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


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.