Just got around last night to starting Sports Illustrated’s piece this week on problems with NCAA enforcement, and although I haven’t finished it yet, I found it a must-read. (I’d post it here, but it’s a pay-digital site, so I can’t. Instead, I’m linking co-author Pete Thamel’s followup column on line on the whole phenomenon.)
In the story, SI did something rarely done: It interviewed more than 20 former NCAA staffers to try to get a glimpse into the dynamics of the organization and its controversial enforcement procedures. To date, the prevailing policies and work environment of the NCAA have generally been deep, dark secrets, but the work of Thamel and Alex Wolff — two terrific reporter/writers — sheds a lot of light on that mystery.
Thamel is critical of the administration of Mark Emmert, the former Washington president (not that it makes Thamel a member of an exclusive club). It’s probably safe to say that Emmert has been under more consistent fire than any NCAA president, some of it for good reason. The case can also be made that, at least to some degree, the NCAA has become an ungovernable body, and the most revered statesman couldn’t preside over it effectively. I suspect somewhere between the two extremes — that, and the notion that Emmert needs to go — lies the truth.
Still, the SI piece makes it clear that Emmert’s management style is questionable, and in the enforcement arena, it’s costing the NCAA plenty in terms of public confidence and support. At a volatile time for college athletics, that’s not a positive development.