Mark Emmert, the new leader of the NCAA, plans to take a no-nonsense approach with enforcing the body’s rules and regulations. He takes office October 5th, but his presence is already being felt not only in NCAA headquarters — where he has made staff changes — to across the country as the NCAA has ramped up its enforcement efforts.
Emmert is the current chancellor at the University of Washington, and is a man well known for his direct approach. There, he was noted for his ability to make the tough decision – he laid off 550 employees there last year in the wake of financial challenges due to the recession – as well react swiftly.
It was Emmert, then the president at LSU, who ordered the firing of foundering head football coach Gerry Ginardo, leading to the Nick Saban era in Baton Rouge. At Washington, Emmert again ordered his football coach’s dismissal, and the under-achieving Tyrone Willingham was let go. As a result, both programs improved, LSU more so than Washington’s, as not to long after arriving in Baton Rouge, Nick Saban had the Tigers on the path to a national championship.
In a USA Today article on Emmert, Huskies AD Scott Woodward described Emmert’s thinking about rules enforcement:
“The NCAA is worried about abiding by jaywalking rules when we have serial killers on the loose — that’s kind of my metaphor for it,” he says. “I think Mark understands there are a lot of people out there who really need to be looked at and scrutinized. And instead of the NCAA worrying about how many text messages a coach sent to a kid, we need to catch the guys who are doing really bad stuff.
“On that point, I think you’ll see some radical change.”
Emmert has already indicated that he wants to come down hard on rules violators — and that he wants to streamline and update the NCAA’s enforcement division to make it more nimble and ultimately more effective. Emmert has said that he may beef up the enforcement division, and that he considers it out-manned in today’s world of increasing professionalization of college sports, one where agents, runners and rogues seemingly run rampant through some programs, with — until lately — little repercussion. Emmert plans to have none of that, and that institutions need to be on watch that bad deeds will in turn cause real penalties.
“The key is trying to get the penalties to line up with the bad behavior and getting others to change so that they play within the rules,” Emmert said. “That’s not easily done, but … I think recent cases have had a positive impact in that department. I’m quite confident in that.”
That’s a notable statement, especially considering that since 2003 the NCAA has already grown from 12 investigators to its current staffing level of 23 and that they also just handed one of its marquee programs – USC – major punitive probation for problems with Reggie Bush and others.
Emmert is also learning the landscape of the problem first hand, and not relying on reports from others to inform him of what he’s up against. To that end, Emmert has been involved in discussions with coaches and NFL and NFL Players Association officials about illicit activity.
“It’s going to take a collective effort with the leagues and the players associations, the coaches, the student-athletes themselves, to find out what the real tools are that we can use. The NCAA’s role is pulling all of the parties together. There’s no one silver bullet here,” he said in September.
Given the problems coming to light in Chapel Hill since last summer, however, it seems possible a ‘silver bullet’ may soon be aimed at the heart of the UNC football program. There’s nothing whatsoever in the history of Mark Emmert to indicate that he won’t pull the trigger or that he’s afraid of sacred cows.