ATLANTA — At his annual news conference at the Final Four, NCAA president Mark Emmert played offense with his opening remarks, detailing progress the organization has made in deregulating rules, expediting enforcement and in student welfare.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But when Emmert opened the floor for questions, he moved to defense, going so far as to tell a reporter, “I know you’re disappointed, but I’m still here.”
Earlier, Emmert said he’s willing to take criticism.
“Some of the criticisms about change or what’s going on naturally get leveled at the guy at the top,” Emmert said. “If you’re going to launch a change agenda, you’ve got to be willing to deal with criticism. So, OK, I deal with criticism.”
But the critics haven’t focused on the change as much as the fallout of the Miami investigation, which the NCAA admitted botching, and others in which the conduct of investigators was called into question.
Emmert said the NCAA’s case against Miami “has enormous foul ups” that the NCAA has acknowledged and addressed. There were also problems in the case involving UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad “that caused significant concern for me and others.”
Emmert was asked about a story that appeared earlier this week in USA Today that accused him of shirking responsibility for problems that occurred at schools where he served as president — Connecticut, LSU and Montana State.
“I’m not going to comment on the details of that story,” Emmert said. “I’m really proud of my track record. I’m really proud of what I got done at every institution I’ve been at.
“If anybody wants to go back and look at the objective facts of where an institution was when I got there and where it was when I left in terms of academic performance, the performance of its students, the quality of its students, the standing of the institution, by my guest. I’m proud of that record.”
Emmert was asked about sham majors, and challenged the reporter to come up with more data.
“If you think your alma mater is offering bad degrees,” Emmert said, “you ought to take it up with them.”
Emmert said it’s not a big deal that the NCAA is being sued on several fronts. The NCAA is defending itself in Pennsylvania over punishment in the Jerry Sandusky case. It’s defending itself in Los Angeles in the defamation case of former Southern California football assistant Todd McNair, who claims his lost his job after being wrongly accused by the NCAA in dealing with former running back Reggie Bush. A judge said that statements made by NCAA investigators against McNair were made with “actual malice.”
Litigation is nothing unusual, Emmert said.
“If you’re not getting sued today, you’re not doing anything,” he said. “I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have litigation pending, so I’m not going to apologize for the fact we have a very litigious society, and there’s plenty of reasons to file suit against large organizations.”