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.