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Washington university president to lead NCAA

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The NCAA found its new president in the same place it got its last one—the university administration office.

Now, college sports' largest governing body is hoping Mark Emmert can be just as effective.

The University of Washington president became the NCAA's top executive on Tuesday, ending the search for Myles Brand's successor that began in November.

"It's a pleasure and a challenge to follow Myles," Emmert said. "His legacy is so strong and because of the impact he had on the organization in a relatively short period of time, the foundation for me to build on is very, very strong. But it's a challenge because those are big shoes to fill."

Emmert emerged from a field that started with nearly 100 candidates, was winnowed to 32, and finally down to the handful of contenders who interviewed with the NCAA's executive committee on Tuesday.

By late afternoon, Oregon State University president and committee chairman Ed Ray called Emmert to offer him the job. An hour later, Emmert was introduced as the NCAA's fifth CEO.

Emmert will begin serving his five-year term Nov. 1. He earned $906,500 in total annual compensation at Washington, second to only Ohio State's E. Gordon Gee among public university presidents, but the NCAA did not release the financial details of his contract.

"We felt he was someone who could stand and represent our organization in virtually any venue," Ray said after the news conference. "We all feel that this is sort of a bully pulpit type of thing, and you saw how he handled the questions today. Many of the questions that were asked were the same questions or similar questions to what he was asked by the committee."

Replacing the first university president to ever lead the NCAA 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.

So when Brand died from pancreatic cancer on Sept. 16, it left a huge void within the organization.

A week later, the NCAA made Jim Isch its interim president.

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."

Some of the issues haven't changed.

Almost immediately upon his introduction, Emmert was asked about the NCAA's new $10.8 billion television package for the men's basketball tournament. Isch announced the deal last week, causing some to wonder about the big business of college sports.

"The real question for me is one of intention, what are you raising those dollars for, what are you doing with them?" Emmert said. "I'm very comfortable with the position we're in right now."

Emmert also showed he was capable of sidestepping other tricky questions, such as the issue of 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 choice was a surprise.

Most figured the front-runners were University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, Georgia president Michael Adams and longtime NCAA vice president Bernard Franklin. Ray declined to say whether any of those three were among Tuesday's finalists.

But the timing was no surprise. Ray had said in October that he hoped to have a president in place before July 1. The executive committee isn't scheduled to meet again until August.

"I have known Dr. Emmert for most of our careers," Adams said in a statement. "He is a very capable and effective president and will perform likewise in his role at the NCAA. I congratulate him and wish him well."

Emmert became Washington's 30th president in June 2004, returning to where he attended college after serving as LSU's chancellor.

A native of Fife, Wash., he 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 the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

He also has a passion for sports.

In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Emmert said Washington's performance in the NCAA basketball tournaments was one of the highlights of his year.

"That was a pleasure and a delight to watch," he said.

Now he will preside over the tournament.

"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."

He knows he has his work cut out for him.

"The NCAA is an integral part of educational experience of more than 400,000 students across this country," he said. "It has, for more than a century now, had the responsibility of making sure the interests and welfare of student athletes are its first and foremost activity, and I intend to carry on that tradition."

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