Mark Emmert doesn’t get it.
Despite its most popular time of the year with the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments going on right now, the NCAA has been in the news in a negative light twice this week.
The biggest one came when University of Oregon women’s basketball player Sedona Prince posted a TikTok of the weight room for the women’s basketball tournament in San Antonio, which was clearly a major step down from the weight room at the men’s tournament in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, players in the men’s tournament had started a hashtag, #NotNCAAProperty and had requested — in a group led by Rutgers’ Geo Baker, Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon and Michigan’s Isaiah Livers — to speak with Emmert about the ongoing debate about name, image and likeness rights for student-athletes.
Since that happened, the NCAA’s president has done nothing but deny, punt and throw others under the bus. This includes Dan Gavitt and Lynn Holzman, the executive vice presidents for men’s and women’s basketball, respectively. They have both apologized for the shortcomings of the facilities of the women’s tournament. Meanwhile, Emmert merely said that he would get to the bottom of it, but all he has done is strut through the arenas in Indianapolis proud of the tournament while raking in his $2.7 million salary. What’s even more frustrating is that he never even went to San Antonio to look at the facilities and left it to others to handle it and the backlash that has come from it.
Emmert and the NCAA does not seem to care about gender inequities, nor the rights of its student-athletes. The NCAA believes that it can treat the ones making the organization billions of dollars every year, especially female athletes, like second-class citizens. Title IX requires that men’s and women’s sports receive equal facilities and supplies. The NCAA clearly believes that it is exempt from those requirements. At least until they face backlash, I guess.
As the video from San Antonio was going viral, Emmert appeared in front of a group at the Economic Club of Indianapolis and wrote the whole thing off, saying that the workout rooms were never intended to be weight rooms but “once the video is out there, the video is out there.” Saying that is a clear display of ignorance and arrogance.
Back at the men’s tournament, Emmert promised that he would happily meet with players to discuss their concerns. Since then, he first said that it would have to be done over Zoom and then pushed it back to after the tournament ends. That tells you really all you need to know about how Emmert feels about the rights of student-athletes. It got to a point where players on Rutgers, Baker’s team, had discussed with Clemson players about delaying their first-round game but decided against it.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Shortly after he became president in 2010, he slammed Penn State with punishments during the Jerry Sandusky scandal but deflected when it came out that he didn’t have the authority to hand down such sanctions. When rumors of botched investigations have come out over the years, he has done nothing but deflect. In 2018, as college basketball burned amidst the FBI investigation, he brought out Dr. Eric Kaler, the president of the University of Minnesota and the chair of the NCAA’s board of directors, to answer the tough questions. Finally, last year, when the men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, he merely put out a statement and then crawled back into the dark.
If you are surprised by these new developments, you haven’t been paying attention. If Emmert was a true leader, he would have hopped on a plane to San Antonio to see what the issues were and fix them. The issues were fixed, but it was too little, too late. If Emmert was a real leader, he would have encouraged a conversation with Baker, Bohannon and Livers. If Emmert was a real leader, he would have handled this differently.
Emmert has failed these past few weeks and it should surprise no one. It’s not new, but when he no longer runs the NCAA, he will have left nothing but a legacy of incompetence.