Under Emmert, NCAA enforcement division has gone from bad to worse


 NCAA insiders cite meddling from president Mark  Emmert as a major reason the enforcement division is in disarray.
AP

In a comprehensive story in this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior  writers Pete Thamel and Alexander Wolff go inside the Nevin Shapiro case at  Miami and explore how the NCAA mishandled it. Here is some additional  information that doesn’t appear in the story. For the complete magazine story  and to buy a digital version of the issue, go here.

On May 11, 2011, all NCAA employees were required to attend a day-long  meeting that began at the ballroom of the J.W. Marriott near NCAA headquarters  in Indianapolis.

When the employees returned to the NCAA’s offices that day, they found  banners featuring corporate buzzwords like communication, accountability and inclusion had replaced banners of famous  athletes and inspirational quotes. The sidewalks and bridge near NCAA  headquarters featured similar messages.

The day marked the grand rollout of One Team One Future, one of NCAA  president Mark Emmert’s internal initiatives to improve the work culture at the  NCAA.

What unfolded epitomizes Emmert’s two-and-a-half-year NCAA tenure — plenty  of flash with little tangible results. When NCAA employees arrived at their  desks that day, their computer screen savers and phone backdrops were adorned  with One Team One Future logos. But they weren’t quite prepared for the  grand rollout, with Emmert’s introduction coming by a voice-of-God narrator amid  a backdrop of music, strobe lights and video.

“It’s the Jim Carrey movie Yes Man, where he goes to that big  inspirational thing,” says former NCAA investigator Abby Grantstein. “The  culture of the NCAA wasn’t like that before, and you can’t change it in one  day.”

She added that the message was clear: “It was like, ‘Get on the bus or go  home.'”

WOLFF: Nevin Shapiro is still talking from jail

SI spoke with more than 20 current or former NCAA employees about the  troubles of the NCAA enforcement staff for a lengthy story in this week’s Sports Illustrated. A portrait emerged of a department battered by  turnover, afraid of lawsuits and overwhelmed by scandal. One ex-enforcement  official told SI, “The time is ripe to cheat. There’s no policing going on.”

In many interviews with NCAA officials about enforcement, the topic quickly  shifted back to the leadership of Emmert, who is known internally at the NCAA as  the “King Of The Press Conference.” That’s not a compliment.

One of the biggest criticisms of Emmert is his desire to be in the spotlight.  (Emmert declined multiple requests to speak with SI for this story. Spokesman  Bob Williams says Emmert’s increased public profile has been at the request of  the NCAA’s Executive Committee.)

Even one of Emmert’s supporters could come up with few positives for One  Team One Future, calling the rollout “mechanical.” The NCAA employee  compared it to an Apple shareholder meeting. “Some of that may have rubbed  people the wrong way,” the person said. “I think it reflects the approach and  style that Emmert brought to the position, whether that’s good or bad, it’s the  reality of it.”

The reality is that NCAA culture needs to change, as it’s entering a time of  great transition. The enforcement staff is fighting the perception that it’s  meek, and many of its most talented investigators have left the association.

When talking to a dozen college officials to get a pulse on Emmert, many  struggled to answer the question, “What has he actually accomplished so far in  his tenure?” Even the harsh sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the  Jerry Sandusky scandal ($60 million fine, four-year bowl ban and the loss of 40  scholarships over four years) has painted Emmert in a bad light  after he went on a television tour, which some perceived as a victory lap, to  talk about the unprecedented action by the NCAA.

The NCAA has failed to pass most of the initiatives Emmert has trumpeted.  Many agreed with the ideals behind Emmert’s ambitious agenda, including trying  to give scholarship athletes a small amount of money to cover the full cost of  school, and paring down the rulebook. But the lack of results have highlighted  the growing schism between haves and have nots in Division I and further  polarized the athletic directors who feel largely ignored and highlighted how  out-of-touch Emmert is with his constituents. There’s been tremendous turnover  in top-level NCAA jobs under Emmert, to the point where many administrators  complain that they don’t even know who to call at the NCAA anymore. And therein  lies the irony of Emmert’s One Team One Future attempt — ideals like  communication, collaboration and inclusion sound great, but they’re missing  among the membership.

“I’m really concerned,” said one high-ranking college administrator. “There’s  a need for a healthy NCAA. It’s not healthy right now.”

Morale is at an all-time low among the enforcement staff as several respected  veterans — Dave Didion (Auburn), Marcus Wilson (Maryland) and Chance Miller  (South Carolina) — have left for college compliance positions since April. On  Tuesday the department received another huge blow when Rachel Newman-Baker, the  managing director for enforcement, development and investigators, left for a  compliance job at Kentucky. Newman-Baker is the highest ranking member of the  department to leave since enforcement vice president Julie Roe Lach was fired in  February in the wake of missteps in the Miami investigation.

“With Rachel gone,” another ex-NCAA staffer said, “there’s really only two  investigators (Angie Cretors and LuAnn Humphrey) left with experience in major  football and basketball cases.”

Last week, interim director of enforcement Jonathan Duncan told SI: “It’s  been a tough time for the enforcement staff.”

One of the driving forces of the enforcement exodus came from seeing how  Emmert’s office handled the Miami debacle. The NCAA knew about the issues  regarding the financial arrangement between Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer and  investigator Ameen Najjar for months, but Emmert’s remarks to the press — “a  shocking affair” — came off as if he’d just been informed that morning and  needed to express his outrage publicly.

Many staffers felt like Lach was the scapegoat, as the 52-page external report shows she directed Najjar’s request  through the proper channels. Jim Isch, the No. 2 behind Emmert at the NCAA, also  knew of the arrangement and offered financial support, but he faced no  repercussions. No logical explanation of that disconnect was provided.

How the NCAA handled Tom Hosty didn’t help either; weeks after Hosty was  demoted from managing director to director of enforcement, Isch informed the  staff of the demotion at a meeting and walked out as jaws dropped to the floor.

“They know if the s— hits the fan, they’re not going to be backed up by  anyone,” said one ex-investigator.

As the NCAA moves forward, the reality of Emmert’s future is tricky. “When  you get to the position Mark is in right now,” said another college  administrator, “it’s how and when you are leaving, not if.”

That’s easy to say, but that pace of change in both academia and in the NCAA  is unbearably slow. As one former staffer said of NCAA business: “You realize  that it takes 100 internal emails for you to get the one e-mail that says  nothing.”

Academia is arguably worse, as the average search for a college president  takes a year. There are few groups of powerful people more collectively risk  averse than college presidents, who when deciding on whether to blow their nose  insist on forming a sub-committee to dissect proper tissue texture. In other  words, getting a group of college presidents together to make a bold move like  firing Emmert is highly unlikely. Emmert could realize he’s in an untenable  position and jump to another job, but that isn’t likely either (he reportedly  makes $1.6 million per year).

It should be noted that Emmert does have supporters, particularly among  Pac-12 presidents, as he came to office from Washington. He helped hire Pac-12  commissioner Larry Scott and counts Oregon State’s Ed Ray among his closest  confidants.

But elsewhere, Emmert’s support is tepid at best. He proved helpless during  realignment, has been overwhelmed by constant scandal and has been unable to get  his reform measures through the muddled NCAA governance structure.

Even worse, public perception of the NCAA under Emmert is at an all-time low.  (This stinging USA Today story that exposed Emmert’s  messy handling of a large-scale construction project while at UConn didn’t help  Emmert’s reputation.) The mass exodus of talented employees speak much louder  than his corporate buzzwords. And that’s something that can’t be changed with  flashy lights or new screen savers.football/news/miami-ncaa/#ixzz2W6TuD0TJ

Penn State Football–I’m “Bill-liever!!!!


by Doug Robb, on Facebook, and all I can say is “ditto”

A team that was written off at the beginning of the season by “the experts” in college football had now won 4 straight games and is tied for 1st place atop the Leaders division of the Big Ten with Ohio State! NCAA sanctions be damned, Bill O’Brien has decided WE will decide our own destiny, and WE will do so on the field of play, where it counts the most.

In my 50 plus years of watching, loving and supporting Penn State football, I have NEVER been prouder of a Penn State team than this 2012 Bill O’Brien inaugural squad. They have guts, determination, pride, skill, tenacity and a dedication to themselves and the Penn State program that is unprecedented in Penn State’s history. That kind of unity and sense of purpose CANNOT be accomplished without a strong, committed and capable leader at the helm of the Penn State football ship.

 Clearly, Bill O’Brien has proven he absolutely was “the right man for the job.” I “Billieve” we MUST support Penn state and the Nittany Lion football team like never before. We MUST cheer louder and longer. We MUST NOT get down when the other team gets ahead. We MUST make so much noise when the other team is on offense they can’t hear themselves think! We MUST “Billieve” in our team through thick and thin.

Bill O’Brien and Penn State, you have my unequivocal support now and forever. I “BILLIEVE!” It’s time to take our support for Penn State to a new level! FIGHT ON, STATE! FOR THE GLORY!