The NCAA announced Tuesday that Mark Emmert will step down as president of the Indianapolis-based college sports organization, no later than mid-next year.
John DeGioia, chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors, called the move the result of a “mutual agreement” between the board and Emmert, 69, who became president of the governing body in 2010, following former Indiana University President Myles Brand.
Emmert will continue to serve in the role until a new president is selected and in place or until June 30, 2023, a statement from the organization said.
The decision comes at a rocky time for the NCAA, which for decades has essentially controlled college sports. But in recent years, universities, athletics conferences and individual athletes have tried to wrest some of that control away, dragging the NCAA into a series of changes.
DeGioia acknowledged as much in a statement: “With the significant transitions underway within college sports, the timing of this decision provides the association with consistent leadership during the coming months plus the opportunity to consider what will be the future role of the president. It also allows for the selection and recruitment of the next president without disruption.”
NCAA member schools adopted a new constitution in January that addresses a number of schools’ concerns. In addition, the NCAA last year began allowing student-athletes to profit from endorsements, a change it made after several states and Congress threatened to force the move.
“Throughout my tenure I’ve emphasized the need to focus on the experience and priorities of student-athletes,” Emmert said in the statement. “I am extremely proud of the work of the Association over the last 12 years and especially pleased with the hard work and dedication of the national office staff here in Indianapolis.”
During his more than 10 years in the job, Emmert achieved some of his goals of providing more benefits to athletes. They can now receive cost-of-attendance stipends, guaranteed four-year scholarships and better medical coverage from their schools. Loosened guidelines make it easier for athletes to switch schools. More restrictive rules force coaches to respect players’ time now more than ever, the AP reported last year.
NCAA revenue has reached more than $1 billion per year under Emmert, primarily through the TV deals for the men’s college basketball tournament, and most of the money is redistributed to more than 1,100 member schools with nearly 500,000 athletes.
But last year was an especially difficult one for the organization. The NCAA has been hammered over gender-equity issues at its showcase basketball tournaments, saw its authority undercut by a stinging antitrust ruling from the Supreme Court and was forced into the hands-off solution allowing name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes.
“Don’t you think it is time to call your leadership of the organization into question?” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked Emmert during a June 2021 hearing in Washington.
Still, one year ago, the NCAA board unanimously voted to extend Emmert’s contract through 2025. At the time, DeGioia, the president of Georgetown University, said the board continued to have confidence in his leadership.
“We’ve been immersed in an incredibly changing and complex context for intercollegiate athletics and through this period we’ve recognize that we needed to both advance and modernize our framework, our rules, so that we were as attentive as possible to ensuring the best possible framework for our students who are engaged in intercollegiate athletics,” DeGioia told the AP a few weeks before Emmert’s contract extension was announced. “I think Mark has been attentive to the dimensions of this.”
A year later, DeGioia announced Emmert—who previously led the University of Washington and LSU—would be leaving.