By Jim Weber
I swear I’m not picking on the NCAA.
But as soon as I got through talking about how broken the NCAA’s Infractions Committee is, USA Today reported the association’s president, Mark Emmert, is on pace to make nearly $1.6 million this year (take a moment to catch your breath).
And I just can’t help myself from writing about how wrong that is.
First of all, as USA Today reported, it’s nearly 40% more than his predecessor, Myles Brand, made in his last year on the job (2008) and nearly double what Emmert was making as the University of Washington’s president.
It doesn’t matter that the NCAA explained that Emmert’s salary is determined by a committee that uses a market survey to determine his fair value – this is just another embarrassment for an organization that is already widely labeled as greedy and corrupt.
This will certainly add to the perception that Emmert just sits behind a desk in Indianapolis stuffing his pockets full of loot – that’s earned by athletes who do not get compensation for their work, by the way – and then heads to a vault to play in his money like Scrooge McDuck.
The backlash of Emmert’s reported salary has been swift on Twitter inside the media and out.
Tweeted sports business reporter Darren Rovell: “NCAA prez Mark Emmert is on track to make $1.6M a year (USA Today). That’s two $2,000 stipends A DAY.”
Wrote ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale: “Congrats Mark Emmert Prez NCAA pulling in 1.6 mill paycheck – gr8 .what about the kids that pay his salary NCAA give some cash to the kids!”
ESPN’s Jay Bilas, always an outspoken critic of the NCAA, was even more blunt: “NCAA pays Emmert $1.6 Million (minimum): http://usat.ly/LbUfdt So many huge salaries, no wonder NCAA pleads poverty on player compensation.”
Responses from the general public, such as @Pittsburghdre, have been much harsher: “I hate the hypocrisy of the Ncaa. They make millions off kids but if a kid takes a 10 dollar lunch they are vilified. #Insane#”
And all that criticism of Emmert is extremely justified.
What the NCAA fails to grasp with its market value explanation of Emmert’s salary is that working in college athletics shouldn’t be compared with the market. For an organization that classifies itself as “non-profit,” those inside it should start treating it like the public sector, where salaries are a fraction of those in the private world.
As a Michigan alum, I remember when local real estate mogul and former Wolverines athletic director Bill Martin worked his first year at the university for free because the athletic department was in the red. His successor, current AD Dave Brandon, was the CEO of Domino’s who made $3.23 million a year before he returned to the school where he played football in 2010. Brandon signed a contract for a base salary of $525,000 per year which, if you are keeping score at him, was an 82% pay cut.
And I don’t want to hear that Emmert’s job is so demanding that he deserves the kind of money normally reserved for Wall Street bankers. Do you know how much money Barack Obama makes as a base salary as the President of the United States? $400,000.
That’s because running the country is a tremendous privilege that has many other rewards and a bigger salary would signify that the President is running the public instead of serving it. The NCAA should treat the position of the association’s president in the same fashion as a public servant that allows one individual to shape the lives of millions of young adults. Instead, the NCAA – to the shock of no one – just doesn’t get it.
They don’t realize that perception is reality in the public sector and while Emmert may deserve a huge salary when compared to the private sector, it completely undermines a president that has been preaching the welfare of student athletes since he came into office in 2010.
If Emmert catches a clue, he will go into damage control and literally put his money where his mouth is by foregoing the rest of his 2012 salary. Then Emmert would hold another summit among college presidents like he did last year. The goal of this summer’s summit would be to push through the much-discussed $2,000 stipend for student-athletes that has been in limbo for the last several months.
Sure, it wouldn’t change the perception of the NCAA and Emmert overnight, but it would be a start.
Because for a man that proclaimed he wants his legacy to be putting the welfare of NCAA athletes first, his $1.6 million salary sure makes their welfare look like a distant second priority to his pocket book.
Jim Weber is the president of LostLettermen.com. His column appears Monday and Wednesdays.
Tyler Kaufman/US Presswire