2010 NEWSMAKER: NCAA chief Emmert makes bold moves

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Mark Emmert, who left his post in 2010 as University of Washington president to become president of the NCAA, didn’t waste any time making his first round of big decisions.

Though he didn’t officially start his new job until Oct. 1, Emmert, 57, removed three high-level NCAA executives in September; met with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern about changing basketball eligibility rules; and sent signals he will take a hard line against cheating.

Emmert, the fifth president to lead the NCAA and successor to the late Myles Brand, made no bones about his willingness to make changes where he sees fit, but added, “I won’t be a change agent for change sake. I’m here to seek changes to make the NCAA more effective in its role in guiding college athletics.”

Emmert Emmert

Among those caught up in Emmert’s changes were longtime Executive Vice President Tom Jernstedt, who is credited by many as the architect of March Madness; Elsa Cole, vice president of legal affairs; and Dennis Cryder, senior vice president of branding and communications. The combined annual salaries of the three was $1.27 million, according to the NCAA’s tax filing.

Bob Walsh, former executive director of the Final Four organizing committee in Seattle, said the quick dismissals, especially of Jernstedt, hurt the NCAA’s credibility.

Personnel changes weren’t the only ones made before he took office. Emmert supported modeling basketball eligibility after baseball’s, and began in the fall lobbying the National Basketball Association for change. Major League Baseball dictates a player can declare for the draft out of high school or must wait until after his junior year in college.

He also began taking a hard line against cheaters—athletes and schools—who break NCAA regulations, saying he supports harsher penalties for rules violators. This summer, Emmert lobbied for and applauded harsh penalties on the University of Southern California for violations in basketball and football.

With Emmert’s blessing, the NCAA in the fall launched a widespread investigation into athletes’ improper contacts with agents.•

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