USA Today digs into Mark Emmert’s past; results are not good

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While the end result of the Miami-NCAA case remains to be seen, there’s no arguing that college athletics’ governing body has screwed up royally investigating the Hurricanes. Some — many? — would also argue that Mark Emmert‘s unprecedented action against Penn State following the Freeh Report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal was uncalled for, making the past year memorable for the NCAA for all the wrong reasons.

Well, the hits keep coming.

In an equally fascinating and unsettling piece by USA Today‘s Brent Schrotenboer, Emmert’s previous stops at Montana State, UConn, LSU and Washington  are placed squarely under a microscope to reveal a trend of scandals that make you wonder how Emmert was awarded his job as NCAA president to begin with.

As chancellor at UConn, Emmert oversaw a $1 billion construction project that resulted in a loss of over $100 million due to mismanagement. “Memos from 1998-99 showed that Emmert and two other top UConn officials knew about the construction project’s big problems then, but failed to disclose them to the school’s board of trustees or the state legislature,” Schrotenboer writes.

By the time the problems were discovered in 2005, Emmert had moved on to become chancellor of LSU and later denied withholding information.

“I never saw an audit issue that was a problem at all, and we certainly wouldn’t have kept it from people,” he told the USA Today.

While at LSU, Emmert led an investigation into allegations of academic fraud that emerged in the football program under former coach Nick Saban. While the conclusions of that investigation acknowledged  five minor, isolated violations, court documents obtained by the USA Today show a deposition given in 2004 after Emmert’s departure for Washington said “problems were far more systemic than the school admitted…”

(Similarly, in 1995, the NCAA ruled that Montana State was guilty of a lack of institutional control for academic fraud in men’s basketball while Emmert was a member of the university’s senior management team along with the NCAA’s current COO, Jim Isch. But by that point, Emmert had left for UConn.)

Emmert continued to make enemies at UW. The USA Today writes Emmert “irked some faculty with two bold moves. He pushed to use taxpayer money to fund a football stadium renovation and helped make football coach Steve Sarkisian the highest-paid state employee at about $2 million.”

Emmert stood by the decision, claiming athletics are the “window into the institution”.

While that’s true, Emmert was also pulling in a yearly salary of $762,000 as the university’s president, making him the highest-paid public university president in the nation at the time. That is, until he became president of the NCAA in 2010.

Since then, Emmert and the NCAA have come under fire numerous times for their handling of specific infraction cases, including the debacle with Miami. That’s led to calls for Emmert’s resignation, but he asserted to the USA Today that “the president of the NCAA doesn’t get involved in infractions cases.”

Emmert may have a hard time explaining that one to Penn State.

But the USA Today‘s piece has to make you wonder if Emmert ever had to explain any of his past screw-ups to the NCAA. More importantly, did the NCAA ever ask? Or know? If there’s one thing the Cadwalader external report on the Miami investigation showed, it’s that no one in the NCAA seems to talk to anybody or corroborate anything. At least, that’s the impression it gives off.

And apparently it starts at the top.

NCAA member schools should be appalled and no vote of confidence from the executive committee should matter anymore when it comes to Emmert’s job security.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.

Old Dominion hopes to “hit the ground running” on new stadium project

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Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.

“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”

Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.

Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.

If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.