NCAA President Mark Emmert still has the confidence of the association's executive committee, despite several indicators in recent days that some schools are questioning his effectiveness.
The NCAA released a statement Saturday, revealing that the executive committee has "unanimously affirmed" its ongoing support of Emmert. Both the decision to make such a statement—and to do so, without warning, over a weekend—are highly unusual for the NCAA, which has been under fire for some time over the way many high-profile cases have been handled, most recently the long investigation of Miami.
Still, the committee also wants the NCAA to move forward with a total review of the association's policies, and said "subsequent improvement ... is necessary." Their statement comes five days after Emmert himself said he wondered if the committee would consider disciplinary action against him after all this recent tumult involving the association.
"Mark Emmert was hired to lead a major transformation of the NCAA," said Michigan State President and executive committee chair Lou Anna K. Simon. "Much has been accomplished without fanfare, such as academic reforms, enhanced fiscal accountability and organizational transparency. The Executive Committee and President Emmert recognize there is much yet to do and that the road to transformational change is often bumpy and occasionally controversial."
And there is no shortage of controversy right now.
In the past few days alone, University of Miami President Donna Shalala called the NCAA's probe of the Hurricanes "unprofessional and unethical," and presidents of schools in the Mountain West Conference reportedly questioned Emmert's leadership.
The dialogue between Mountain West presidents was reported Friday by CBSSports.com.
"Is it time for the presidents to seek new NCAA leadership or a new organization?" read the Mountain West memo, according to CBSSports.com. "The NCAA has evidenced decisions that focus on trivial and penalize our athletes. The salaries for the NCAA leadership are excessive and an embarrassment to the Mountain West schools. Their decision making is cumbersome and oblique."
Also, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said in recent days that his league remains supportive of Miami as its relationship with the NCAA—at least related to the investigation of the Hurricanes—appeared to take a hostile turn.
"Miami's cooperation throughout this process should be commended and they have self-imposed significant sanctions," Swofford wrote in a statement released Thursday. "They've been forthright and diligent in their efforts to fully cooperate with the NCAA and it's time for this case to be brought to closure."
Now, attorney Kenneth Wainstein—who oversaw the review that found major missteps made during the NCAA's investigation of Miami—can begin looking at ways to prevent another rogue case. Emmert has said if they find evidence of wrongdoing is found in other cases, the NCAA will "deal with that."
Either way, the NCAA's move on Saturday was another strange chapter in a strange week.
It started Monday, when Emmert said Julie Roe Lach, the vice president of enforcement—its top cop—would be replaced by private attorney Jonathan Duncan after her role in the botched Miami investigation. That was the same day the NCAA acknowledged it could not use certain findings of the Miami probe, because investigators working the case got information through depositions that were taken under subpoena power, a tool the NCAA does not have.
Miami received its notice of allegations from the NCAA one day later, and Shalala lashed out at the association in response, saying she hopes the Committee on Infractions "will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process."
The way the Miami investigation went has been just the latest embarrassing blow to the NCAA, which is fending off a number of lawsuits and is the target of sharp criticism in some quarters for the penalties it handed to Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
On Friday, the NCAA said its executive committee held a conference call and decided to reiterate its support of Emmert. The committee meets regularly each quarter, the most recent being at the national convention last month. And on Saturday, they released that support through a three-paragraph statement.
"In short, we demand the highest level of integrity and accountability not only from our peers but also from the national office," the statement said. "While progress has been made, additional important work remains."