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Mark Emmert Finally Acknowledges The Obvious: He’s The Wrong Person To Lead The NCAA

It’s about time he gave up.

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NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews
 MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 04: President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Mark Emmert speaks to the media ahead of the Men’s Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 04, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

If you didn’t hear the news Tuesday, NCAA President Mark Emmert has finally given up and will step down no later than June 30, 2023.

If you try to find someone defending his tenure, well, good luck. The NCAA is a fractious organization rife with conflicts and rivalries but it is united on this: Emmert has been a terrible leader.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who could have done worse, and it all comes at a very difficult time for the NCAA.

Problems are erupting all over. NIL was mandated by the courts and there is no structure to deal with it. The major conferences have every incentive to split away from the rest of D-1. No one has even begun to address NIL and Title IX and enforcement, on the most basic level, has broken down. When UNC can walk away from years of academic fraud and Kansas can win a basketball championship despite being involved in the Adidas scandal up to its little birdy eyeball, something has really gone wrong.

There are enormous challenges for the next president and frankly, an organization that gave Emmert an extension despite his obvious incompetence...well, it doesn’t really seem like a visionary group.

And at this point, it needs to be, or at least whoever is running the search needs to be. The next president will need to be someone who is not just visionary but pragmatic, flexible and diplomatic.

Elon Musk is going to be busy for the near future so he’s out and he’s not particularly diplomatic anyway. Beyond that? We can think of a few candidates.

  • Barack Obama. He’s a huge sports fan and obviously has executive experience. He’s probably bored too.
  • Mike Krzyzewski. He wouldn’t take this on at 75, but he has the communication and organizational skills to push things in the right direction. We’d try hard to involve him in the search process.
  • Adam Silver. There’s no particular reason why he would take on this big headache, but he’s shown that he can challenge inertia and shake things up in interesting ways. We’d ask and then ask who he would recommend.
  • Mark Cuban. Again, not a serious candidate but who knows? He might like the challenge and he has a long track record of innovation and pushing boundaries.
  • Ivy League Commissioner Robin Green. She has NCAA experience, she’s smart and has been a solid leader for the Ivy League. It would be a smart start for addressing equity concerns too.
  • Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff. He was a very interesting hire for the PAC-12, coming as he did from the entertainment world. He’d probably be a better choice than another college president.
  • Jay Bilas. Perhaps the most prominent and consistent NCAA critic, Bilas is smart, has superb communication skills and without question has moved the conversation about the future of the NCAA immensely. We don’t know if he has the organizational skills to take this on, but he’d be a fascinating choice. And unlike Emmert, he’d know if he had failed and should step aside.

Most of our suggestions come from the basketball world because we know those people best but there’s no need to limit it obviously. We were joking about Musk of course, but there are plenty of talented men and women in the business world who could approach the NCAA with fresh eyes. And we realize that football will drive most of this.

The question is who seriously believes they could succeed. It may be that the best move is to blow it all up and start over.