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April 2, 2015

Mark Emmert

Harris Pastides

Kirk Schulz


BOB WILLIAMS: Good afternoon and welcome. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. Joining NCAA President Mark Emmert today is Kirk Schulz, NCAA Board of Governors chair and Kansas State University president, and Harris Pastides, NCAA Division I board of directors chair and University of South Carolina president. With that I'll turn it over to President Emmert.

DR. MARK EMMERT: Let me also thank you for joining us today. It's obviously another exciting Final Four where we're extremely pleased with the field of four teams that are here. They're remarkable programs and I'm sure we're going to have a really fabulous finish to this tournament that has already been pretty extraordinary. We've also had here in Indiana a number of issues that have in some ways overshadowed the tournament. I'm obviously talking about the debate that's going on literally as we speak around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I and other members of the association have offered opinions about it in the past few days. We are now awaiting the potential revision of that bill. The House and Senate are working on it right now. The leadership of both of those bodies has been very forthright in saying they need to get it changed earlier today. We're certainly very hopeful that they will and believe that it absolutely, positively needs to get fixed. It's a bill that creates an environment within which college athletics would find it very difficult to operate. With that, I'd be happy to stop. I know you have lots of questions on lots of issues. We'd be happy to talk about the issues of RFRA if you like, as well, but we're pretty much right now in a wait-and-see position.

Q. On the bill, did the NCAA reach out to legislators to ask them to get this fixed as soon as possible? How important is it for you to get this out of the way before tomorrow and Saturday games begin?
DR. MARK EMMERT: Yes, we did, in fact, reach out to legislators. I talked to the governor, the speaker of the house, worked with the mayor, business leaders here in town. They were consulting with us around language changes that may or may not be sufficient to fix this bill. We made very clear that we wanted this resolved as quickly as possible. Now, this bill is more important than a basketball tournament. This is a bill that establishes the legal environment for people in the state of Indiana. Are we happy that this debate is occurring during the middle of Final Four week? Of course not. It would have been a lot easier to have the debate some other day. But we hope they can resolve it quickly, not just because of this event, but because it's an important issue to get the law right on and to get it right fast.

Q. The NCAA has penalties for violations like academic misconduct, using drugs, accepting money for autographs. Why doesn't it have sanctions against players who are found responsible for a sexual assault, especially when some of those players are able to move on, transfer to a new school and continue playing?
DR. MARK EMMERT: One of the first principles, I'll let the presidents on either side also answer that question because it's a very important topic right now and always has been. The first responsibility for student behavior that's not part of the competitive environment resides with campuses themselves. So when a student, whether they're a student-athlete or not, is engaged in behavior that's inconsistent with the values of that university, then every university and college has a set of protocols for handling disciplinary matters. So the members of the association, all the universities, have decided that those decisions first and foremost must be handled by the institutions themselves. If it's a criminal offense, then by the legal system of that state. If there is evidence that a university handled one of those cases in a way that is different than the way they would handle a non-athlete, in other words, there was a student-athlete that was engaged in some inappropriate or criminal behavior, and the university treated that person differently than they would have if that person was just a regular student, then that is, in fact, an NCAA violation, and, in fact, the association gets involved in trying to determine what the ramifications of that behavior would be. It's not that the national rules don't have a policy about it, it's that they first and foremost reside with the campuses. Kirk or Harris, you may want to add to that.

HARRIS PASTIDES: That's exactly right. Just like academic affairs, the universities are the primary responsible party. I think the NCAA would be watchful about how a university handled a particular issue with the student-athlete. But we don't expect our colleagues from Indianapolis to be telling us how to handle a student on an academic matter or on a very serious criminal matter like you mentioned. We're governed by state and federal policy and, of course, by our own university policy.

Q. Harris, since technically Mark Emmert works for the Board of Governors, how have you advised him and the NCAA how to handle the situation here in Indiana in terms of relocation or any kind of threats of moving events? How have you at the University of South Carolina handled the way the NCAA has approached not putting official championships in your state because of the Confederate flag at your state capitol?
HARRIS PASTIDES: First of all, to clarify, Mark reports to the Board of Governors chaired by Kirk. When we first heard Division I board what was happening in this state, Mark was very proactive and told us in no uncertain terms about how he would participate in trying to make it extremely clear that the statute that was being promulgated was antithetical to what was right for student-athletes, he wouldn't stand for it. He had the Division I board's complete support. There are other thorny issues all over the United States, including in South Carolina with the flag. We abide by the rules promulgated by my own board and the D1 Board of Governors. We're proud to have our women's basketball team in Tampa participating in the Final Four. Ultimately, what happened here in Indiana, I believe there are about 20 other states that have RFRA-type laws. But when they begin to oppose the overarching commitment to inclusiveness that we have on our campus and throughout the NCAA, it's time to speak up. We were very proud of how our president handled it.

KIRK SCHULZ: I would say Mark and I have be in communication on a daily basis, sometimes a couple times a day through a variety of communications. We've probably talked every other day about this. The Board of Governors will be meeting later this month. This whole topic will be a major part of our agenda. We need to wait and see what happens over in the statehouse to know how we'll respond. But we're keeping tabs on this. I want to applaud Mark, his leadership, at putting out a very strong statement from the NCAA almost immediately that really said that we're just not going to tolerate any kind of ability for any student-athlete, regardless of their background, their race, their sexual orientation, not being completely accepted in any of our championships.

Q. Mark, did you have any pause about issuing the statement as early as you did? Will the NCAA work with legislators or encourage them to pass or include sexual orientation come the protected class for Indiana, which there is not a current law that covers that?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I wasn't hesitant about the speed with which we made the commitment. We were aware, of course, the bill was working its way through the legislature. We were all surprised with the speed with which it came about and the speed with which the govern signed it. Caught a little off guard by that. The reality that no one could offer any reassurance that this bill would not protect people from discriminatory acts based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, was completely inconsistent with all of the things that I know the membership values, as a recovering university president. Then as you heard I immediately was in touch with the leadership of our boards. So there really wasn't a lot of reason to debate it further. We were quite clear about what it meant and what it didn't mean. So we came out fairly early in this process and we were hopeful that we could instigate some change. While we don't want to overplay the role we had in it, we were pleased the legislative bodies and the governor and others have decided to respond I think appropriately. Again, we'll wait and see what the modification really looks like. But I think it was the right thing to do it quickly. It seems to have had an appropriate impact.

Q. Will you encourage legislators to add sexual orientation, gender identity as a protected class?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I hope it's something we talk about in the meetings at the end of the month with the rest of our governing boards. This is my own Mark Emmert's opinion. I personally hope they do do that. I think it would be appropriate. It's, again, consistent with the values of our office and our staff. But I'll solicit the views of our members. The NCAA is 1100 colleges and universities. A significant number of them are religious-based institutions. So we have complex views on complex questions. We need to be mindful of the fact that we represent lots and lots of schools, while at the same time holding strong on those issues that are fundamental core values of higher education.

KIRK SCHULZ: I will say I think the NCAA has appropriately in the past been critiqued for being slow to respond to things. This is one of those cases where if we had spent three or four days talking to everybody, deciding on a response, putting together a joint statement, everybody would have said, Gee, the NCAA has this major event, one of our marquee events of the year occurring, and couldn't even take a public stand on this. This is one of those times where I believe the rapid, quick, decisive communication now from the NCAA office, by Mark and our staff, was exactly where we needed to be.

Q. You've talked about tolerance and inclusion as it relates to RFRA. You have a couple of Final Fours heading down to Texas which prohibits gay marriage. Will you take any political stand on that issue? Do you have any misgivings about having the Final Four in Texas?
DR. MARK EMMERT: Well, we've had tournaments in a number of the states that do have RFRA laws. There's 20 or so of them around the country. They are variable in their language. Some states have language around civil rights protections that vary from one state to another. Of course, as you point out, there's varying positions on gay marriage, same-sex marriage. The association has historically not taken a stand on that issue. I think it's something that we will once again have to talk about among the membership when our boards get together to discuss these issues and decide at what level should we become involved in civil debates inside these communities. The issue here was one that was, first of all, near and dear to us because we have 500 employees in this state. We run the enterprise from here. We have to attract a diverse workforce, we have to have a workforce that is attractive to all walks of life. We have a particularly young staff. These issues for young people are very, very different than they are for old codgers like me. The fact is we have to have an environment that works for us to conduct our affairs. Secondly, the issue is that no one could provide clarity about whether or not this law, including the governor, could not provide clarity on whether or not this law would allow individuals or organizations to discriminate against people. I don't know the statutes in Texas or other places, but I think those are things that, as we go forward, as we make big decisions about places we should take our tournaments, we're going to have to look deeper and harder at.

KIRK SCHULZ: I would say two weeks ago this would not have been on the Board of Governors' agenda at all to look at. Obviously because of what's happened here, and regardless of what occurs eventually over in the statehouse, this is going to be on our April agenda. So questions like, Should we look at any particular social issues in states that hold championships of any type, not just the Final Four, but any of the multitude of NCAA championships, will now be something that we're going to take a close look at. Clearly we're going to want Mark, his leadership, his recommendations on what to do. But ultimately we've got a board of presidents, Division I, Division II, Division III, they're going to be looking at this and trying to provide guidelines back to the organization about what they think we need to be doing. Two weeks ago not on the agenda. Much more so now becoming a topic of the agenda coming forward in the April meeting.

Q. The NCAA said in response to the UNC lawsuit it doesn't control the quality of education for its student-athletes. What is the NCAA responsible for in regards to student-athletes if it's not responsible for their education and safety?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I think we need to be really clear that everybody that's involved in the education of student-athletes has a critical role to play, including the NCAA. But it's a continuum of responsibility and everybody has a role to play, and they're different roles. So the national association, the member universities and colleges, have some time ago decided their responsibilities for the national association are to, first of all, set some floors about the minimum academic preparation that a young man or woman has to have to play sports. They've also said there has to be measurements of progresses towards degree. They have to be demonstrating they're working diligently toward their degree, making headway on it. They've established our graduation success rate measurements and APR measurements that I'm sure you're well aware of. There are these broad overview measure that the association has established for schools. The national office monitors all of those. There's a whole chain of sanctions that can be imposed on schools that failed to meet those standards. Similarly, the membership has passed a series of rules around academic misconduct that are predominantly aimed at whether or not a student-athlete is being provided benefits, 'academic benefits' - it's just the jargon of the business - impermissible benefits around academics. Are they being provided access to courses, academic support that goes above and beyond what's allowed by the schools that involves the engagement of the institution, a variety of things around that level. When you come down to what's going on in a classroom, that's where my colleagues on either side of me come to bear. So the academic quality of what's transpiring in a classroom by definition and by fairly obvious practicality, that's managed first and foremost by the professor in the classroom, second by that person's department head, third by their dean, fourth by their provost, and fifth by their president. You couldn't have, even if you wanted, a staff from a national athletic association going into a classroom and seeing how a physics class is being taught. That's certainly not a role that an association should be playing, and they don't play it whether it's the ABA or any other accrediting body of a university. But the association has to play that first role very importantly and very effectively. Then it's ultimately up to universities to determine whether or not the courses for which they're giving credit, the degrees for which they're passing out diplomas live up to the academic standards of higher education. I may ask either of these folks to comment.

KIRK SCHULZ: I have no desire at Kansas State University to have the NCAA more involved in our academic enterprise. It's the responsibility of the institutions and the academic leadership of those institutions to ensure that we're offering quality degree programs for everybody and that we're not parking our student-athletes over in some particular area or program that's not academically rigorous and doesn't allow them to be successful. One of the things that so often all of us have to remember is the huge majority of the student-athletes go on to careers, become doctors and lawyers and engineers, things like that, are not going to play professional athletics. We are obligated to do a great job preparing them for those career pathways. I think we can pick individual instances out, and you can look at particular institutions that have done one thing or another. Anytime something like this happens, it causes all of us to go look at our own institutions and say to our own people, Can you tell me we're doing a great job with our students, our student-athletes? I think many of us have been reflective to make sure that something that might happen to another great world-class university doesn't happen at our particular institution. It's a constant thing we've got to look at. But it's not just student-athletes, it's all of our students deserve, if they're going to pay that tuition, to get a great degree experience that's going to prepare them for the workplace.

Q. You talked about kind of being proactive, getting ahead of the game on the things that are going on in Indiana. Some of the issues that the NCAA has been dealing with over the last year or so, big five autonomy, the amount of the pie that players should be able to get, some of the lawsuits, things like that, do you think the NCAA is built for you to set an agenda on those or do you feel like you're always playing defense?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I'll let these gentlemen answer and I'll respond as well.

HARRIS PASTIDES: Let me start by staying the NCAA is comprised of hundreds of universities representing in D1 alone nearly a half a million student-athletes. I think we've made terrific progress, but it's only a beginning. I think we deserve the time to see how both governance reform and autonomy plays out. I can tell you from the side of the Southeastern Conference, it's not easy to figure it out completely. I can tell you that it's expensive. I can tell you that over 90% of the money that the NCAA takes in goes out directly to universities. So I think the NCAA has taken a very large step forward. It's not the last step that we're going to take. I would also say that a lot of the critics out there, whether they are in the press, the government, the general public, haven't quite fully digested the steps we've taken. When I go out and talk at Rotarys, for example, even in the state legislature, about what we're doing now to take better care of our student-athletes and alumni, varsity athlete alumni, they're quite impressed. I think they deserve an opportunity, another year or two to figure out how well it's working.

KIRK SCHULZ: I can tell you I'm tired of playing defense. We've got great stories to tell about student-athletes at all of our universities, not just what they're doing athletically, but what they're doing beyond the athletic field, in the classroom, after they graduate. What we have sometimes allowed to happen is the five or six stories that aren't so good wind up dictating the picture of intercollegiate athletics. We take one-and-done, for example. 5500 approximately Division I basketball players, less than 10 a year are one-and-dones, but somehow that becomes the thing we talk about, not the outstanding basketball player that gets a degree in finance, graduate, go to work for a major corporation, make a major contribution there. I want over the next couple years during my tenure with the Board of Governors to work with my colleagues here and tell great stories about what's happening and not simply have the one-offs that aren't so good all the time dictate the picture that the world sees of intercollegiate athletics. There are a lot of good things happening that we don't necessarily always convey in a good way.

DR. MARK EMMERT: I think one of the pieces of the NCAA's process that gets missed often is that it is indeed a version of representative of a democracy. If you look at Division I, there are these 350 or so schools that make decisions collectively. Any time you have a collective decision-making process, it can be challenging and it can take a lot of time. But the issues are also complex. I have especially over the last 18 months or so been extremely pleased with the work that the members have put in to streamline the governance structure, to involve many more practitioners, people that work on the ground and have a better understanding of how rules and policies impact students directly. I've been pleased with the move toward the autonomy group having greater degrees of freedom to decide a handful of issues in a speedier way, by the way. While that's been a challenging debate, even the fact that the members were, in about an 18-month time, able to change the whole nature of the decision-making structure in a really open and frank fashion was pretty heartening. So, yeah, it can be a clumsy process because it's a democratic representative process. But on the other hand, these are individual universities with individual responsibilities, and there's really not another way to do that business. There are people that like to say, Why can't you work like the NFL? Well, the NFL has 30 teams. We have 19,000 teams. They have however many players, 60-some players per team. Harris just said half a million student-athletes we have. The comparisons are ludicrous. The ones that people can make because it's an easy comparison to make. We're just very, very different enterprises.

Q. What is the economic impact of this tournament here? Annually of your organization here? Did you convey that to the governor? Would you ever consider moving the headquarters of this organization if they didn't come around?
DR. MARK EMMERT: Well, I may look to some of my folks for the economic impact assessment. Kathleen, there you are. I think I read a number it was $700 million.

KATHLEEN McNEELY: You have the direct benefit and indirect benefit. It is like 300 million times certain things. We update an economic analysis both on our impact being here in the city as well as the events that we hold in the city. We're welcome to share the details of that at any time.

DR. MARK EMMERT: Using any sort of conservative economic multiplier, it would be between a half and a billion dollars. Let's be clear, Indiana and Indianapolis has been a really great host for the NCAA. People love being in this city. It's a great place to host an event like this, all the other events we do here. So we feel very good about that. But the decision of whether or not we moved wouldn't be solely mine. It would be these gentlemen's and the rest of the board. If I believed we couldn't conduct our affairs in any place in a fashion that didn't prohibit discrimination against people for any number of reasons, then I would surely recommend that we move. I hope that we don't find ourselves in that place.

Q. The recent story of higher education cited one of your executive stating 20 schools were under investigation for academic malfeasance or fraud. I found that a little outstanding. Is that typical? Do you think it's inherent in a system where the 20-Hour Rule seems to be unreasonable or unrealistic?
DR. MARK EMMERT: First of all, sounds like you and I agree on the 20-Hour Rule. I think one of the biggest challenges we face, I know my colleagues agree completely, is the time demands placed on student-athletes right now, especially within Division I. To be a successful Division I athlete and a successful student is a very demanding task. In some cases it's too demanding and we need to find ways to not just provide, but insist that they have more time to be students as well as student-athletes. I think there's general agreement around that. Figuring out how to do it is a challenge, but it's one of the things that's on the agenda for the council and eventually the board. The quote of 20 students under investigation skews the context just a little bit because of the schools that are 'under investigation', that could be as modest as someone having reported something that they didn't like and that being investigated to a full-blown investigation where there's some really serious allegations and some really serious evidence. I wouldn't hear that as there are 20 schools that are enmeshed in academic scandals. We do get lots and lots of tips, if you will, and information about potential allegations. Our staff follows them up if there's any credible evidence to follow them up. At that particular moment there were about 20 of them going on around academics. I don't know because I don't track that. I keep walled off from the investigative arm. I don't know where that stands right now, but I suspect it's well below that.

Q. It seems like there's several athletic departments that are citing kind of increased costs whether associated with the new autonomy things or not, looking to potentially cut programs. At the same time it seems with few exceptions those programs tend to be 'non-revenue sports'. Dr. Emmert, you said, Don't let the 3% distract you from the 97%. You're supposed to be doing what the members want you to do. Do you feel it's the NCAA's obligation to try to encourage schools to try to cut costs if they have too many costs in ways other than eliminating athletes in non-revenue sports?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I'm going to ask my colleagues to weigh in on that as well because those decisions, as you're aware, play out on the campuses. I've had to in my career as a university president make a decision to eliminate a program. We eliminated men's and women's swimming at the University of Washington in the midst of huge budget cuts. I've had to make those hard decisions. I know that's not a fun thing to do. But having said that, the membership of the NCAA long ago established that one of their core principles was that college sports needed to be broad-based and it needed to include a wide variety of opportunities for students, just as is mirrored on the academic side. A university is not just a place. It's a place that has a wide variety of programs and offerings, and college sports has historically been structured in a way to mimic that. I for one think that that ought to be continued, but we also have to be realistic about the financial pressures that many universities and colleges face. I'll let these gentlemen talk about that.

HARRIS PASTIDES: Let me say, as everybody knows, a minority of universities in D1 finish any year in the black, and certainly no universities in D-II or D-III come anywhere near that. My university is one of the fortunate ones that does finish in the black in terms of athletics. They return a significant amount back to the provost, which we in turn distribute for financial need for our non-athletic students. But the new costs are, in fact, considerable. I can tell you we're not cutting that aid that's going to come from athletics back to academics. But our AD is in the process of delaying projects that he and coaches consider necessary at the university. But that's I think the right price to pay. I think our commitment to spend more money on our student-athletes, coupled with his commitment to on an annual basis return money to our academic enterprise. So we're not looking at cutting programs. I would find that detestable, distasteful thing. I'm glad we don't have to face that. Those are the kinds of conversations, tradeoffs, that are being made in universities every day.

KIRK SCHULZ: I think one of the challenges we have in public higher education is that in many states, there's a disinvestment in higher education, not just in Kansas, but across the country we're seeing this happen. As that occurs, people are asking questions, Do we need to spend X-dollars out of some sort of general fund supporting a Division I, Division II, Division III athletic program? So I think those conversations are occurring because money is getting tighter and tighter. That's one thing. Some of those considerations are putting pressure on the number of sports we have. The other thing we all have to decide, do we have a smaller number of student-athletes that are better supported versus, in a way, a larger number of participants that may not be supporting with a coaching staff quality, the facilities that we might like. I think every individual institution is going to have to make that particular decision, but it would be naïve of me to say there are going to be some schools out there that are not going to elect to say, We're going to support a smaller number of student-athletes in a more appropriate fashion we feel, and that may mean some sports move to club-level sports than intercollegiate athletic sports. The bottom line is that we look out for student-athlete well-being. I think the decisions we made were appropriate. They leave it up to us as presidents and athletic directors to determine how to do those, and it's going to be different at every institution.

Q. Could you tell me more about the conversation you had with Indiana governor Mike Pence, and specifically what was his response back to you when you expressed your concerns? Why do you think that he and legislative leaders ignored you, and many other officials here in Indianapolis?
DR. MARK EMMERT: I can't answer the latter part of your question. You have to address it to them. I think we saw in the governor's comments and this morning's press conference with the leaders of the two chambers, that they all grossly underestimated, to be polite, the reaction of the citizens of Indiana, and why that should occur, I don't know. That's up to somebody else, someone like you, to ascertain. In terms of my conversations with any of the political leaders in the community, they wanted to know what my concerns were. They wanted me to explain them more fully. I talked about the conversation I had with our leadership, the seriousness with which universities and colleges take issues like this. These are not side-bar issues for a university. These go right at the heart of who a university is and what they stand for. I made that really clear. They seemed to hear the message well. They were trying to explain, as they did publicly, what the bill was about, what it wasn't about, trying to make the case for the fact that there was no intention for it to be discriminatory. Now they're taking the actions that they're taking and we all hope, we all up here, hope that they get there.

Q. Two of the schools in the Final Four this year, Michigan State and Duke, are residents of states in which laws very similar to the one in Indiana, emanating from some of the same organizations, are under passage in the legislature right now. You've made your statement. What are you planning to do about this on an institution-by-institution basis when you have coaches and administrators, especially at public universities, who are going to have to face this issue down the road as the backlash from which this is emanating gets stronger?
DR. MARK EMMERT: First of all, as President Schulz said we need to at the upcoming meeting of the Board of Governors, the Division I board, D-II and III also, have conversations about what's the level of involvement, what's the appropriate role for a national athletic association in public policy issues at a state level. There obviously have been those issues where the association has decided to take strong positions. Confederate flag issue is a great example of that, where the association acted. The complexity of these Religious Freedom Restoration Act laws is that they are all slightly variable, they are all in specific contexts of a state or the federal government where there may or may not be other civil rights protections that are in place. In many ways, the real status of those laws is contingent upon how they are applied and what the state's jurists do in terms of rendering what can and cannot occur in that state. Unfortunately it's not something for which any of us can come up with a really clear, simple scenario, that we will or will not tolerate X, Y or Z. It's more complex. It's going to take a lot of thought and a lot of care. I think what we have seen in the past - you're getting my Political Science 101 - what we've seen in the last couple weeks in Arkansas and Georgia, states that are doing similar things, they stopped at the last moment, I suspect though I don't know, was informed by what they were watching in Indiana. I suspect, but don't know that will be true around the country. There has been a sea change oops of public opinions on gay rights over the past decade or two in America and it's being reflected with citizens in a variety of laws. That was unequivocally the case here.

BOB WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. We are out of time. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon.
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