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FENNO: Beyond reproach? Mark Emmert’s NCAA really beyond repair
You couldn’t make up the statement that slipped out from the NCAA’s executive committee last week.
The 235 words backed embattled president Mark Emmert.
Not conditionally. Not with concern or censure or even hesitation. But unanimously.
For all the high-minded talk of reform and accountability, the 19-member group of college presidents, athletics directors and conference commissioners went all-in with a failed president and, by association, a broken system.
“In short,” read the statement from Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon on behalf of the group, “we demand the highest level of integrity and accountability not only from our peers but also from the national office.”
That accountability the NCAA demands of everyone from young athletes to their coaches just doesn’t apply to Emmert. Instead, he’s lauded with praise in the statement for “historic” reforms conducted “without fanfare.” That pesky University of Miami scandal isn’t directly mentioned.
Oh, Miami. That one.
The scandal, the real one, revolves around the NCAA paying convicted con man Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to depose witnesses in the organization’s 22-month probe of extra benefits being directed to Miami athletes. Even Emmert’s No. 2, chief operating officer Jim Isch, signed off on the scheme that the NCAA’s legal department unambiguously opposed.
Think about that. The NCAA abused a federal bankruptcy proceeding to force witnesses to testify under oath to bolster its plodding investigation. The NCAA had no subpoena power so it bought some. While that didn’t violate a specific NCAA rule — it’s frightening enough that such procedures aren’t written down — the move flouted common sense, basic decency and the advice of the NCAA’s counsel.
The sordid details were unveiled last week in an investigation of the do-anything investigators commissioned by the NCAA. The report, of course, absolved Emmert of responsibility for the latest in a slew of debacles from his enforcement division that are symptomatic of an organization that’s lost its way.
An organization, incidentally, he runs.
But somehow Emmert is beyond blame, above the high standards he expects of those beneath him as the NCAA has lurched from embarrassment to embarrassment since he took charge in 2010 that’s called the organization’s long-term future into doubt.
The lead investigator in the Miami case, Ameen Najjar, lost his job. So did Julie Roe Lach, the vice president of enforcement.
Emmert essentially passed the decision on his future to the committee.
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