NCAA President Mark Emmert retires no later than 2023.

RALPH D. RUSSO

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — NCAA President Mark Emmert is stepping down after 12 turbulent years at the helm of an association that has become increasingly marginalized as college sports undergo massive change and come under political and legal attack.

NCAA Board of Governors Chairman John DeJoya announced the move on Tuesday and said it was by mutual agreement. Emmert, 69, will continue in office until a new president takes office or until June 30, 2023.

This move is not a complete surprise. The NCAA remains the largest governing body in college athletics, but has been heavily criticized for years as too heavy-handed and even outdated with Emmert as the main target.

Emmert led the NCAA during the most transformational period in the organization’s more than 100-year history. Over the past decade, athletes have gained more power, benefits and opportunities to make money than ever before. Dilettantism received a new definition.

But some see Emmert not as a catalyst for change, but as a roadblock—or at least reactive rather than proactive.

“Throughout my tenure, I have emphasized the need to focus on student-athlete experiences and priorities,” Emmert said in an NCAA press release. “I am very proud of the association’s work over the past 12 years and am especially pleased with the hard work and dedication of the national office staff here in Indianapolis.”

The announcement comes a year after the board of directors approved an extension to Emmert’s contract through 2025, leaving many in college sports baffled. Emmert’s 2021 salary was nearly $3 million.

The NCAA has suffered a string of devastating legal losses over the past decade, peaking with last year’s 9-0 Supreme Court ruling against the association in an antitrust case. This decision undermined the NCAA’s ability to govern college sports and led to a complete overhaul of its operation.

Years after losing an antitrust case over the NCAA’s use of athletes’ names, likenesses, and likenesses, the association finally changed its rules last June to allow athletes to profit as paid sponsors and endorsers. The move came only after state legislators passed laws that would limit the powers of the NCAA. Because Congress is unwilling to provide federal protection, the NCAA cannot regulate the NIL through uniform rules, drawing new criticism.

Over the past two years, Emmert has been repeatedly called before lawmakers in Washington. The attacks on Emmert and the NCAA were one of the few things that brought Democrats and Republicans together in these turbulent political times.

Emmert was appointed to this position in April 2010. Prior to taking office in Indianapolis, he directed the University of Washington and LSU. He replaced Miles Brand, who held the position for seven years before dying of cancer in 2009.

The job Emmert took on grew increasingly complex as major college sports such as major college football and basketball grew into billions of dollars of business.

NCAA revenue reached over $1 billion a year under Emmert, mostly through television deals for the men’s college basketball tournament, and most of the money is redistributed to over 1,100 member schools employing nearly 500,000 athletes.

However, the disparity between what the richest schools bring in and what the vast majority of schools spend on sports makes it difficult for them to coexist within the same umbrella organization.

NCAA member schools adopted a new constitution in January and are in the process of “transforming structure and mission to meet future needs.”

“Given the significant changes taking place in college sports, the timing of this decision provides the association with consistent leadership in the coming months, as well as an opportunity to reflect on what the future role of the president will be,” DeGioia said. “It also allows for the seamless selection and hiring of the next president.”

In a lengthy interview with the AP in August, just months after the NCAA was criticized for failing to level the playing field and amenities for male and female basketball players competing in Division I tournaments, Emmert said he remains passionate about the mission of leading collegiate sports in turbulent times.

“And I’m not surprised people say, ‘You know why this isn’t being fixed? What is Emmert doing?” he told AP. “And people too, they want to look at someone and say, “Well, fix it, damn it!” And I understand it. I understand. And I sometimes say it in front of the mirror. But the truth is that it is a very complex system. I think we need to find ways to fix it and optimize it.”

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo on and listen on

___

More American Football AP: and