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Under Emmert, NCAA has sunk deeper, lost even more credibility


Mark Emmert has not even reached his anniversary in his job as president of the NCAA, but his tenure already resembles the voyage of the Titanic. In fairness, Emmert inherited a pigsty that has grown increasingly worse on his watch. He has attempted Glasnost -- a change from former leaders. Still, for Emmert's sake, it's a good thing he's only president of the NCAA. If he were in charge of a Fortune 500 company, the company's stock would be plummeting and Emmert would be on his way to the unemployment line.

Like most self-righteous academicians, Emmert has an answer for every problem. He learned this from his old boss and mentor at Colorado, E. Gordon Gee (now the chief obfuscator at Ohio State). You may remember Gee's comical proclamation in March: "I just hope the coach [Coach Jim Tressel] doesn't dismiss me.''

When the ivory tower boys are in trouble, they either call for a fancy retreat or foam at the mouth. There has been a lot of both lately.

Instead of being honest about the cesspool he swims in daily, Emmert's game lately has been to run off to ESPN for another doleful defense of the indefensible -- the state of college athletics.

It's too bad Oprah quit because I can't think of a better forum for Emmert and his crocodile tears and vapid promises.

Today should be a glorious day for fans of college athletics. After a long hot summer, football is finally back. But the start of the season is marred by the stains of the scandals that dominated the offseason.

Emmert held a summit last month in Indianapolis and it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, before the Sauvignon Blanc and Graddost had been served to the bow-tie crowd that runs institutions of higher learning, another series of nine-alarm fires had erupted. First, we had the scorching of the Miami football program with suspensions and talk of the death penalty. Then, there was Texas A&M defecting to the SEC, Bruce Pearl's show-cause penalty and countless revelations concerning Tressel's debauchery at Ohio State.

Within moments of each, Emmert trotted out a well thought out response. Most have fallen flat. Emmert came in just 10 months ago with so much hope and vision, some thought he'd bring a fresh face to a bloated bureaucracy. Unfortunately he has turned into another empty suit.

Of all of Emmert's recent missteps, perhaps, the most comical concerned Danny Sheridan, the sports analyst from USA Today. Sheridan created a stir recently saying he knew the name of the alleged "bagman'' who the NCAA suspects gave the money to Cecil Newton in order to get his son to Auburn. Emmert was asked specifically about Sheridan's claim on a radio interview and he signaled his organization would be interested in talking to Sheridan. The next day, an NCAA investigator contacted Sheridan through his attorney and the game was on, culminating in a one-hour conversation on Aug. 24. Before Sheridan hung up the phone with two NCAA officials, the two sides had agreed to keep the contents of the discussion quiet.

Sheridan refused to discuss the details two days later in an appearance on ESPN's Outside the Lines (full disclosure: I was also a guest). However, upon dogged questioning by host Bob Ley as to whether his sources are at the NCAA, Sheridan said yes. No revelation there as Sheridan had already publicly stated countless times before, but it apparently pushed Emmert to the edge.

Within two hours, the organization -- whose two favorite word are "no comment'' -- unleashed a stink bomb on Sheridan, attempting to shred his credibility. But Emmert's gang forgot there are some people who don't have to bow down to the NCAA's tactics. Sheridan fired back, eviscerating the NCAA's statement, calling it "total propaganda and absolute misrepresentation of the facts ... For the NCAA to claim I did anything else is specious, deceitful, disingenuous and completely false. I will be happy to take a polygraph test on these specific issues and challenge them to do so as well.''

It's a safe bet the NCAA won't take Sheridan up on his offer, although it would make for a great final act on ESPN's College GameDay. Imagine Lee Corso putting on the Danny Sheridan fathead to the roar of the crowd.

It's a sad state of affairs in college athletics. The organization that will easily -- and without a conscience -- destroy a coach for not following the letter of the antediluvian rule book or take away a young man's eligibility because of an honest mistake has literally made it up as it goes along.

Meanwhile, the man behind the curtain, Mark Emmert, smiles for the cameras in his shiny suit as his organization and its credibility and integrity seemingly go up in smoke.