By Greg Johnson
ANAHEIM, California – Mark Emmert said June 23 that he considered the last two days his “coming out party” in his role as NCAA president-elect.
The night before, Emmert addressed collegiate football coaches attending the NCAA Champions and Expert Coaches Forums, and on Wednesday morning he spoke at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention.
Emmert’s theme at both was that the well-being of student-athletes should always be the priority for the stakeholders in intercollegiate athletics.
“Everything we do in intercollegiate athletics must be driven by an overriding commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” said Emmert, who expects his position as president of the University of Washington to end around October 1. “This has to be the un-error metric we use as much as we use scoreboards.”
He praised the many data points that are heading in a positive direction, such as Division I Academic Progress Rates. The overall multiyear APR is 967, which is up more than three points since 2009.
Emmert noted the media attention devoted to recent Division I conference realignment and acknowledged that the activity may lead some to question the mission of the enterprise. But he reminded those at the NACDA gathering that the leaders of intercollegiate athletics should remain constantly vigilant to ensure that money generated in the process is used to the advantage of student-athletes.
“Our mission is to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes,” Emmert said. “The ongoing examination of the financial structure of intercollegiate athletics will be one of the things I will focus time and energy on.”
Emmert said the NCAA doesn’t need to apologize for wanting to increase revenues.
“It is not a sin or fundamentally wrong,” he said. “It is a good thing to have more resources, if you are using those resources for the right purposes.”
At the NCAA Champion and Expert Coaches Forums, Emmert praised the football coaches and administrators for their attendance. The programs are run by the NCAA diversity and inclusion staff and are designed to help assistant football coaches who aspire to become head coaches.
Many of the 15 African-American coaches hired last winter graduated from the program. There are now 33 minority head football coaches (5.7 percent) throughout all three divisions of the Association, excluding Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
While minority hiring trends were up in 2010-11, Emmert said he wants to see that number grow.
“The fact that we have to grow diversity among the coaching ranks and administrative ranks is self-evident,” Emmert said. “Those are just facts.”
Emmert also had an impromptu question-and-answer session with the coaches. He told them he is focused on diversity in all areas of intercollegiate athletics.
“We simply must make sure that our athletics programs represent all of the United States and all of our complexity,” Emmert said. “We have to be committed in higher education and intercollegiate athletics to the philosophy of promoting diversity in our work. We have much work to do, and I’m going to help you take that on.”