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NCAA troubles have critics seeking changes at top

Michael Marot

The Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10 2013 6:45 p.m. MDT

In this Jan. 17, 2013 file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks at the organization's annual convention in Grapevine, Texas. Emmert spent 2 and a half years trying to speed up the legislative process, push historic reforms and get tougher on cheaters. It's only created more problems. Today, he presides over a governing body that struggles to maintain credibility with the public, is tied up in court and tainted by an embarrassing internal scandal.

LM Otero, AP

Enlarge photo»

INDIANAPOLIS — NCAA President Mark Emmert has spent 2 years trying to push through historic reforms and get tougher on cheaters.

It's only created more problems.

Today, Emmert presides over an organization that is struggling to maintain credibility with the public, is tied up in multiple court cases and is tainted by an embarrassing internal scandal. He has been criticized for his governing style and personality. There have been questions surrounding the work he did in previous jobs and whether he overstepped his authority in punishing Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He drew fire for pinning blame for the debacle in the Miami investigation on enforcement officials and some question whether he should lead the NCAA through its next major overhaul — fixing the governance structure.

Critics contend there is only way to only one way to restore the NCAA's tattered image: Find a new president.

"He should have been gone yesterday, as far as I'm concerned," said Gerald Gurney, Oklahoma's senior associate athletic director for academics and a former compliance director at Maryland. "He's absolutely unable to get anything through the NCAA system. Every time one of his proposals is voted down, that's like a vote of no confidence. If he can't get his ideas across to membership, he ought to leave."

Emmert has ignored the growing calls for his resignation and he doesn't sound like a man planning to leave any time soon.

In February, the board of directors gave the embattled president an unusual public vote of confidence. A few days later, NCAA executive committee chairwoman Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State's president, offered her personal backing. Emmert took those moves as an endorsement of his agenda, so that's been his primary concern over the last 5 months.

"I've certainly not considered resigning and I've always felt that I had the good, strong support of my board and my executive committee. As long as we continue to make progress on behalf of student-athletes, then I want to be part of that," Emmert told The Associated Press. "Have I done things in ways that were inappropriate or frustrated people by mistakes I have made? Of course. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop doing these things. That's not the way I operate."

The public perception is that Emmert is in charge of a college sports world spinning out of control while the governing body tries to dig out from one of the bleakest 13-month spans in its history.

There were the salacious scandals at Penn State and Miami, reports of academic fraud at Auburn and North Carolina and now charges that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel violated NCAA rules by selling autographs. The Miami case was particularly damaging — with the NCAA afoul of its own guidelines in investigating Nevin Shapiro's allegations, many fans started asking if anybody could play by the rules?

Emmert's push for speedy reforms has also been dramatically slowed.

The optional four-year scholarship he supported barely survived an override vote last year. The Emmert-backed $2,000 stipend did not. An override petition in December 2011 ended the opportunity to give athletes money above and beyond the cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees. Emmert has repeatedly said there would be a new proposal, though none has been offered. The rule-book rewrite hasn't gone as quickly or been quite as far-reaching as hoped, either.

Meanwhile, a group of current and former athletes led by Ed O'Bannon is suing the NCAA for allowing their images and likenesses to be used in a video game. If the athletes win, the amateurism rules policing college sports may never be the same. Another federal lawsuit accuses the NCAA of being lax in establishing clear policies regarding concussions.

Legal observers believe the NCAA could lose either case or both with payouts potentially costing millions.

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