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NCAA's Emmert leaves legacy of incompetence


We begin today with a linguistic lesson. Did you know that while the Germans have a word for taking pleasure in the suffering of others, namely schadenfreude, the concept is nearly universal?

Well, regardless of the language, the idea is a valid one, especially in the context of soon to be former NCAA President Mark Emmert. Emmert, whose departure as the head of college sports’ governing body was announced last week, is the embodiment of fecklessness, or at least his 12-year tenure is.

It’s hard to imagine a figure more inept and more ineffectual than Emmert, whose exit was by mutual agreement, which probably means the university presidents who encompass the NCAA leadership had had enough.

During Emmert’s stewardship, the drip of schools from one conference to the next in search of more dollars became a flood, just as the trickle of athletes from one school to the next through the transfer portal has become a deluge.

Under Emmert, the NCAA has looked horribly dated and anachronistic especially in terms of providing equal opportunities to women, as was exposed in last year's basketball tournament when men were given far better amenities.

And finally, Emmert has proven to be ineffective at positioning the NCAA on the right side of name, image and likeness for students, failing to recognize that providing some sort of compensation is the way for an organization stuck in the 20th century to find a 21st century solution to a growing problem.

The job of sports leader calls for visionary thinking, something Emmert has been proven incapable of, especially compared to some of his contemporaries and predecessors.

For example, more than 60 years ago, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, fairly new to the job, saw the explosion of television in professional football’s future. He knew that with the right business plan, football would supplant baseball as the nation’s favorite sport.

But that plan entailed getting teams in big markets to share television revenue with smaller cities, so that places like Green Bay, Wisconsin would have as much of a chance to succeed as Los Angeles, Chicago or New York.

Lo and behold, Rozelle convinced the league’s owners to put their TV money into a pot and divvy it up equally. That money grew and grew and so did football.

Likewise, NBA Commissioner David Stern got the bright idea more than 40 years ago to get the league’s owners and players to agree to a franchise-based cap on salaries to ensure that teams would have an equal shot at talent and thus to win.

This came too late to keep teams in places like St. Louis and Baltimore, but the NBA operates as successfully in Portland and Milwaukee as it does in Boston and Philadelphia.

Emmert admittedly has a larger and more unwieldy constituency than the professional leagues, but that only calls for more nimble thinking, which Emmert just wasn’t capable of.

The NCAA doesn’t need its next president to be a great linguist or even particularly articulate. But it does require the next leader to speak the language of competence, something Mark Emmert never did.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.