Jernstedt's curious exit from NCAA leads to high road

August 20, 2010
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It’s not clear if Tom Jernstedt, a 38-year veteran of the NCAA, resigned or was fired.

Jernstedt lost his job this month when incoming NCAA President Mark Emmert, the University of Washington president, sought to reorganize the management ranks within the NCAA’s ivory tower.

When asked by IBJ yesterday about the reason for his departure, Jernstedt took the high road.

“I don’t want to go down that road,” Jernstedt said from his downtown Indianapolis home. “You’d have to ask the NCAA.”

NCAA officials stood by their press release, which was decidedly ambiguous.

Jernstedt, 65, is technically still employed by the NCAA. He said he’ll be doing some “clean-up” work until Aug. 31.

But this much is clear. The man who is credited largely for making March Madness into what it is today as well as elevating women’s athletics to all-time highs and has worked for each of the NCAA’s first four presidents, is widely beloved and respected far beyond his adopted hometown of Indianapolis.

There aren’t many people in Indy’s sports circles that don’t know Jernstedt and speak fondly of him. His allies include Jim Morris, David Frick and Sandy Knapp to name a few.

It stands to reason that Jernstedt is beloved here. He was a key figure in negotiating the NCAA’s move from Overland Park, Kansas to Indianapolis a decade ago.

And Jernstedt, who was born and raised in Oregon, said he has no plans to leave Indianapolis. Jernstedt, his wife Kris, and their seven-year-old son, are quite happy, Jernstedt said, in their home along the canal.

Cheers for Jernstedt are pouring forth from across the NCAA kingdom. It makes his departure all the more curious.

Jernstedt started with the NCAA as director of events. He helped grow championship events from 24 to the current 88. He was promoted to chief operating officer, senior vice president, associate executive director and the last seven years served as executive vice president.

Bob Walsh, former executive director of the Seattle organizing committee, said Jernstedt’s departure “will deliver a blow to the credibility of the [NCAA] that will be felt for decades.”

“It is hard for us to believe that Jernstedt would up and leave the NCAA prior to his 40th anniversary with the organization or before the 75th anniversary of the (NCAA basketball) tournament, which he developed into a household name,” Walsh added.

Walsh credits Jernstedt for turning March Madness into a “multi-billion dollar” enterprise that benefits schools and student-athletes nationwide.

Jernstedt has no plans to retire. He intends to take a few months to determine “what next?” Jernstedt said since his departure was announced Aug. 13, he’s gotten numerous calls from friends and colleagues.

Since Jernstedt knows just about everyone in not only the NCAA, but the National Basketball Association, U.S. Olympic Committee, not to mention local organizations such as the Indiana Sports Corp., I don’t imagine it will be long before some type of offer is forthcoming.

“I’ve been advised to take my time and evaluate my options,” Jernstedt said. “That’s what I intend to do. We’ll see where this road leads.”

High ground, no doubt.
 

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  • Perfect guy!
    IndyCar/IMS president.
  • nice
    Tom Jernstedt certainly couldn't do any worse as IRL CEO than Randy Bernard. Tom is one of the good guys, and got run out b/c he doesn't have the ego that others within NCAA have. It will be interesting to see what this outsider from Oregon does in the Indy community ... if he builds bridges or burns them.

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

  2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

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