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NCAA president: Inquiries need to get facts right

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2010 1:15 p.m. MST

WASHINGTON — The new head of college sports thinks investigations such as that of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton should be done as quickly as possible — as long as the NCAA gets the facts correct.

"I want our people to be as efficient and expedited in the way they manage these things as possible, but at the same time, you've got to get the facts right. The burden of proof is higher than what it is for somebody who's writing in a blog," NCAA President Mark Emmert said Friday while taping a TV show that will air Monday on the Big Ten Network.

"You can write in a blog that, 'Gee, I think everyone knows that if there's smoke, there's fire.' Well, that's a great thing to say," Emmert continued. "But we have a burden of proof to demonstrate what are the real facts before we take to an infractions committee ... a recommendation that says, 'We think this has happened.'"

Emmert did not specifically address the case of Newton, a leading Heisman Trophy contender for the No. 2-ranked Tigers.

Newton's father, Cecil, reportedly sought money from Mississippi State when his son was being recruited.

"You're dealing with young people's careers and education. You're dealing with institutional reputations," Emmert said. "You're dealing with a process that is, by it's very nature, complicated."

He said the NCAA sometimes faces "serious challenges" when it comes to enforcement of its rules because it doesn't have subpoena power and "can't compel anyone to testify."

Asked about a series of recent-high profile cases involving college football players and improper contact with agents, Emmert wondered aloud about the possibility of allowing "interaction with agents in a way that's aboveboard, monitored by institutions."

Emmert made an analogy to doors opened for a college student who wants to be an accountant — summer internships, for example.

"But if a student comes to us and says, 'I want to be a professional athlete,' we immediately say, 'Well, you can't talk to anybody in that profession.' I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense," said Emmert, the former president of the University of Washington who took over as head of the NCAA last month.

During his appearance on "Expert Opinion with Graham Spanier," hosted by Penn State's president, Emmert touched on a variety of other topics, including:

—He said student-athletes "will never be paid as long as I'm president of the NCAA. Student-athletes are just that: They're 'student-athletes.' They're not employees of the university. ... It is grossly inappropriate for universities to even talk about paying student-athletes."

—He called "creeping commercialism" the biggest ethical issue facing college sports and noted: "We don't want intercollegiate athletics to just become the minor leagues for the professionals, as many people see them today."

—He said the low number of minorities who are college football head coaches — 15 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision coaches are minorities — is an issue he takes "very, very seriously" and the NCAA should "encourage university presidents and ADs and conferences to place an emphasis on it." Emmert also said he hopes "we're on the verge of seeing significant growth."

—He said he'd be willing to work with school presidents if they decided to change from the Bowl Championship Series format and move to a playoff in top-tier college football.

Addressing Spanier, Emmert said: "I'd be more than happy to work with you and your colleagues to put one in place, if that's what they want. It's not our job, though, to lead that charge and say, 'Oh, we have to move in that direction.' There's many people that like the BCS in higher education. There's, of course, many, many people out there in the world that don't. But for now, we're going to support that model and we're going to do what the membership wants."

Spanier, chairman of the BCS oversight committee, replied: "We don't really see an expanded role for the NCAA in that. And I don't anticipate any changes in the next several years, for sure — and maybe for longer after that."

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