Emmert, a former University of Washington president, held a testy news conference to defend his professional history and the NCAA.
ATLANTA — NCAA President Mark Emmert spent 15 minutes documenting the progress that the organization has made under his leadership, from making sure students go to class to fighting corruption.
Then he spent the next half-hour defending his record during an often-contentious news conference Thursday that took a bit of the glow off the Final Four.
Emmert, the former president of the University of Washington, defiantly shrugged off his critics, insisting that anyone pushing for significant reform is going to rub some people the wrong way.
“The fact of the matter is that change is what we’re about in the NCAA right now,” he said, “and we’re trying to work our way through some very, very difficult changes to make the whole notion of intercollegiate athletics strong and viable going into the second century of the NCAA and of college sport.”
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On his way off the podium, Emmert even took a parting shot at a reporter who has called for his dismissal.
“I know you’re disappointed,” the president said with a sly grin, “but I’m still here.”
The NCAA has come under fire for botching the investigation into a rogue booster at Miami, and there have been complaints about the way the governing body handled other cases, such as the harsh sanctions leveled against Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Emmert has acknowledged that investigators overstepped their authority in their zeal to collect information against Miami.
“The Miami issue had some enormous foul-ups in it,” he said. “We’ve addressed those issues.”
Still, the organization faces about a half-dozen legal challenges to the way it does business, including a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania. He believes the NCAA overstepped its authority when it imposed sanctions against Penn State over its handling of the Sandusky case, based largely on a scathing internal review led by former FBI chief Louis Freeh.
“If you’re not getting sued today, you’re not doing anything,” Emmert said. “I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have litigation pending, so I’m not going to apologize for the fact that we have a very litigious society and there’s plenty of reasons to file suit against large organizations.”
Emmert also was asked about a report from USA Today Sports that accused him of shirking responsibility for problems in previous jobs at Connecticut, LSU and Montana State. The newspaper said Emmert had a pattern of moving on to more lucrative posts before the full extent of problems at his previous posts were known. He has served as NCAA president since November 2010.
“The fact of the matter is that everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been asked by boards or other bosses to help drive change,” he said. “I’m very proud of the changes that have been made at every place I’ve been along the way. They’re all institutions that have wonderful traditions.”
Emmert started his state-of-the-NCAA news conference by going into great detail about all the changes that have occurred on his watch, many of them designed to toughen academic standards while streamlining the rule book to eliminate confusing guidelines and put the focus on more heinous offenses, such as paying players or fixing grades.
“It is also the time of year when we get to focus on what we’re supposed to focus on in this whole enterprise, and that’s the student-athletes,” he said, praising the city of Atlanta for its Final Four preparations and reveling in the unpredictability of the tournament, which included No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast winning two games and ninth-seeded Wichita State earning a spot in the Final Four along with Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who is also on the NCAA basketball committee, insisted that Emmert has the full confidence of the membership despite the recent missteps and negative publicity.
win AP awards
ATLANTA — Trey Burke, the sophomore point guard who led Michigan to the Final Four, was selected The Associated Press’ college basketball player of the year, while Miami coach Jim Larranaga was selected as the AP’s coach of the year.
Burke joins Cazzie Russell in 1966 as the only Michigan players to win the award. The Big Ten player of the year, Burke was Michigan’s leader and averaged 19.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown was second with 16 votes and Victor Oladipo of Indiana got 10.
Larranaga led Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles and a No. 2 ranking. The 63-year-old coach had a 29-7 record in his second season with the Hurricanes and they were made a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Mark Few of Gonzaga finished third with 11 votes, behind Jim Crews of Saint Louis.
Memphis forward-guard Adonis Thomas plans to forego his final two seasons with the Tigers to sign with an agent and declare for the NBA draft.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Thomas was a McDonald’s All-American in 2011 coming out of Melrose High in Memphis.
• Western Kentucky announced that former Hilltoppers assistant Jake Morton has resigned as director of basketball operations.
The NCAA in February said Morton committed three recruiting violations as a Miami assistant between October 2008 and April 2009.
The sports’ governing body also said he accepted at least $6,000 in supplemental income from felon and Miami booster Nevin Shapiro between October 2007 and October 2008.
School spokesman Michael Schroeder said Thursday that Morton resigned “to pursue coaching opportunities.”
• Iowa State assistant coach Jeff Rutter is leaving the Cyclones to join the staff of former Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti at Drake.
NIT Championship game
Pierre Jackson had his fourth straight double-double with 17 points and 10 assists to lead Baylor to the first National Invitation Tournament title in school history with a 74-54 win over Iowa on Thursday night. Cory Jefferson scored 23 points and Isaiah Austin had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bears (23-14), who reached the tournament final five years ago, but never had won it before. Mike Gesell led Iowa (25-13) with 13 points and Aaron White had 12.