NCAA President Mark Emmert appeared on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show Friday morning, ostensibly to help clean up some of the comments he's made about college unionization over the past month.
The highlight (lowlight?) of the interview was Emmert's response to Northwestern University football players, who were recently deemed employees of the school by the National Labor Relations Board, according to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com.
In Emmert's own words:
"If I can hire someone to play football for me why would I hire an 18 year old? Why not someone who plays in the CFL?" Emmert on unions— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) April 18, 2014
On discussing the new change to the NCAA's food policy, whereby players can now enjoy free meals without restriction, Emmert also had a flippant reply to Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier, who claimed there were some hungry nights were he "goes to bed starving," per Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:
Mark Emmert on @MikeAndMike on deregulating food rules: If UConn wants to feed Shabazz breakfast in bed, they can.“— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 18, 2014
Interviews like these do not endear Emmert to the public, which is troubling because, in that respect, he is digging himself out of a perpetual hole. Perhaps, as Bill Connelly of SB Nation suggests, we've reached the point where he should stop granting interview requests altogether:
But seriously, the absolute worst thing the NCAA can do right now is continue letting Mark Emmert speak in public.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) April 18, 2014
Ridiculous as those two comments were, the rest of Emmert's morning didn't go so well either. Mike & Mike prompted viewers to tweet questions for the president with the hashtag #AskEmmert, but the exercise predictably devolved into ridicule (h/t Deadspin):
#askemmert hey, do you think we’re stupid, or do you really believe this stuff you say?— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) April 18, 2014
#AskEmmert Was trying to shield a morally bankrupt institution from a rising tide of public disgust the reason you got into higher education— Glenn Davis (@glennrd) April 18, 2014
#askemmert Why is the NCAA afraid of market forces and also do you crave the warm blood of the living. Are you undead— Ursery (@thejoeursery) April 18, 2014
#AskEmmert I've started thinking of you as the 404 Not Found response of civilization. You're right, that's not a question.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) April 18, 2014
Is this the last time we'll see Emmert give a candid interview? No, but it might be his farewell for a while.
Taking him off-book like this has only made the situation worse for the NCAA. However, with so much change appearing to be imminent in college athletics, now is not an ideal time for the face of the organization to disappear.
Regardless of how the NCAA manages Emmert's availability in the coming months, it's clear that the man has a difficult job. He is the public face of a disliked organization, and his duty to placate the gluttonous college presidents makes him an easy target of scorn. Because of his position, he's the easiest and most convenient NCAA figurehead to attack.
But, hey. You have to earn that $1.7 million somehow.
Note: You can listen to the full, 26-minute interview here.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT