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NCAA MEN'S FINAL FOUR


March 29, 2012


Mark Emmert


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

BOB WILLIAMS:テつ Welcome and thank you for attending President Emmert's Final Four press conference.テつ We'll start off with some brief remarks from President Emmert and then open it up to questions.
President Emmert.
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, first of all, thanks for being here.テつ Appreciate your time and attention.テつ I'm sure you're like me, ready to move on to some basketball.テつ We've had a wonderful and very, very exciting, unpredictable tournament, pretty much like we always do.テつ We've now got four wonderful teams here in New Orleans, and I'm looking forward to an extraordinary Final Four.
I suspect on Saturday night this will be one of the larger towns in the state of Kentucky, and then we'll move on to Monday and see who is going to be this year's champions.
We have had a number of very, very exciting developments this past year over the course of the school year.テつ The one that I'd like to talk about first, then we can answer whatever questions you might have, is really what's been going on in academic reforms around all of our athletic programs.
I think the best way to think about our academic reforms is to recognize that this is really an issue that's at the core of the collegiate model of our whole enterprise.テつ The notion that our student‑athletes are just that, students who happen to be athletes, and that we're very serious about that student component.
As you all know, we early in the year put in place a new APR rating of 930 that has to be achieved by our member institutions and their teams in every sport in order to qualify for post‑season play.テつ We're implementing that right now.
We also passed ‑ it's not been quite as well‑noted ‑ a new set of initial eligibility requirements both for entering freshmen and for community college transfer students.
For those individuals, the key that we found to achieving the success in the classroom is making sure that they show up at our institutions prepared and ready to go.テつ It's a very, very simple notion.テつ if you think about a basketball player, for example, that shows up on campus, and he is not in condition, he's not got a very good left hand, his jump shot needs a lot of work, he is, in short, under‑prepared, then you know you have to coach that person up a lot, you have to get them ready to play, have you to get them ready to compete.
The same thing is exactly true on the academic side.テつ We want student‑athletes to show up ready to compete in the classroom.テつ We need to have them have the skills, the discipline, the study habits, all of the things that are needed to allow them to be successful.
When a young person is growing up ‑ let's stay with our basketball player for a minute ‑ everybody who plays the game at a serious level knows exactly what they need to do to be prepared to play college ball.テつ They know the kind of skills they have to have.テつ They know the kind of talent they need to have.テつ They know how fast they need to run, how high they need to jump.テつ And everybody is constantly coaching them on those facts.テつ People are constantly saying, You have to work on this part of your game, you have to get stronger, leaner, whatever it is.テつ They're surrounded by folks who are telling them all those things.
On the academic side, in far too many cases, there's hardly anybody telling them all the things they need to do to be competitive when they arrive at college: You've got to get your English skills up, you have to get your math skills up, you have to learn to have better study habits, take things in this sequence, so when you hit that college campus you're ready to be a competitor in the classroom.
What the committee on academic performance and what the leadership of the association is saying to young men right now and young women is, You must be prepared, you must have these kinds of academic skills in place when you arrive at our campuses if we are going to have you perform at a level that allows you to also perform on the floor.
The reality is that we are saying to everyone right now, all of our teams, You have to be on track to produce a 50% graduation rate if you're going to be a participant in this championship or any other championship.テつ That is not a huge demand to make, that half of your students will be on track to graduate.
The fact is that the vast majority, nearly all of our teams, are very, very close to that standard or are already reaching it right now.テつ For programs that aren't, we want to make sure they're there.テつ For men and women who aren't ready to be serious students, we want to make sure they're ready.テつ We need to work with K‑12 schools and get them in place because a lot of young men and women aren't getting the educational experience they need before they come to our colleges.
We need to work the community colleges to make sure that they, too, are getting young men and women ready and able to compete in the classroom.
So we're going to be rolling out with an anticipated implementation date of 2015 or '16.テつ We're going to be working very aggressively from this point on with all of the high schools, all of the coaches in high school, all the communication means we have to work with parents and families so that students know that if they're not prepared academically, they are not going to be eligible to play NCAA sport.
If they are not eligible under the new standards but under the old standards, they can come to campus, receive financial aid, but they will not be allowed to play in competitions.
That's a new feature that is going to kick in at that same time that's going to shift the approach that people take to being on college teams.
We're very excited about that prospect.テつ Going to take a lot of work.テつ Going to challenge kids to do more than they've ever done in a classroom.
What we've seen from past academic reforms is every time we've raised that bar, people have stepped up and done well.テつ We've seen constantly rising graduation rates, performance in student‑athletes, and we're going to continue to do so.
This is not about the students who want to go professional in their sport.テつ We're concerned about them and we want them to be successful.テつ This is about the 5500, in men's basketball, for example, who will not be professional athletes, but, in fact, will go forward and lead lives without basketball in it as part of their profession.
So we want to get them all ready, all 5500, for that next step in their life, not just the 50 that go on to the NBA.
With that, let me pause and take any questions on any subjects you may have.

Q.テつ With all due respect to what you just said, I have to ask you, there are a lot of those 50 who are at this event this week, several candidates to be one‑and‑done.テつ They help make March Madness, a multi‑billion dollar endeavor.テつ How do you reconcile that as the NCAA with this mission to help people get educations?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, it is what our mission is.テつ Reality is, of course, in any one year we've got, I don't know what the numbers are, maybe 15 out of 5500 kids who are one‑and‑done's.
While the one‑and‑done's get an enormous amount of attention, the reality is they're a tiny, tiny fraction of the student‑athletes who compete in basketball and compete in this tournament and will be competing here in this Final Four.
I've made no secret of the fact that I would prefer to have a different model.テつ I think most people would prefer to have a model that keeps young men and women in college as long as you can.テつ That's to their advantage over the long run, we believe.テつ It would be nice if that were the case.
But I don't think we should blow the one‑and‑done out of proportion and suggest that's somehow undermining all of academics in the NCAA.テつ It's 15 kids.テつ They have a chance to go play professionally because that's what the rules allow and they all want to pursue it, so that's fine.

Q.テつ Have you talked to anyone at the NBA or the NBA PA about potentially changing that rule into something like baseball has, where you have to go, go three years in college, or what the NFL has?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Yeah, I've talked to David Stern a number of times about it, and others as well.テつ As you well know, that rule is embedded in the labor contract between the two bodies, so it's not ours to negotiate or discuss.
But our views on this are widely known.テつ Most of our coaches' views on it are widely know.
The NBA and NCAA do indeed have different goals.テつ Our goals are to put the best collegiate athletes on the court and provide them with educational opportunities.テつ That's what we do.テつ The NBA's interests, of course, are to produce the best professional basketball teams that they can.
So we don't have a complete commonality of interests, but in some of those areas, we'll pursue them and do everything we can do to be collaborative.

Q.テつ Mark, I assume you saw the remarks that David Stern made a couple of days ago.テつ Not being there, I'm not quite sure, I think there might have been some playfulness there, but also maybe a serious message.テつ He said the NCAA could require these guys to stay in school if they wanted to.テつ If they didn't live up to their agreement on the front end, they would forfeit their scholarship money on the back end.テつ Did you see what he said and how do you respond to that?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Yeah, I saw some clips on it.テつ I'm sure people want to enjoy making it sound like David and I are debating this.テつ We're not.テつ First of all, we get along very well and we have good conversations about these and other issues.
There are doubtlessly many things that can be done to encourage our student‑athletes to stay in school that are inside our purview and we'll continue to pursue those.テつ Changing or academic eligibility standards is one of those that we feel very good about.
On the other hand, there are things that are possible and impossible for us to do.テつ We don't have a vehicle for mandating that anyone stay in school.テつ So there's just not a vehicle by which that could occur.
But are we going to continue to pursue things that make it as attractive as possible for people to stay in school and finish their degree?テつ Yes.
I think the important point is that we want students to come to universities so that they can get an education while they are developing their skills and abilities.テつ For that very small proportion that can go play professional sport, we want to help them make that transition as carefully and thoughtfully as they can.
I'm certainly not opposed to people going and playing professional sport.テつ I think that's terrific.テつ But we write our rules and create our processes for the 5500, not for the 15.

Q.テつ Mark, could you address Greg Shaheen's future with the NCAA.テつ He's obviously run this tournament for a long time.テつ Why haven't you lifted the interim label from him and do you think this is the last tournament he could end up running for you guys?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Greg now holds the position of executive vice president.テつ It's a new position that I created when I came in that oversees all of our championships, not just this tournament, of course.
We've been working with the organizational structure.テつ Finally got it to where I feel good about it, and the senior leadership team feels good about the structure.テつ We've been conducting a search for that position.テつ We're in the middle of it right now.
Obviously, I can't talk about an ongoing personnel search.テつ But we'll be reaching final decisions on that in the near future.

Q.テつ Mark, this is obviously the NCAA's big event.テつ If there is a playoff in college football, it would mean three of these at various places throughout the country.テつ What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of doing that in the future and do you think it will happen?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, as everyone here knows, of course, we don't get to make that decision.テつ So it will be up to the university presidents and commissioners of the FBS.
The momentum seems to be ‑ I'm just reading the tea leaves pretty much like you ‑ the momentum seems to be towards an eight‑game playoff.テつ We'll have to see how it all works.テつ I don't know whether it will really occur or not.テつ I think there's a reasonable possibility it could.テつ If they want the NCAA involved in any fashion, we're more than happy to be helpful.
I'm not sure I'm good at predicting where that would be and what it would mean.テつ I suspect it would be a wildly popular event just in terms of the fan base.テつ It would probably attract lots of attention.テつ I don't think it would in any way conflict with or reduce the attention or enthusiasm people have for this tournament.テつ This is still a pretty remarkable iconic event.
It would probably bring more attention to college football and make it even more popular.テつ It's already extraordinarily popular, so I assume it would do those things.

Q.テつ Mark, question regarding the APR situation.テつ You said last week Connecticut would probably find out within the next seven to ten days their fate.テつ Do you have an update on that?テつ They've already lost one player, Alex Oriakhi, who was a star in this event, who says he's leaving because of the possible ineligibility next season.テつ Is that a consequence the NCAA is comfortable with, a junior like that who is in good academic standing at his own school, now being forced to transfer to another school?テつ Third, what do you see as the problem with using the most current data to collect that penalty?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ All good questions.
First of all, I don't want to say I was misquoted.テつ What I'd said in passing to some folks was there was a possibility that it could be resolved that quickly.テつ The reality is this is the first time we've gone through this kind of appeal.テつ The committee is going to have to look at it and make a decision.テつ The time frame within which that happens is entirely up to them as they work through it.
The issue about someone leaving or staying, I would disagree with your characterization that somebody is being forced to transfer.テつ I don't think under any circumstance someone gets forced to transfer.テつ If they want to, they can make those decisions.
The idea of using the most recent APR data is, of course, a valid one in that we want to use the most recent data for which we have comparability across all institutions.テつ We bring out the APR data as quickly as it's made available to us by each of the schools as they finish up their years.テつ We then bring it together collectively and make it available to the membership.
That provides or necessitates a lag time in a way that data is collected.テつ So we use the most recent data that's generically available for all schools in describing APR.
As I assume you're aware, we're phasing into a 930 target.テつ Next year it will be a 900 target, and that target can be met with two years of data rather than four.テつ When we get to the full implementation two years after that, it will be a 930 on a four‑year rolling average, with the four years being intended to smooth out any bumps you might have either one way or the other so that it's a better measure of the long‑term academic success of that institution.
But the APR targets have been in place for a long time.テつ Everyone's known that they're going to have to compete in a world where there's a 920 APR and we just moved it up to a 930.テつ I don't think it's a shock to anyone that it's moved up to a 930.
Again, the vast majority of schools and teams are performing well above that level.

Q.テつ Mark, I know you have a lot of questions about the one‑and‑done.テつ John Calipari has his own opinions about keeping kids in the NCAA, like providing insurance, and like the Olympic model having endorsement deals.テつ Do you have any specific ideas that you've come up with that might encourage players to stay in school longer?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, the Olympic model is frequently brought up as an example of things that we might do in collegiate athletics.テつ There's a fundamental problem with the comparison.テつ Nobody competes to recruit Olympians.テつ When we have a really great rower, Sweden doesn't come over and say we have a sweetheart of a sponsorship deal for you if you move over to Sweden and come a Swedish citizen.
In the United States at elite levels, there's fierce competition for recruiting student‑athletes.テつ If we allowed a sponsorship model like exists in the Olympics, it's just entirely possible that Auburn and Alabama might compete over who could come up with the sweetest ‑ two random examples ‑ a little bit of a competition over who could come up with the best sponsorship deal.テつ It would immediately become a thinly veiled way to compete with money over student‑athletes.
In terms of the whole notion of us finding other vehicles, we're constantly looking at it.テつ We don't have any clear, strong ideas right now about what to do there other than to continue to require them to perform high academically and come in with the skills and abilities to be successful.

Q.テつ You talk about schools might compete economically to put together this.テつ How is that any different from them building a bigger stadium or a fancier recruiting lounge?テつ It seems from looking that the most sought‑after recruits go to the wealthiest schools already.テつ How would that be any different is what I'm asking?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, we have always in collegiate athletics structured a model so that student‑athletes were students, not employees, but individuals that came to school, oftentimes to play sport while getting their education.テつ We have always, just like we do with every other student, put professionals around them and professional facilities around them.
When a really bright young person is trying to make decisions about where he or she is going to go to college, they look they buildings, the residence halls, the intermural sports facilities, they look they quality of the faculty, they make all those same decisions.
Universities build facilities, they hire faculty, they create great amenities to attract the best and the brightest students.テつ We do the same whether they're potential Rhodes scholars or Heisman Trophy winners.テつ That has been the case and always will be the case.
It's not a matter of individual institutions, in intercollegiate athletics, bidding in cash for specific individuals.テつ It's about building a facility that's useful and attractive to a whole team, a whole institution.テつ When people build big stadiums, they're not just building it to make it more attractive for student‑athletes, they're making it more attractive for everybody who participates in those games.テつ It's the difference between a collective good and just trying to buy a player.

Q.テつ This is a little bit off the beaten path.テつ I apologize if it's below your pay grade.テつ Do you know if Brittany Griner got any kind of special treatment in that scuffle they had?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, it's not below my pay grade but outside my expertise, I guess.
I'm casting about for, I don't know, maybe a basketball committee member.テつ I'll give you my response.テつ I was actually at the game.テつ I believe it's the case that if an individual leaves the bench in an event like that, they are ejected from the game, but that is not used as a withholding penalty for future participation.テつ I think that's right.テつ I think that is literally what the rule says.
There was a lot of debate and discussion about it, but check with our guys because I may not have that right.

Q.テつ Because of the stipend, because of the four‑year scholarship issue, do you see any momentum for separation of IA governance or a physical separation of IA such as we had in '78?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Well, there's a lot of discussion right now, and, in fact, I've committed to the Division I presidents that we start a committee to look into our governance model.テつ So there's a lot of discussion right now about whether or not the governance model is as effective as it could be.
As you know, back in the '90s, when the current model of governance ‑ and when I say 'governance' I mean the decision‑making process ‑ when that was put in place in the late '90s, it was balanced between the relative interests of what we now call FCS/FBS in non‑football, IAA, IAAA.テつ And since that time moving forward, the diversity of institutions in Division I has grown.テつ The relative diversity of their economic basis has grown.テつ So it's becoming increasingly difficult to create rules that fit everybody and that everybody is happy with, harder to find consensus around those things.
So we're going to spend some time this summer and into the fall at the very least looking at what would the membership like to do, how would they like to grapple with this governance challenge and still hold together the big Division I tent.
We know what the questions are.テつ We don't have any answers as yet.

Q.テつ What did you learn about college sports during your time at LSU that formed your mode of operation and your ideas about what it should be now?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ I remember my first year we were 0‑6 maybe in football.テつ I went to an alumni event, congratulated the alumni on them all hanging in there.テつ They were still selling out and doing real well.テつ A guy in the back stood up and said, Chancellor, this may be real simple, we're always going to be there, but you may not.
People get passionate about college sport, the ability it has to galvanize a community ‑ in the case of Louisiana, the whole state ‑ the ability it has to serve as a point of entry for telling the story of the university is extraordinary.
You may remember this.テつ A Sunday, '04 I guess it was, when we played in the Sugar Bowl for the national title, I got to write an op‑ed piece in the New York Times.テつ I think the title was, 'You Already Know My Quarterback, But Do You Know My Astrophysicist?'テつ
It gave me the chance to talk in the New York Times about the academic strength and the prowess of LSU and southern universities in general.テつ I might have gotten the opportunity that otherwise, but probably not.
It becomes this very, very powerful vehicle for universities, for their communities, to tell their story to attract and build support for their institution and to provide great opportunities for lots and lots of young men and women that I've seen have extraordinary athletic careers.
I knew all those things from my time with Jeff at UConn and Syracuse before that and Colorado.テつ But the time at LSU just drives that home even more powerfully.

Q.テつ Going back to Coach Calipari's suggestions for things that the NCAA might do to keep players or incentivize players to stay in school longer.テつ I know you said you don't have any clear ideas yet.テつ One of them was a stipend beyond 2000, which you're already dealing with.テつ Another one was schools covering the catastrophic insurance.テつ The third thing was allowing them to borrow against future earnings.テつ Can you address the feasibility of those beyond the stipend?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ We do, in fact, provide catastrophic insurance right now on top of the insurance that's provided by the institution.テつ So I'm not exactly sure what Coach Calipari was meaning in describing that.
They're always opportunities to improve those programs, I'm sure.テつ But that is in place and, indeed, it gets exercised fairly routinely when there's an insurance issue around an injury that exceeds the insurance provided by the institution.
There's a lot of discussion around various ways in which you can provide money to student‑athletes.テつ There's people that would like us to do direct compensation, just pay them.テつ There's people I've heard that would like to pay them like professionals.テつ The quarterback makes as much as the quarterback can get.テつ If University X can pay more than University Y, fine, the person goes there.
There's the sponsorship model.テつ There's a model where every kid gets $20,000.テつ I mean, all of those things are simply different models of throwing away the collegiate model of athletics.
The whole principle of the collegiate model of athletics is these are college students who play sports.テつ If they want to be professional athletes, those options are available to them and I would encourage them to pursue them and I hope they do well at them.

Q.テつ When you came in, some of the things you suggested were sliming down the rule book, that sort of thing.テつ Do you sense there's support for doing some of the things you were talking about, changing the rules about contact, that sort of thing?
PRESIDENT EMMERT:テつ Yes, absolutely.テつ In fact, the two working groups on rules and enforcement are continuing their work.テつ They'll report out to the board next month on their progress, which has been very substantial.
I suspect that by August, which is the next board meeting, there will be a lot of actionable items then.テつ The rewriting the rule book is an enormously complex task but they're making headway.テつ It's all geared to, in fact, eliminating the irrelevant, the unenforceable, the, frankly, silly issues that are in that rule book and focusing instead on things that are real threats to the integrity of college sports.
The work of the committee on enforcement that is coming up with new models for the penalty structure to have a more graded penalty system rather than just two categories, secondary and major, but do we need three or four categories.テつ They don't like it when I describe it this way, but to have something that looks like sentencing guidelines.テつ I use it because it makes sense to people.テつ And putting in place penalties that are closely aligned with the core values of integrity so that they are real deterrents to bad behavior.
This is all about providing fairness among all of the institutions.テつ We don't want our coaches or athletic directors or anyone else feeling like they're chumps because they're following the rules.テつ We want the landscape to be fair and we want it to support those people that are doing the right thing and provide constructive fear for people doing it the wrong way.
Those are moving along nicely.テつ I'm quite pleased with the progress so far.テつ Stay tuned.テつ

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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