The NCAA said the quiet part out loud about its business practices in as simple a form as you could ever know. If you made college sports money, get your asses to practice. We don’t care if you come down with an illness that killed millions! If you don’t, stay home. It’s unsafe to be in large groups. Make it make sense outside of monetarily. Emmert didn’t even try to hide his selfish nature. It led to a messy college football season with many postponements and thousands of positive COVID cases.

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Penn State and Sandusky

Penn State and Sandusky

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Where should I even begin with this one? First off, the fact that the rarely used NCAA “death penalty” was never leveed against Penn State’s football program during the entire saga is a colossal failure. Emmert was part of the effort stating the harshest sanctions in the book were only reserved for “repeat offenders” or those which didn’t take an initiative to make corrections.

It’s only been used five times in the NCAA’s history, none under Emmert, and refers to the complete ban of a program from competing in a sport for the year. While the missteps and vast public disgust were evident, the Nittany Lions played during the 2012 season. Emmert opted for a “consent decree” with Penn State’s leadership. It included a $60 million fine, used to fund nonprofit organizations that combat child sexual abuse, vacation of wins, multiple years of bowl bans and scholarship reductions. The punishment was harsh but not near stern enough. It also set a horrible precedent for how college sports would be policed in the decade to come under Emmert’s watch. 

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North Carolina’s slap on the wrist

North Carolina’s slap on the wrist

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After the Tar Heels got caught with their pants down in an academic fraud case that found athletes took classes that needed little to no effort to complete for 18 years, the NCAA found no wrongdoing. Citing a lack of oversight authority, throwing the book at North Carolina wasn’t a viable option for Emmert’s crew.

That led Emmert to say that the “American public has lost confidence in the NCAA,” which is one heck of an endorsement from the organization’s leader. Compare that to the next large academic fraud case the NCAA faced where three Mizzou sports had a part-time academic tutor who completed assignments for them. Despite MU’s complete cooperation, compared to none from UNC, Missouri got a three-sport postseason ban and tons of scholarship reductions. Consistently inconsistent. Guess overreach didn’t matter there.

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Larry Nassar and Michigan State

Larry Nassar and Michigan State

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After an initial report that Emmert knew of around 40 sexual assault cases at Michigan State were rebuked, his retribution never came because of the stance he took on the organization’s position in regards to gymnastics coach Larry Nassar, who was later convicted of multiple sexual assaults involving young women.

“I don’t have enough information [on] the details of what transpired at the school right now,” Emmert said in Jan. 2018. “That’s obviously something that the university itself is looking deeply into. You hear that testimony — it just breaks your heart when you look at it, but I can’t offer an opinion at this time. It’s clearly very, very disturbing, and I know the leadership there is equally shaken by it.”

And what’s the NCAA’s stance on sexual assaults again? Nothing was learned from the Penn State debacle? When it comes to big moments, it’s proven Emmert never handled the job properly. Good riddance.

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