ATLANTA — Mark Emmert stepped in front of the media at the Final Four on Thursday afternoon, a proverbial State of the NCAA address and a chance to respond to a healthy dose of criticism that he has received over the way that his organization has handled recent investigations.
And instead of inspiring a sense of hope that change is in the works, Emmert put an even bigger target on his back.
After a rambling, 17-minute opening monologue — the transcript went on for 2,576 words when printed out — Emmert spent the remainder of his 45 minute appearance dodging questions and firing back at his biggest critics. When Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com asked Emmert a question about being a lightening rod for criticism of the NCAA, Emmert added in the middle of his response, “By the way, thanks for the career advice. Kept my job anyway.” Dodd has called for Emmert to be fired. As he walked off the podium after the presser, Emmert said to Dodd “I’m still here. I know you’re disappointed, but here I am.”
When Joe Nocera of the New York Times asked a question about student-athletes and the less-than-challenging majors that are popping up across the country, Emmert criticized facts and statistics that Nocera had used in previous stories on the topic and tossed in “I know you disagree with me, but please let me finish.” He laughed off questions about the lack of knowledge his enforcement staff had regarding the report about Auburn football from Roopstigo. He audibly sighed, giving off a serious “What the hell kind of question is that?” vibe, every time he was challenged with a question.
To be fair, some of the questions that Emmert was asked were unfair and impossible for him to answer.
But that’s not the story here.
Emmert had an agenda. He had a hit-list. It’s clear that he reads the criticism of the job that he has done and of his organization, and that it’s become to bother him. He was fed up with it, and he wasn’t going to let something as simple as national television coverage and a room full of his harshest critics and the most powerful voices in college sports media stop him.
The push for NCAA reform has never been stronger, both in the way that rules are enforced and what those rules actually are. The NCAA looks really bad in the wake of investigations of Cam Newton, Shabazz Muhammad, Miami and Penn State. Emmert needed to make a strong statement on Thursday. He needed to inspire confidence that change is coming.
Instead, he gave every media member their easiest column of the year.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.