The president of the N.C.A.A., Mark Emmert, received a contract extension on Tuesday, a striking vote of confidence in a longtime executive as the governing body of college sports is under intense scrutiny and facing widespread demands for changes.
The association’s Board of Governors, whose membership largely includes university presidents and chancellors, voted during a private meeting on Tuesday to lengthen Emmert’s deal, which will now run through the end of 2025. Although the N.C.A.A. said in a statement that the vote was unanimous, it announced little about the terms of Emmert’s revised contract.
But the vote will come as a surprise in many quarters of the college sports industry. Over just the last month or so, Emmert has faced accusations that the N.C.A.A. had chronically relegated women’s basketball players to substandard conditions and treated their sport as inferior to the men’s game.
And the N.C.A.A. has been struggling mightily over the question of whether student-athletes should be able to profit off their fame. A handful of state laws challenging the N.C.A.A.’s existing rules are scheduled to take effect this summer, and the association has so far been unable to persuade Congress to intervene and impose uniform rules nationwide.
Emmert, a veteran university administrator, became the N.C.A.A.’s president in 2010. But while Emmert has come under sustained criticism, the board’s decision to renew his contract will assure some stability atop the N.C.A.A.
Just last week, the White House said that President Biden had decided to nominate Donald M. Remy, the N.C.A.A.’s second-ranking executive, to serve as the deputy secretary of veterans affairs. Several other executives have also left the N.C.A.A. or its Washington lobbying operation in recent months.
All the while, questions have swirled over how long Emmert might remain in his job, for which he earned more than $2.6 million in 2018, the most recent year for which the association’s tax returns were publicly available. Even though Emmert has frustrated and outraged a mix of conference commissioners, athletic directors, players, coaches and fans, he has remained a favorite of board members, some of whom have recently expressed unqualified support for him.
Now he will have to try to steer the N.C.A.A. through one of the most consequential periods in its history. Beyond the defiance from statehouses around the issue of athletes’ ability to benefit from the use of their names, images and likenesses, the Supreme Court is considering the N.C.A.A.’s appeal in a crucial antitrust case, with a ruling expected in the coming months.
The N.C.A.A. is also the subject of a review over gender inequities that it commissioned after players and coaches at the Division I women’s basketball tournament used social media to show poorly equipped facilities, which sharply contrasted with the well-stocked options at the men’s competition before the events began in March. The findings of that inquiry, which a prominent civil rights lawyer is leading, are expected to be made public later this year.
And Emmert must still contend with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been particularly detrimental to the N.C.A.A.’s finances after it canceled major events last year, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Even after recouping $270 million from insurance and ordering drastic budget cuts, the association reported that it had lost nearly $56 million in its 2020 fiscal year.
But in an interview with The New York Times this year, Emmert, who had recently turned 68, said he had no intention of stepping away from a job ahead of the end of his contract, which was then set to expire in 2023.
“As long as I’m convinced, and, more importantly, my board is convinced, that I can make a positive contribution and provide good leadership, I like working,” he said on a Saturday night in January. “I enjoy doing this. Obviously, I’ve got my frustrations, but I have no interest in moving away from this anytime soon as long as I’m contributing and get to do something important for college athletics.”
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