Emmert defends record during contentious briefing

NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a news conference for the Final Four on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Atlanta.
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a news conference for the Final Four on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Atlanta.
Photo by AP
| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

ATLANTA — NCAA president Mark Emmert spent 15 minutes documenting the progress that the organization has made under his leadership, from making sure students go to class to fighting corruption.

Then he spent the next half-hour defending his record during an often-contentious news conference Thursday that took a bit of the glow off the Final Four.

A defiant Emmert shrugged off his critics, insisting anyone pushing for significant reform is going to rub some people the wrong way.

“The fact of the matter is that change is what we're about in the NCAA right now,” he said.

On his way off the podium, Emmert even took a parting shot at a reporter who has called for his dismissal.

“I know you're disappointed,” the president said with a sly grin, “but I'm still here.”

The NCAA has come under fire for botching the investigation into a rogue booster at Miami, and there have been complaints about the way the governing body handled other cases, such as the harsh sanctions leveled against Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Still, the organization faces about a half-dozen legal challenges to the way it does business, including a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. He believes the NCAA overstepped its authority when it imposed sanctions against Penn State over its handling of the Sandusky case, based largely on a scathing internal review led by former FBI chief Louis Freeh.

“If you're not getting sued today, you're not doing anything,” Emmert said.

Emmert also was asked about a report from USA Today Sports that accused him of shirking responsibility for problems in previous jobs at Connecticut, LSU and Montana State.

The newspaper said Emmert had a pattern of moving on to more lucrative posts before the full extent of problems at his previous posts were known. He has served as NCAA president since November 2010.

“I'm very proud of the changes that have been made at every place I've been along the way,” Emmert said. “They're all institutions that have wonderful traditions.”

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who is also on the NCAA basketball committee, insisted Emmert has the full confidence of the membership despite the recent missteps and negative publicity.

There were plenty of questions about Emmert's own record.

“I'm proud of my reputation at every place I've been,” he said. “If you want to go to my campuses, scratch around and find somebody that doesn't like some of the decisions I've made, I'm sure you can find them.”

Asked if he felt like a lightning rod for everything that is wrong in college sports, Emmert said that goes with the job.

“Some of the criticisms about change or what's going on naturally get leveled at the guy at the top,” he said. “If you're going to launch a change agenda, you've got to be willing to deal with the criticism. So, OK, I deal with criticism.”

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