Mark Emmert has failed as NCAA president.
Not from the checkbook perspective, as television contracts reach absurd new apexes and money continues to pour in at exponential rates, but as a leader, where his business has gone from inherently flawed—as it has always been—to incompetent and embarrassing, all under his watch.
The end consequences will be a dramatic change that is already churning, and eventually, a new leader fit to handle the seemingly impossible task of managing it all.
On Monday, the NCAA provided some insight into its examination of its flawed investigation of Miami. The result was a 52-page report conducted by an outside law firm outlining why one of the most complex enforcement cases ever undertaken is now in jeopardy (via i.Turner.NCAA.com)
Does this seem familiar? It should.
The script has been flipped; the NCAA is now just another rule-breaking university unable to cover up its tracks—right down to the burner cellphone. Mark Emmert knows this routine well, only from a much different perspective. The opposite perspective, to be exact.
In a release launched on Monday (via NCAA.org), the NCAA acknowledged the following:
The external review found select enforcement staff members:
Knowingly circumvented legal advice to engage Nevin Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney.
Violated the internal NCAA policy of legal counsel only being retained and monitored by the legal staff.
Paid insufficient attention to the concern that engaging the criminal defense attorney could constitute an inappropriate manipulation of the bankruptcy process.
Did not sufficiently consider the membership’s understanding about the limits of the enforcement staff’s investigative powers.
Did not violate a specific bylaw or law.
Additionally, the report found:
Enforcement leadership exercised insufficient oversight of the engagement of the criminal defense attorney.
The legal and enforcement staffs took appropriate action to rectify the situation once they realized select enforcement staff members had engaged the criminal defense attorney.
Diving into specifics, we learned that Jim Isch—the COO of the NCAA —allowed a $20,000 increase in the Miami investigation budget, but didn’t specify what it was for or where it was going. We also learned that Rich Johanningmeier, the associate director of enforcement (who has since retired), bought a prepaid cellphone (aka “burner” phone) and “spent about $8,200” communicating with Nevin Shapiro in prison, sending $4,500 to Shapiro’s commissary prison account (ESPN.com).
It also came to light that the VP of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, had been fired for her involvement in the case, as Yahoo! Sports first reported.
And most important, at least in this specific investigation, we learned that the NCAA will toss out 20 percent of the collected information because it was gathered improperly. Still, mind-boggling as it is, the investigation will go on with the remaining 80 percent that was obtained properly.
The result will be a fascinating ruling that could end up in more courtrooms. The entire investigation—regardless of how the NCAA positions it going forward—is tainted. Any ruling, right, wrong or deserved, will come with harsh criticism because of the mess the NCAA has created.
Miami president Donna E. Shalala released a statement Monday evening, capping off another stellar day of NCAA PR. [via USA Today]
The lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior. By the NCAA leadership's own admission, the University of Miami has suffered from inappropriate practices by NCAA staff. There have also been damaging leaks to the media of unproven charges. Regardless of where blame lies internally with the NCAA, even one individual, one act, one instance of malfeasance both taints the entire process and breaches the public's trust.
There must be a strong sense of urgency to bring this to closure. Our dedicated staff and coaches, our outstanding student-athletes, and our supporters deserve nothing less.
A few years ago—or perhaps a little further back—a bold stance such as this would have appeared reckless. We would have marveled at someone taking on the NCAA publicly, wondering how this might impact their fate.
Now, I can’t help but simply nod in agreement. In a situation where Miami broke a significant number of rules, it holds all the cards. The Hurricanes have already sat out two bowl games in preparation for their punishment, and the spotlight will be on how the NCAA responds.
Behind Mark Emmert’s leadership, the NCAA has taken the layup of all investigations and fallen flat on its face. The process has been drawn out, and now the end result will be disputed and unsatisfying.
Furthermore, the effects will go well beyond what happens in the coming months. While confidence in the NCAA was already lacking, it has now become a laughingstock. Nothing accomplished under current leadership can undo this damage.
Although Emmert alluded to the fact that the entire enforcement procedure and process is under review, do you feel confident in any potential changes that may come from it? What exactly have we seen that makes us believe he’s the right person to oversee such dramatic movements?
The promised reviews, reviews of reviews or the firings of guilty parties lower on the totem pole simply are not enough.
There’s a reason Emmert makes a cool $1.6 million a year. It’s the same reason CEOs have more zeroes on the end of their paychecks. With great power comes great responsibility; with great responsibility come even greater expectations.
Like any CEO, leader or head coach, they are often the ones to pay the price. Emmert is not specifically at fault for any recent NCAA shortcomings—as far as we know—but it’s his job to ensure what has happened does not happen. He has, as CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd pointed out, lost institutional control.
It’s a position universities know well. Regardless of whether NCAA sanctions are included or not, coaches are fired each year when certain expectations aren’t met. It is unfair in most instances, because much of this stretches well beyond the influence of one person. Removing this person from their position of power, however, is more than just a singular change. It sends a distinct message that something is wrong and that complacency is unacceptable.
Removing Emmert won’t solve the NCAA’s woes, at least not right away. The entire enforcement program needs the dynamite treatment and a dramatic overhaul for it to be productive once again. And truly, it never had it right. This will take years to accomplish, forward thinking and new direction.
But despite this, Emmert needs to go to restore faith in the organization. Forget about using enforcement officials—four of which have left this year—as the individuals to fall on the sword. It’s clear we’ve gone past the point of no return. When a university guilty of violating all sorts of NCAA rules can call out the NCAA publicly for its incompetence (and be 100-percent right in doing so), it shows just how the perception has changed.
“Embarrassing” is a word Emmert has used to describe the situations multiple times, and it feels more than appropriate now.
In the end, the NCAA executive committee will decide if and when Emmert should remain in power. When it's seen enough, it’ll make a change. After watching the past few months transpire, I just have to wonder what it's waiting for.
For significant change to take place, we need significant change.