NCAA taps Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as next president, succeeding Mark Emmert

The NCAA has chosen Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as its next president, succeeding Mark Emmert. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Baker, 66, will assume the role on March 1, 2023. His second term as governor ends Jan. 5, 2023; he did not run for re-election.
  • In April 2022, the NCAA announced that Emmert would step down by the summer of 2023 at the latest, characterizing such a decision as a “mutual agreement.”
  • Emmert is winding down an NCAA tenure that spanned more than 12 years. He will serve in an advisory role until June 2023.

Backstory

Emmert’s tenure will largely be remembered as a time of seismic shifts in the collegiate model, as the NCAA’s overall influence began to wane significantly and various lawsuits challenged the organization’s business practices.

Those in and out of college athletics have been critical of Emmert and the NCAA’s overall ability to lead in areas such as name, image and likeness (NIL) reform. The Supreme Court’s resounding 9-0 ruling against the NCAA in the Alston case will also be a lasting legacy of Emmert’s.

The announcement that Emmert would step down came less than a year after the NCAA’s Board of Governors — the organization’s highest governing body — extended Emmert through 2025. That extension received immediate backlash from administrators on campus and in conference offices. Emmert’s subsequent move to step down was set amid broader efforts to decentralize and reform the NCAA governance model.

“With the significant transitions underway within college sports, the timing of this decision provides the association with consistent leadership during the coming months plus the opportunity to consider what will be the future role of the president,” Georgetown president John J. DeGioia said in a statement in April. “It also allows for the selection and recruitment of the next president without disruption.”

The search presidential committee hoped to have its new president hired and announced before January’s annual NCAA convention. The convention will take place in San Antonio the week of Jan. 9, 2023.

The role of the NCAA president is one of the highest paid and most difficult administrative jobs in college athletics, one that came open at a time in which the future of the college athletic enterprise has never been more uncertain and in an increasingly litigious environment. For that reason, the search was a broad one, encompassing leaders in industries outside of college athletics — including those with political experience.

baker’s background

Baker, 66, has served as the governor of Massachusetts since January 2015, a Republican governor in a largely Democratic state. Although his hire is unconventional—he was not a sitting university president or college athletic administrator—it also highlights the importance of political expertise for an entity that has sought assistance from federal lawmakers, particularly around issues regarding name, image and likeness. The NCAA has taken a largely hands-off approach to NIL regulation due to antitrust concerns and pressure from both the courts and Congress. For years Emmert and other prominent college athletic leaders have pushed for a federal NIL law and/or antitrust exemption from Congress.

Those involved in the presidential search noted Baker’s history of “successfully forging bipartisan solutions to complex problems,” which led them to believe he was “uniquely suited to the NCAA’s present needs.”

Baker is a graduate of Harvard, where he was a member of the men’s varsity basketball team. His wife, Lauren, was a collegiate gymnast at Northwestern, and two of his children played sports in college as well.

“Governor Baker has shown a remarkable ability to bridge divides and build bipartisan consensus, taking on complex challenges in innovative and effective ways,” Baylor president Linda Livingstone, the chair of the NCAA’s Board of Governors who led the presidential search committee, said in a statement. “As a former student-athlete himself, husband to and father of two former student-athletes, Governor Baker is passionate about ensuring that student-athletes receive the support they need to study and compete in a fair, inclusive, and fulfilling environment. These skills and perspective will be invaluable as we work with policymakers to build a sustainable model for the future of college athletics.”

(Picture: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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