NCAA President Mark Emmert has begun to sense that something's wrong with the way the NCAA is doing its business. Or maybe he's just really good at public relations.
In PBS' damning "Money and March Madness" segment from earlier this week, Emmert told the program that the NCAA would never compromise the ideal of the student-athlete. But now, if not entirely committed to any particular solution, he's at least acknowledged there's a problem.
From USA Today:
"The sooner, the better," Emmert says. "I will make it clear that I want this to be a subject we explore."
Of course, he also stressed that he's not promising any actual changes--just that it will be discussed at the next NCAA meeting. In other words, at a time when the NCAA is coming under fire from economists, journalists, former athletes, HBO sports, and even PBS, the president of the NCAA has boldly stepped forward to say, "We'll think about it soon."
Depending on your perspective, it's either sincere interest in fixing the problem, or a stunt to distract people from the PR firestorm that's engulfing the NCAA on the eve of the Final Four. But either way, with star college players earning millions for their schools every year, it's not like this is going to magically disappear. The most poignant part of USA Today's piece came here:
Two Sunday nights ago, standout sophomore Derrick Williams hit a dramatic, stumbling drive to the basket in the closing seconds of Arizona's NCAA tournament game against Texas, tying the score. With the crowd roaring in Tulsa's BOK Center, he stepped to the foul line and added the free throw that beat the Longhorns and lifted the Wildcats into the Sweet 16.
Such moments are the lifeblood of the tournament, and they carry well-defined financial stakes. Williams' decisive foul shot was worth more than $1.4 million for Arizona and its Pacific 10 Conference co-members ... With another win over defending champion Duke five nights later, Arizona earned another $1 million-plus.
Not to mention... A few weeks earlier, when Arizona won the Pac-10 title, their coach, Sean Miller, got a $50,000 bonus. Had the Wildcats made the Final Four, he would have gotten another $300,000. Just by making the Elite Eight, Arizona made millions for every team in the Pac-10. The NCAA will make more than $700 million from their NCAA Tournament TV deal this year.
And the Arizona players get nothing.
So, sure. It's nice to see Mark Emmert changing his tune after PBS' documentary, but at this point, it's probably time for the NCAA to put their money where there PR-conscious mouth is.