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April 4, 2019

Mark Emmert

Dan Gavitt

Minneapolis, Minnesota

BOB WILLIAMS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the NCAA press conference. Joining us this afternoon is NCAA President Mark Emmert, as well as Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of NCAA Basketball. I'll turn it over to Mark.

MARK EMMERT: Good afternoon. It's always good to be at another installation of Final Four. This one's been like so many others. It's been, obviously, a very, very exciting tournament so far. We've seen incredible basketball. We've seen great stories, really, really good crowds in all of our venues across the country. We're finally here in what I think is going to be a really, really interesting set of basketball games, and I'm sure looking forward to them.

It's been a challenging year in a lot of respects around college basketball, but it's great to finally be playing these games and getting our focus on these young men and the wonderful things that they do.

I'm going to ask Dan Gavitt, our senior vice president for basketball, to give you an update on how the tournament's gone to date, and then we can turn to questions that you have.

DAN GAVITT: Thanks, Mark. Good afternoon, everybody. It's great to be in Minneapolis, as Mark mentioned, here for the Final Four for the first time in 18 years. We are very thankful to the University of Minnesota, our host institution here in Minneapolis, as well as U.S. Bank Stadium and the local organizing committee have done a terrific job of setting up for, I think, a very, very exciting weekend.

It's exciting to have two new teams here for the first time at the Final Four in Auburn and Texas Tech. Indeed, over the last six years, including this year's Final Four, that means there have been 19 different teams that have played in the Final Four in just the last six years, an average of over three new teams every year over that six-year time period. That's from nine different conferences. I think that's very notable, given the balance that that speaks to and the competitiveness of making the Final Four. This is truly a National Championship, and I think it's reflective of how hard it is to get here and how many teams have had the opportunity to get here and compete for a National Championship in just those six years.

I'm incredibly proud of the work of the Men's Basketball Committee from this year, led by Bernard Muir, the chair of the committee. I thought they did an outstanding job in selecting, seeding, and bracketing this year's field.

This year you know we had 11 different conference that's had multiple teams in the field. The last team in, left out, would have made a 12th conference with multiple bids, which is near an all-time high.

I think they also did an outstanding job at seeding the field. In all four regions, we had the top three seeds go through to the Sweet 16. And in a year when we introduced for the first time a new tool for the basketball committee to use, the NCAA evaluation tool, the NET ranking system performed, we think, quite well.

Indeed, in the Sweet 16, of the 16 teams that advanced, 14 of them were in the top 16 ranking in that NET ranking, and one of them was 18th. So we think it performed really quite well for us here in the first year.

The regional finals, of course, were incredibly competitive and historic with two overtime games, a single-point game, as well as a very competitive six-point game in the West Regional final. We've had great attendance across all 13 sites of the tournament so far. About 540,000 fans have attended games in March Madness this year, and at nine of those sites we sold out or nearly sold out. We are expecting a capacity crowd of 72,000 here for the Final Four in Minneapolis, which is just incredible.

Then, of course, television coverage by our partners at CBS and Turner has been fantastic again this year. Ratings this year over last are up over 8 percent from last year, I think based on the quality of the competition for sure, and we look forward to that continuing this weekend with CBS' coverage of the Final Four.

So we're glad to be here. Just one other maybe comment. This was also the first year you may recall that we started the season three days earlier on a Tuesday. And while that seems like a lifetime ago now in early November, I do think it's something that's been good for the game. I think we had a little more attention on the start of the season this year, a little less compression the way the season started. Student-athletes then had three full days off at holiday break in place of those three earlier days at the start of the season. We had a lot of great matchups in November and December, thanks to interconference matchups, some early conference games in the Big Ten Conference, and next year will be the ACC with an expanded schedule.

So the game continues to evolve, and I think it's in a very favorable place right now, and looking forward to just a spectacular Final Four weekend here in Minneapolis.

BOB WILLIAMS: Thank you, Dan. At this point, we'll open it up for questions.

Q. This is for Mark Emmert. Virginia's Kyle Guy said that he and his fiancee started a wedding registry, and the NCAA told them to take that down because it's a violation of their rules. Were you aware of that? And if so, why would NCAA rules prohibit something like that?
MARK EMMERT: I heard about that just as I was walking in just now, and I immediately grabbed my people and said, What's this all about? What we know right now is that nobody in the NCAA said anything of the sort. We don't know what the source of that information was, whether it came from the institution or not. It's certainly not the case that that's a violation of NCAA rules. We allow people to have all the usual and accustomed gifts among families and friends at all holidays and weddings of the sort. There's not a prohibition against that.

We've been reaching back out already to the university to try to find out what transpired there. That's simply an inaccurate story.

Q. Mark, I was just wondering if there was any update on your ability to acquire any of the materials from the first federal investigation? I know that there was an attempt to do so.
MARK EMMERT: Yeah, so just a quick update on where we are with the federal investigation. Some of them are wrapping up because they had pleadings now and people have pled guilty. In a number of cases, they still have a trial to go, at least one trial to go. We are in close contact with the SDNY throughout all this process. We have been -- there's been some, I think, misunderstanding about the latitude we have or don't have. We still don't have all the information that we would like to have from those trials.

We are -- and this has been made public. We are asking the Court, petitioning the Court to provide us with all of the findings that come out of those hearings and the material that's used in those trials. That's not automatically given to us. SDNY doesn't -- or the FBI doesn't back up to Indianapolis and drop all those documents off. We have to ask for permission to get them. We need the Court to grant that permission, and then we could import them under our new rules into the process.

I'm very excited to see that process move forward because it's finally a case now, Dana, I think as you know, that we can, in fact, take information and evidence from other proceedings, whether they're legal proceedings or others, and directly import them into our investigatory work without having to go re-investigate and rediscover all of that.

But that fact does not automatically make an obligation of the courts to provide us with that information. So we petitioned, and we're going to continue to argue aggressively that they should provide that information so we can get to the facts, since there's so much interest, not just on our part, but across the country and knowing what really transpired there.

Q. The collegiate model endured arguably the highest paid, above-the-board college athlete this past season in Kyler Murray, made $4.6 million in the A's. I have to read this a little bit --
MARK EMMERT: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear what you were saying.

Q. The collegiate model endured Kyler Murray this season, arguably the highest paid college athlete aboveboard in history, $4.6 million from the A's. In her ruling, Judge Wilkins said -- she cited: Olympic stipends and the cost of attendance were rules that, quote, limit or forbid student-athlete compensation do not follow any coherent definition of amateurism -- this is in the decision on Austin (Kendall). The only difference is the NCAA has decided to allow it. How do you sit with that definition of "amateurism" right now?
MARK EMMERT: Again, I've been really clear that we like virtually all of the rulings that have made clear that college athletics is about college students playing other college students, not employees playing employees, and we've had a number of rulings now in the federal courts, a number of rulings from administrative procedures that have reinforced that and agreed with that notion.

Where there have been antitrust violations found, we did not agree that we're antitrust violators, but where they have been found, they have been around limitations of support for student-athletes that's tethered to education, as you well know, and we're going to continue to make those arguments on appeal and in other venues as we move forward.

Q. Mark, can you talk about the rise of the graduate transfers at schools. It seems like that could be a backdoor or older one-and-done. Then consistency on the transfer appeals, a Minnesota player wasn't allowed to play, but another school, that player was able to. If you could speak on those two issues, please.
MARK EMMERT: So the graduate transfer rules haven't changed fundamentally actually. Anyone who transfers as a graduate student in any one of our sports, the rules allow them, should they start a graduate program at that institution, to be eligible to play. There's been a lot of debate and discussion about whether there should be modifications of that rule. In fact, there's continuing work going on right now in our academic committee about not whether or not the students should be allowed to compete right away, but whether or not the receiving institution should be held more accountable for that process.

So that, for example, one of the proposals is that, if a student goes from one school to another to begin a graduate program, if they are really a graduate student at that institution, then the scholarship that they're being offered should be held at that institution until they complete their graduate degree or would have completed it. So rather than just going and playing for one season, that scholarship would be tied up for the two years, if it was a master's program, for example, that that student had enrolled in, whether they finished or not, so that scholarship support would be there for the student.

That's been a highly debated subject inside the membership, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some move in that direction going forward. But pretty much everyone thinks a student who has graduated from school, they've done everything they're supposed to do at their home institution. They have completed their degree. They maintained their eligibility. And if they want to then move to another school to pursue a graduate degree and play another year, that that's fine, even though it clearly can be disruptive to the team losing that individual.

And tell me the second part of your question again. I'm sorry.

Q. The transfer.
MARK EMMERT: And then the transfer waiver rule, for basketball it's still the rule, of course, if you transfer as an undergraduate, a four to four undergraduate, you have to sit out for a year. There have been a lot of waivers that have been approved, but every one of those is idiosyncratic. You can't really compare one school to another or one case to another. They're all handled idiosyncratically consistent with the guidelines that the transfer committee provides to my staff.

Q. Mark, a former Division I athlete has been advocating to make a sexual assault conviction or adjudication at a university a disqualifier to play sports. The NCAA has not approved of that. In fact, the subcommittee of the Board of Governors said it it was just going to continue to track the issue. Why would a sexual offense not be considered a disqualifier, especially given the problems that NCAA athletics has faced, with recent cases at Baylor, Michigan State, et cetera?
MARK EMMERT: I think that's a good question, one that member schools have spent a lot of time on, whether at conference level or association-wide level, to address specifically that question. The challenge becomes the legal structures in the country, because we operate in all 50 states, all the legal structures are highly different, and all of the classifications of misdemeanor and felony around sexual assault and sexual misconduct are highly variable, and the committee that -- the commission that the board put together last looked at it found it impossible to sort through all of those differences to treat everyone fairly in those processes.

I think it's going to continue to be a debate. I actually hope it continues to be a debate because it's a very important subject. Individual schools make decisions and distinctions based on those convictions, but right now it's up to individual schools. In some cases, some conferences are looking at it, but I don't expect that discussion to go away.

Q. The Big Sky Conference already has a policy, which obviously they cover several different states. So why couldn't that be used as a model for the NCAA as a whole?
MARK EMMERT: It potentially could be, and, again, we've got to get all of the member schools to a place where they can agree to that.

Q. Mark, at the NCAA Convention, you talked about sports wagering and said that it could threaten the integrity of college sports unless we act boldly and strongly. What are some of the things that the NCAA could do in that area?
MARK EMMERT: First of all, I hope everyone remembers, we argued that sports wagering shouldn't be legal outside of the states where it already exists, and we lost that in court at the Supreme Court level. So now we find ourselves in an environment where we have to manage it like everyone else.

One of the things that we very much would like to see and are working hard toward, in conjunction with some of the professional sports leagues, is to try and have some federal guidelines around what individual state laws look like. Not to regulate the states or not to try and tell the states how they have to do this, but to put in place some parameters so that all 50 states or whatever number decide to have legalized wagering have some consistency. We need to try to make sure that we know that everyone is working off consistent data and information because that becomes a source of a lot of bad behavior when you've got lots and lots of different data sources.

We need to work as hard as we can as the rules are permeated in states as to how it's going to look, that we can work with the institutions in that state and conferences so we can educate our student-athletes really well on what is or is not permissible.

We need to do the same thing, of course -- and we're working on this aggressively -- with our own coaches and administrators and employees that participate in the NCAA. And we need to -- another thing that we're moving forward on aggressively is we need to have integrity services in place where we can effectively monitor what's going on in all the various sports books so that, when we see inexplicable behavior on a betting line, we know what's going on there, and we can act accordingly.

All of those processes are in the works right now. We've been involved in a lot of legislative debates, both at the congressional level and then at the state levels. We have to do this fast because it's all rolling out state after state.

Q. Mark, you and the NCAA have said in the wake of the antitrust decision that you guys feel you guys are the ones best suited to kind of plotting the future of amateurism in the collegiate model. I'm wondering, do you include in your conception of that the athletes themselves? And I know there are committees and such that do include athlete voices, but do you personally feel that athlete voices are loud enough and are heard enough by the college sports decision-makers?
MARK EMMERT: Yeah, I've been a very strong advocate for adding students to all of our committees and commissions and indeed to the decision-making bodies themselves and that they have voting powers in those committees. I'm a lifelong academic. I grew up with that tradition, and I never worked at a school that didn't have students on their board, and they were full voting board members. They voted on my contract, and I think that's just perfectly appropriate. And that's largely the place where we are right now in the NCAA.

I think we have to be very attentive to try to understand more broadly than just the voices of a handful of students who are trying to represent 500,000 other students. That's a very hard thing to do on a campus or in a conference or in the association. So we need to do as many things as we can to reach out to students and try and understand their views and their positions.

The students that we have engaged right now in the actual governance structure are incredibly capable. I'm constantly impressed how university presidents and others are deferential to them and pay great attention to their views and that they can have a significant effect on where debates go in the governance processes.

But it's a task that requires constant attention because the other challenge is the students change relatively quickly. They're not usually underclassmen that come into these roles. So now you've got two years, and then you've got a new individual in the role. So you've got to do it constantly, continuously, and make it as effortless as you can for the students because they're all so incredibly busy.

Q. Mark, following up on Nicole's question, obviously, there's a wagering working group right now. Is it worth asking the question in the social climate that exists right now, does the NCAA really want to get into the business of affecting the -- I guess the eligibility of a person of age who walks into a sports book and puts $5 down on a game not in his sport, not on his team, that could one day be okay?
MARK EMMERT: The members have been fairly unequivocal, and we've had a lot of debate on that recently, and the answer is yes, absolutely. We want a prohibition. The membership wants a prohibition of athletes gambling in any sports, period. I'll let Bob play referee here.

Q. Mark, following up on the questions about the injunction, the judge mentioned in her injunction, I believe, that $5,600 was the figure she threw out for the academic awards. I'm curious, what does the NCAA see as the maximum value of the academic awards that schools would be allowed to offer given this injunction?
MARK EMMERT: Well, nothing in the injunction caused any of the schools or anyone in the association to say that we need to immediately go out and change our current policies and practices. We're, as you know, going to appeal the case. We're still working on the details of what that appeal will look like, and we're going to try and get as much clarity as we can through that process.

We think it's challenging at the very least to have any definition of what is tethered to education go back to a judicial process when you try to answer a question like the one you just asked. So we're going to see if we can get a better resolution of that question.

Q. What was your reaction to Representative Walker's proposed legislation to amend the tax code to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness?
MARK EMMERT: We've obviously talked to the congressman and are trying to understand his position and trying to make sure he understands ours. There is very likely to be in the coming months even more discussion about the whole notion of name, image, and likeness, and how it fits into or doesn't fit into the current legal framework and the environment of college sports.

Similarly, there needs to be a lot of conversation about how -- if it was possible, how it would be practicable. Is there any way to make that work and still allow fair competitive relationships among schools? And nobody's been able to come up with a resolution yet around that.

But we think that legislative processes are there for people to debate and discuss these things, and we'll certainly provide our views and our input into that discussion, whether it's at the federal level or the state level. As you probably know, there's some states that are looking at that issue as well, California being the most prominent one at this point in time. But it's likely to be a subject that we'll hear more about in the coming months.

Q. Just staying on the wagering, are you assured now within your organization throughout that there is an openness to bring championship play in all levels in sports into Nevada and states that already regulate it?
MARK EMMERT: Yeah, right now there's been a temporary lifting of that policy, but it still requires a permanent legislative change. So that's going to have to be introduced and discussed among the membership. I don't want to presuppose where they're going to go, but so far I haven't heard any great objections to the position we're in right now. I'd love to answer it more clearly, but that's as clear as I could get on it.

BOB WILLIAMS: Okay. Thank you very much.

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