TELANDER: Money before morals is Mark Emmert’s way
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org April 4, 2013 10:03PM
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks at a news conference Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Updated: April 28, 2013 8:30PM
Someday the kettle’s going to blow.
Someday the intricate Rube Goldberg machine that is the NCAA will spring a leak, and no amount of Band-Aids, glue, fingers in holes, rules, sleight of hand, PR or gibberish will hold the mess together.
Oh, there’s tons of money rolling around in our nation’s sports coffers. Witness the multimillion-dollar salaries given to all but the lamest men’s football and basketball coaches. Witness the billion-dollar TV contracts to broadcast college sports, the crazy advertising, the 100,000-seat cathedrals of entertainment where unpaid workers perform for the raging masses.
But that money — which leaps from our fascination with winning — comes at a price.
For kicks, let’s call it morality.
And let’s call NCAA president Mark Emmert, in charge of the burgeoning fraudulence, Mr. Immorality.
Is that too strong a word?
I don’t think so.
Emmert is a career college sports administrator who always has been able to leave Dodge just before the sheriff arrives. His standard response to corruption under his watch has been to delay, deny and hope it dies. And the hubbub usually has died, or been passed on to others who came after him or worked below him. Or else he fired scapegoats, as when he recently fired two high-ranking NCAA officials because of their involvement in the overzealous pursuit of a corrupt Miami football program.
That incident was spurred by Emmert’s desire for tough ‘‘enforcement’’ of the crazy rules of amateurism that the NCAA and its member organizations — universities and colleges — have propped up for more than a century.
At Montana State, Connecticut, LSU and finally Washington, Emmert left ethical problems that always involved money or big-time sports or both. According to a damning USA Today story on Wednesday, Emmert made head coaches at LSU and Washington the highest-paid coaches in the land.
At UConn, he left a $100 million construction scandal behind. Along the way he was paid more than any president at any public university anywhere.
On Thursday, he was grilled by the media in Atlanta before the upcoming men’s Final Four basketball tourney. It wasn’t a pretty sight. But then, neither was the way whistle-blowers were treated at LSU after Emmert built up a corrupt national-champion team, declaring, ‘‘Success in LSU football is essential for the success of Louisiana State University.’’ Not its reputation as a place where anybody learns anything, mind you, but as a financial success.
Emmert has said he will ‘‘never’’ pay athletes because they are ‘‘amateurs.’’ And why are they amateurs? ‘‘Because I said so.’’
He also, like everybody in big-time sport, complains about the ‘‘arms race’’ of expenditures. But there is no salary cap for anybody but the athletes, so the era of the $10 million coach can’t be far off. And the TV/ad faucet is gushing more than ever.
The pressure to win at the D-I level is so great that a maniac coach like Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice can flourish for years. And a once-proud conference like the Big Ten will open its doors for a place like Rutgers. Why? The market. The exposure. The money.
I hope the Big Ten is happy with its 14 teams, including the middling Maryland and Joe Pa-tainted Penn State. And I hope it’s happy with Emmert, the money man all its member institutions helped elect.
There is cash everywhere on the horizon. It flows and flows. But no moral man has taken the NCAA lead to make fair, ethical, financial decisions for the athletes. For the students.