Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA, died on Tuesday at home near Emmett, Kan., the New York Times reported. He was 93.
Byers was born in Kansas City and graduated from Westport High. He worked in the Big Ten office in Chicago until 1951 when colleges decided to establish an operational office to govern sports programs. Byers was named the director and opened the office in Kansas City.
The NCAA had offices on 11th Street, in the Midland Theater, and on Shawnee Mission Parkway while Byers was in charge.
He oversaw remarkable growth in college sports, engineering the NCAA’s first national television rights contract in 1952 and subsequent packages that grew in the millions in rights fees.
In 1995, seven years after his retirement, Byers’ book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Exploiting College Athletes, was published. The book was often critical of the NCAA, and it was in the book that Byers revealed that the NCAA created the term “student-athlete” to insulate colleges from having to provide long-term disability benefits to players injured while competing in their sport.
Byers retired to a farm in Kansas and raised cattle. He made few public appearances over his final years. In 2009, Byers was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, but didn’t attend the ceremony.