INDIANAPOLIS — Mark Emmert has a plan for how he wants to lead the NCAA.
He would like to get tougher on rule-breakers. He plans to expand the push for academic reforms started by the late Myles Brand. He’s been willing to speak with the pro sports leagues and the player unions to weed out questionable agents, and he’s even supporting emergency legislation to prevent more Cam Newton-type cases.
Yes, Emmert has a full plate as he prepares for the NCAA’s annual convention in San Antonio — his first as president.
Emmert took over from interim president Jim Isch in October, and don’t expect him to spend Thursday’s state of the association speech on small-ticket items.
There’s too much at stake.
For starters, there was the backlash from the Newton case. The NCAA ruled Newton could continue to play even though his father had been seeking money from schools that were recruiting him.
Emmert explained there were was no evidence to suggest Auburn or the player were aware of what was going on and under the current rules, the NCAA could not take action against Newton.
A few weeks later, he told a small group of national basketball writers that the NCAA could adopt emergency legislation to deal with these sorts of cases, and the NCAA’s Board of Directors will get their first chance to do that this week.
The need for a new rule apparently stems from Emmert’s reported mid-December comment: “Who is an agent and who is a third party and how do you define that? Is it a registered agent? A financial adviser? A counselor, an uncle, an AAU coach? Who is representing you?”
Newton won the Heisman Trophy and, on Monday night, his Auburn Tigers won the national championship.
College football was rocked this season by a series of scandals involving improper contacts between agents and players. There were also several documented cases of players selling jerseys and championship rings, which also ran afoul of NCAA rules. Emmert would like to find ways to avoid a repeat.
There are also several proposals that could have a dramatic effect college basketball. Among the possibilities are eliminating summer recruiting, moving the date players can withdraw from the draft and return to school from late May to mid-April, and barring coaches from making scholarship offers before the summer of a prep player’s junior and senior seasons.
It’s unclear whether the basketball proposals will be voted on this week.
What could pass?
New academic standards requiring schools to evaluate the academic transcripts of incoming freshmen and require at-risk basketball players to earn three credit hours during summer classes. Schools would then have to assess transcripts of all basketball players, incoming freshmen and upperclassmen, to determine who needs to take hours during the summer semester.
Another proposal would require football players to earn at least nine credit hours during the fall semester (eight at a school with quarters) to be eligible the following fall.
“What I have seen as a university president is that the culture of the football and basketball programs on campuses has had a really important shift,” Emmert, a former University of Washington president, said in October. “As we move forward, we have to continue to imbed that deeply into the culture of athletic programs and we still have a ways to go.”
There could also be a vote on new regulations intended to tighten the use of college athletes in promotional activities and another that would prohibit players from opting out of the sickle-cell trait test. Current rules allow players to take the test, provide written documentation that they have taken the test or sign a release to opt out.
Emmert also is slated to participate in a panel discussion about gender violence and how the NCAA can help reduce the amount of incidents among college athletes, so it will be a busy week for the new NCAA president.
“I’ve talked a great deal about the need to stay focused on the student-athlete and make sure everyone stays focused on the student-athlete and the academic progress of the student-athletes,” he told The Associated Press in September. “Also, I want to see what the opportunities are to expand the interaction of what the organization can do beyond the sports world.”