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    Emmert has chance to earn his higher-ed bucks

    The former University of Washington president is head of an organization that has to decide the athletic fate of one of the nation's top college-football programs. Ironically, the case involves Ohio State, which was the only public university paying a president more than what Emmert received at the UW.

    Mark Emmert

    Mark Emmert University of Washington

    A few weeks ago, Mark Emmert spoke about his desire for the NCAA to impose tougher penalties for violations of its rules. Thanks to the sprawling mess created by a top college football coach in Ohio, the former University of Washington president is in a position to help the NCAA deliver.

    One could also say that Emmert is poised to earn the big bucks that he makes running the NCAA. But any such suggestion comes loaded with a big caution and at least one irony.

    The major hesitation is that, well, despite the NCAA's ubiquitous public presence in higher education and sports, it doesn't make the salaries of its leaders public. Since the salary of Emmert's predecessor was reported to have run about $1.7 million, it's probably fair to guess Emmert, after about eight months on the job, is earning somewhere between, say, $1.5 million and $2 million.

    In a PBS "Frontline" broadcast earlier this year, Emmert took considerable pains not to say a thing about his actual pay:

    LOWELL BERGMAN: By the way, how much do you make as head of the NCAA?

    MARK EMMERT: Well, we don't discuss my salaries, but I'm well compensated, like many people.

    LOWELL BERGMAN: More than you made at the University of Washington?

    MARK EMMERT: We don't discuss our salaries.

    LOWELL BERGMAN: Well, I assume you didn't take a step down.

    MARK EMMERT: I'm welcome to argument about the relevance of that.

    The challenge in front of Emmert and the NCAA is the case of Ohio State University, one of the premier football factories as well as a major institution of public higher education. The head football coach, Jim Tressel, resigned Monday (May 30) under pressure over flagrant violations of NCAA rules involving both players' amateur status and, particularly, covering up violations. The prominence of the program and the squeaky-clean image Tressel created both pose difficulties for enforcing the rules with the kind of sanctions that, minimally, will be expected: at least two years of bans on post-season appearances plus several years of limits on the number of scholarships to be offered for football players.

    On the surface, Tressel's troubles are his own. After receiving a credible email tip about players receiving improper benefits, he apparently didn't tell any of his bosses, and later lied to NCAA investigators. But Ohio State's handling of the Tressel matter itself ought to raise larger questions. As an array of sports commentators have noted, the university did everything possible to avoid having to let go of the coach, taking a series of steps to contain the damage until continuing revelations made it impossible to keep him.

    And that evasion went right to the top, to OSU's president, E. Gordon Gee. That would be the same Gordon Gee who kept Emmert from ever being the nation's No. 1 paid president of a public university. Around the time Emmert decided to leave the UW, he was reportedly receiving total compensation of more than $900,000 per year, No. 2 nationally among public institutions and a source of some outrage locally but not even close to the approximately $1.8 million Gee was receiving. Gee remained at the top of the list in rankings published earlier this year by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Gee's tenure is now thought  to be at some risk. Even for those who don't follow sports and higher education, Gee made it easy to understand why many think he lost sight of his primary responsibility for higher education. At a press conference earlier this year where OSU tried to quell the trouble around Tressel with a two-game suspension (later raised to a five-game ban as the uproar mounted), Gee was asked whether he had considered firing Tressel.

    From an ESPN story at the time, here's Gee's response:

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    Posted Wed, Jun 1, 7:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    Years ago, the WSU Cougers were playing Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, and getting smacked around with lots of no-calls on the Buckeye team for penalties and the referee told the Coug quarterback something to the effect of "welcome to Big 10 football, son". I can't find the story online but it was in print media. Ohio State has been 'win at all costs' for years and its home game fans extremely rude and hostile toward opponents and their fans. Hello, Death Penalty #2, hopefully.


    Posted Wed, Jun 1, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

    animalal: The referee's point, a valid one, was that the Big 10 played (and still plays) a much tougher, rougher brand of football than the Pac-10 ever has. And rather than cry to the refs the Cougars (not Cougers -- I assume you went to WSU) should suck it up and play tougher.

    "Win at all costs" and hostile fans are hardly unique to Ohio State, which in fact has over the years run a relatively clean program overall. Compared to, say, the UW.


    Posted Wed, Jun 1, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    It will be interesting to see if Emmert shows more backbone here than he did in sweeping the Cam Newton ruckus under the rug as it threatened to upset a big bowl game TV payout. My take on Emmert is that he is the consummate opportunist. His performance could give us an accurate read on which way the winds are blowing.


    Posted Wed, Jun 1, 12:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    Bigyaz; you are a correct spell-checker; however Tressel is suspected with strong evidence of 10 years of running a massively dirty program and of course there is the Woody Hayes attack on an opposing player. Big 10 toughness has historically been run over in the Rose Bowl by speed and skill player talent. Tressel's undoing should open the door to a severe punishment for Ohio State and serves as a test for Emmert and the NCAA.


    Posted Wed, Jun 1, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    My earlier posting neglected to mention that the game in question was on Sept. 14, 2002, and was one of 8 home games for Ohio State in their 14-0 season. Too much home cookin' and maybe the NCAA should look at the integrity of referees, too.


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