Mark Emmert is saying goodbye to the NCAA.

Mark Emmert is saying goodbye to the NCAA. / Getty Images

Welcome to a new NPR series where we spotlight the people and things making headlines — and the stories behind them.

Sometimes in order to appease your haters, the best option is to bow out.

Who is he? Mark Emmert (aka a man peacing out)

The current president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which regulates student athletics across about 1,100 schools in North America, is stepping down from his position amid a turbulent time for the organization.

  • Despite having his contract renewed by the NCAA board of governors through 2025, Emmert is stepping down this month, citing a new era of restructuring, operation, and a "good time to make a change at the leadership level, too."
  • Described by The New York Times as "persistently embattled", Emmert is no stranger to criticism. He's faced it from ... just about everyone: conference commissioners, coaches, athletic directors, and sports reporters for his leadership through a formative time for the organization.
  • His tenure has been turbulent, to say the least. He's overseen the revolution in student athlete compensation, newly raised questions of health and safety, gender equity and much more.
  • For what Sports Illustrated described as "an impossible job", Emmert argues his presidential position never granted him the power to "create rules or pass judgment for any one school."
Emmert came in for a lot of criticism over the years.

Emmert came in for a lot of criticism over the years. / AP

Listen to Emmert's interview with NPR this week by tapping the play button at the top.

What's the big deal? Well, all those issues will define the future of college athletics and beyond, and they aren't going away anytime soon. But they will be picked up by his replacement: former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Want more sports journalism? Listen to the Consider This episode with Retired WNBA Star Maya Moore.

What are people saying? Emmert is standing by his legacy, telling NPR:

"Well, I certainly have been the loudest and clearest voice on health and safety, and have done more around health and safety than most anyone has done in college sports. So I'm incredibly proud of what we did, in that arena when it comes to athletic compensation. What we've seen over my 12 years is a constant improvement in the conditions and support of athletes, and I'm equally proud of that."

"I spent a great deal of my time on campuses where I would meet with student athletes routinely ... and I was a champion for bringing athletes onto the various committees and governance boards and giving them not just a voice, but votes in each of those forums."

Pat Forde, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, wonders at what next:

"Who the hell would want this job? Who wants to try to ride the college athletics tiger at a time like this? Emmert wasn't good at his job, but is anyone capable of wrapping his or her arms around this untamed period of player compensation, player movement, conference realignment and even more unchecked spending that could massively threaten Olympic sports?"

So, what now? Charlie Baker is expected to begin his position in March, and says he aims to modernize college sports while maintaining its essential value.

  • The NCAA generated $1.14 billion in revenue in 2022, according to recently released financial audits, which project some recovery from the hits that COVID made.
What will Charlie Baker do when he steps into the top job?

What will Charlie Baker do when he steps into the top job? / AP

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