Indianapolis Myles Brand, a Brooklyn-born philosopher who didn't play organized sports after his freshman year, will become the most powerful man in intercollegiate athletics.
Best known outside Indiana as the man who fired Bob Knight, Brand has crusaded for tighter controls on college sports. In his new job as president of the NCAA, he believes he can balance both academics and athletics.
"I've had a lot of experience running large complex organizations," Brand said Friday, a day after the NCAA chose him to succeed the retiring Cedric Dempsey on Jan. 1. "I believe I can carry that experience over to the NCAA. While I have not been active in the NCAA itself, I certainly have been active in presidential associations and I've certainly been involved in sports on my campus and in the conference.
"So I'm not as naive or inexperienced as people think," he said. "However, I am a fast learner."
Brand, Indiana University's president since 1994, played high school sports and competed in basketball and lacrosse for part of his freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., more than 40 years ago.
"But I was not an accomplished student-athlete," the 60-year-old Brand said. "Although I enjoy physical activity, most especially the outdoors, I do not consider myself an accomplished athlete."
But that role as an outsider, someone whose background isn't closely related to sports, could make him an effective leader of a college organization beset by such divisive issues as eligibility, academic standards, graduation rates, professionalism and gender equity.
In April, the NCAA board of directors adopted reforms aimed at curtailing the trend of student-athletes forgoing college or leaving school early to play professional sports.
"This is an academic organization. It's associated with a central part of the collegiate scene, which is athletics," said David Frohnmayer, who succeeded Brand as president of the University of Oregon when he left for Indiana. "It's appropriate, at least on significant occasions, there be someone intimately familiar with, and an advocate of, the academic world.
"Myles is a national academic leader. His will be a very strong voice for the seriousness of purpose of the whole notion of presidential control of intercollegiate athletics," Frohnmayer said.
Brand, whose initial contract with the NCAA will run through 2007, came up through the traditional academic path, from dean to provost to president. He was chairman of the philosophy departments at Illinois-Chicago and Arizona. Later, he was coordinating dean of arts and sciences at Arizona, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ohio State and president at Oregon from 1989 to 1994.
Brand fired Knight for violating a "zero-tolerance" code by grabbing the arm of a student the coach said greeted him in a disrespectful manner.
Brand said he is not a micromanager.
"I intend to take a leadership role, to be a strong advocate with positive values of intercollegiate athletics," he said. "But let me assure you, most especially as I work with the executive committee and chancellors and presidents throughout the NCAA, I will work very hard to build a consensus."