NCAA announces Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as next president

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The NCAA has selected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker as its next president, succeeding Mark Emmert.

Baker, a Republican who has been governor since January 2015 but will finish his second term in January, will begin his new term on March 1. He played power forward for Harvard’s basketball team in the 1977–78 season, but had no prior collegiate administrative experience. He spent most of his career in Massachusetts state government but spent a decade in health care administration. Baker, 66, holds degrees from both Harvard and Northwestern.

In April, Emmert announced that he would resign. He has led the NCAA since November 2010, and in April 2021, his contract was extended through 2025. Emmert will remain in an advisory role until June. Baker said he believes he is joining the organization at a “pivotal” time for the NCAA, which is in the process of transforming the way it governs college sports because of political and legal challenges to its business model.

“I think it’s worth doing,” Baker said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “It’s big and complicated, but so I’ve done a lot of things in my life. Most of the time they’ve been absolutely worth doing.”

Linda Livingstone, chair of the NCAA’s board of governors and president of Baylor University, led the search for a new president along with six others, including former Duke standout basketball player Grant Hill, now co-owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Livingstone said Baker stood out as a candidate because of his track record of building bipartisan consensus at a time when the NCAA aims to “engage and motivate” Congress to craft federal legislation that would give the NCAA legal leeway to regulate how college athletes are compensated. . .

“We are excited to welcome Governor Charlie Baker to the NCAA and eager for him to begin his work with our organization,” Livingstone said in a statement. “Governor Baker has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to build bipartisan consensus and bridge divides by tackling complex challenges in innovative and effective ways. A former student-athlete himself, the husband of a former college gymnast, and the father of two former college football players, Governor Baker has served our student-athletes deeply committed to and enhancing their collegiate experience. These skills and perspectives will be invaluable as we work with policymakers to build a sustainable model for the future of college athletics.”

Baker’s background in politics and policy bolstered his candidacy, as the NCAA has faced several high-profile legal challenges in recent years. In 2021, the NCAA began allowing athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, but the rules vary between states as there is no federal policy despite the wishes of athletic directors and major conference commissioners. In a release announcing Baker’s appointment, the NCAA noted that “the unwieldy patchwork of individual state laws” limited his authority.

Baker told reporters Thursday that he wasn’t ready to dive into specifics about some of the specifics of rebuilding college sports, such as increased transfer between schools and allowing NCAA athletes to earn money. He said his goal will be, in part, to change that while preserving the portion of college sports that he believes is “truly one of the greatest human potential development organizations.”

Under Baker’s predecessor, Emmert, the NCAA began efforts to shift more power from its central national office in Indianapolis to individual divisions or conferences. Baker says he believes it suits his experience, having spent much of his career working on a “distributed decision-making model” of leadership.

“It’s about being the convener and collaborator of a very large organization that has many perspectives and trying to find places where people can come together, agree and make a case … about what’s the best way so that we don’t lose this gem going forward. I can’t.”

Baker, whose term as governor ends Jan. 5, said he plans to attend this year’s NCAA convention in mid-January so he can begin building relationships and developing a better understanding of the organization he will soon lead.

ESPN’s Dan Murphy contributed to this report

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