Leave it to our high-minded Washingtonians to set about fixing the NCAA by plopping down Mark Emmert at a varnished wooden table for three hours and flogging him with tones of outrage and ridicule.
Sure, the NCAA has richly deserved its blitzkrieg of PR dents during recent years, but taking a pummeling from a bunch of Capitol Hill caretakers with an 8-percent approval rating? (Next up: Comcast rips Delta for poor customer service.)
Emmert couldn’t have been treated worse had he shown up wearing an Ed O’Bannon throwback and handing out bumper stickers that read “Concussions Ain’t My Problem.” As senators piled on about the NCAA’s reluctance to upend its business model by sharing profits with student-athletes and their families, you wondered how much hypocrisy Emmert could stand. Here’s a tip for future committee members: Commence lecturing on how to run a business only after you’ve solved the nation’s $680 billion deficit.
Look, these hearings—at least the ones that receive coverage—are made for the sound bites and dramatic accusations, with elected officials brandishing their prosecutorial lines for the cameras. Some lean so farcical they force guys like Sammy Sosa to completely forget English.
Perhaps the only enlightening outcome at the NCAA hearing was a survey revealing that 30 percent of public colleges allow athletic departments to have oversight of sexual violence cases involving student-athletes. That’s so nonsensical and alarming it would have been jaw-dropping at 1 percent. A revelation so disturbing and wide-ranging the Senate committee wanted it remedied by nightfall.
“You’ve got to fix that right away,” declared New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte. “The athletic department is not where you handle these allegations, Dr. Emmert. Walk out the door and fix that.”
Ayotte might as well have sent Victoria Beckham out the door to fix England’s soccer team, showing a deep misunderstanding of Emmert’s power to influence campus-policy of some 1,079 college presidents.
Even Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who commissioned the study, proved ignorant of Emmert’s purview and the rule-making bureaucracy of the NCAA: “I can’t tell whether you are in charge or whether you are a minion to the schools and college presidents. … And if you have no control, if you’re merely a monetary go-through, why should you even exist?”
That should have been Emmert’s cue to remind McCaskill, “I’m here because you called me.”
While we applaud McCaskill for exposing data on the questionable handling of sexual assault investigations, her report inexplicably chose to obscure individual responses from colleges. (Let fly the FOIAs …)
The closest thing to a reasonable call-to-action came from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, himself a former Stanford running back, who said: “We need another hearing, with the real rule makers, the college presidents.”
Soon-to-retire West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller also was a prominent stager in the hearing, though he delved into areas of conference realignment that seemed better suited for sports-talk radio.
On the specific topic of WVU joining the Big 12, Rockefeller asked Emmert: “West Virginians who are not high-income, or even moderate-income, cannot go to any games out in the southwest, but West Virginia University surely makes a ton of money from it. … Is that right? Is that fair? Is that progressive?”
About as progressive as a government that, given the litany of serious issues requiring attention, prioritizes the convenience of a fan’s road trip to watch a college football game.
As the hearing concluded, Rockefeller opined, “My real feeling from this is that we haven’t accomplished much,” borrowing the precise words that could be used to adjourn most sessions of Congress.