Kansas City, Mo. NCAA president Mark Emmert made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s Big 12 spring meetings at the InterContinental Hotel near The Plaza.
In addition to updating the league’s athletic directors — and the media — on a laundry list of issues currently affecting the NCAA, the former University of Washington president took time to boast proudly about the conference that just one year ago seemed headed toward extinction.
“First of all, the presidents collectively made a commitment to stay together once the smoke cleared and the shouting died down,” Emmert said of the Big 12. “Bringing in (interim commissioner) Chuck (Neinas) was brilliant. He’s exactly the right kind of guy to have at that moment.... and they made a great hire in (new commissioner) Bob Bowlsby. That says a lot about their commitment to the future. Bob is a first-class guy. He’s extremely well respected and it sends another signal to the world, ‘We’re here to stay, we’re doing it the right way, we’ve got a leader that’s got great standards and values and he’s the guy for the future.’ I think the conference is in terrific shape. It’s a storied conference with some fabulous universities in the middle of it and it’s gonna thrive.”
Emmert’s unexpected visit was one of the highlights of the week for Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger.
“That was really a treat to be able to listen to him,” Zenger said of Emmert. “We, of course, have spent the last couple of days with both commissioners, Bob Bowlsby and Chuck Neinas, and between the three of them this has been a very memorable week of meetings.”
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the topics Emmert covered Thursday:
On the talk of a four-team playoff to determine college football’s national champion: “It would double the number of teams participating in a playoff, and that’s one thing I think everybody would appreciate. Again, how they decide who gets to play in those games is a decision that I don’t think there’s been a consensus on.”
On the status of conference realignment: “When people talk about the power conferences, whether it’s 60 or 64, whatever the number is, first of all, who would those schools be, and, obviously, you’d have to blow up the current conference alignments because not everybody in the current conferences would fit in. And then how do you put together a 12-game football schedule for that with only 64 teams and still try and have six wins? There’s a reason that there’s not 64 NFL teams.”
On if the power conferences could someday break off from the NCAA: “I don’t think that’s a realistic notion. I’m not saying that because I’m the president of the NCAA; I’d have said that if I was still the president at Washington.”
On television networks running the realignment show: “TV networks are in the business of making money. That’s their job. That’s their expectation. Their job is to run a successful business. A university president’s job is to run a successful university. Those are two very different things. Just because somebody dangles something in front of you that’s shiny and glittery doesn’t mean you have to grab it. I don’t hold the networks responsible for putting together a good business deal. I hold the university’s presidents and boards responsible for doing the right things for the universities.”
On whether he thinks the new Champions Bowl agreement between the Big 12 and SEC could begin a trend and if he likes that trend: “Yes. I think it’s rational.”