Longtime NCAA president Mark Emmert will step down between now and the end of June 2023, the college athletics organization announced Tuesday, closing a run of more than a decade at the helm and utmost turbulence.
He helped lure football coach Nick Saban from the Big Ten (Michigan State) to the SEC (LSU), where Saban would become a historic presence especially in a second SEC stop at Alabama. Emmert will exit as a controversial figure in a time of roiling changes and existential questions for the NCAA, with many loud voices having decried an extension of his contract enacted in spring 2021.
“With the significant transitions underway within college sports,” board of governors chair John J. DeGioia, the Georgetown University president, said in an NCAA statement, “the timing of this decision provides the Association with consistent leadership during the coming months plus the opportunity to consider what will be the future role of the president. It also allows for the selection and recruitment of the next president without disruption.”
Whenever a successor is named, it will end a tenure that began with Emmert advocating and implementing greater representation for college athletes and has wound down with breakneck changes such as the name, image and likeness (NIL) capability of those athletes, structural changes in the NCAA and even the question of its relevance going forward.
“Throughout my tenure I’ve emphasized the need to focus on the experience and priorities of student-athletes,” Emmert said in the NCAA statement. “I am extremely proud of the work of the Association over the last 12 years and especially pleased with the hard work and dedication of the national office staff here in Indianapolis.”
Between 2010 and the present day, Emmert has faced other rough rapids, including the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, which landed him in lawsuits after his assessments and penalties; the academic scandal at North Carolina, over which the NCAA took criticism for its inability to pursue penalties; and the federal investigation of recruiting in men’s basketball, during which the NCAA was derided as slow and feckless.