Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker to be next NCAA president

Updated at 1:57 p.m.

BOSTON -Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will be the next president of the NCAA, the association announced Thursday, replacing Mark Emmert as the head of the largest college sports governing body in the country.

Baker, a Republican, has been governor of Massachusetts since 2015. He announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election. His term ends in January and he will start is new job in March.

“The NCAA is confronting complex and significant challenges, but I am excited to get to work as the awesome opportunity college athletics provides to so many students is more than worth the challenge,” Baker said. “And for the fans that faithfully fill stadiums, stands and gyms from coast to coast, I am eager to ensure the competitions we all love to follow are there for generations to come.”

Emmert announced he would step down earlier this year after 12 years of leading the NCAA through a tumultuous time.

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Battered by losses in court and attacks by politicians, the NCAA is going through a sweeping reform, trying to decentralize the way college sports is run.

College sports leaders, including Emmert, have repeatedly asked for help from Congress to regulate name, image and likeness compensation since the NCAA lifted its ban in 2021 on athletes being paid endorsers.

Now the association will be led by a politician for the first time.

Baker was born un upstate New York, went to high school in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard, where he played on the junior varsity basketball team. That’s the extent of his personal experience in college sports.

The last two NCAA presidents, Emmert and the late Myles Brand, moved into the job after being university presidents.

Before that the job had typically been held by former college sports administrators.

But with the NCAA moving into a new phase and college sports becoming more professionalized, it was clear the role of the president of the association was also changing.

“Governor Baker has shown a remarkable ability to bridge divides and build bipartisan consensus, taking on complex challenges in innovative and effective ways,” said Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor and chairwoman of the NCAA Board of Governors. “These skills and perspective will be invaluable as we work with policymakers to build a sustainable model for the future of college athletics.”

Emmert and other college sports leaders have been spending ample time in recent years in Washington, hoping for a federal law to manage NIL and a narrow antitrust exemption for the NCAA.

The NCAA has been leaning on broad bylaws that outlaw recruiting inducements and pay-for-play to deal with NIL compensation, but detailed, uniform rules have been lacking. More than 30 states have passed their own NIL laws and it has resulted in a patchwork of regulations and hard-to-enforce rules.

More than a half dozen NIL bills have been proposed over the last two years, but none have gone anywhere. And some lawmakers has expressed a desire to dig into college sports beyond NIL, with topics like long-term health care and revenue sharing for athletes potential topics.

NCAA revenues have surpassed $1 billion in recent years, most of that coming from its media rights deal for the men’s Division I basketball tournament. The majority of the NCAA’s revenue is distributed back to its 1,100 member schools through their conferences.

There are also billions flowing into the major conferences that play big-time college football. The top-tier of Division I football operates mostly outside the NCAA, including the College Football Playoff that is on the verge of expanding from four teams to 12.

One of the challenges Baker will face as he step into the job of leading the NCAA is trying to figure out how major college football can still exist under the association’s umbrella.

During Emmert’s tenure, the NCAA increasingly found itself tangled in political debates. The NCAA pulled its championship events out of states over official use of the Confederate flag and made a similar move when state lawmakers moved to pull back protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

The NCAA became a target for some conservative politicians over its policies that allow transgender athletes to compete for national championships.

Baker will step in to lead an organization that has to determine how it wants to govern going forward.

Story recast for more reporting, comment through out

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