The NCAA’s next president is coming straight out of politics.
On Thursday, the governing body announced that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, will replace Mark Emmert as president in March 2023. Though he hasn’t worked in college sports, Baker played basketball at Harvard before building a career both in the public and private sector.
“We know that to be successful, the NCAA president needs to possess the ability to balance competing priorities, inspire a shared vision, and create a broad sense of trust,” Grant Hill, a member of the NCAA Board of Governors and the presidential search committee, said in a statement. “As Governor of Massachusetts and a successful private sector CEO, Charlie Baker has demonstrated the type of results-oriented, bipartisan approach that we will need to bolster the well-being of student-athletes, realize the opportunities and overcome the challenges facing the NCAA.”
Baker’s hire signifies a major shift in priorities for the NCAA since the time it hired Mark Emmert, who served as chancellor at LSU and president at the University of Washington before assuming the NCAA role in 2010. Baker’s background as both a governor and CEO of a healthcare nonprofit makes perfect sense, however, given that the NCAA has arguably had to navigate more legal and political issues than ever before — and that it looks more like a business these days than an educational institution.
In the last year alone, the NCAA has spent significant funds lobbying in Congress for a name, image, and likeness bill, and it suffered a 9-0 loss in the Supreme Court case NCAA v. Alston, which found that the NCAA illegally capped non-education related benefits.
Baker will be tasked with guiding the NCAA through significant changes. The NCAA is in the process of re-orienting rules within each division after it ratified a new constitution in January. It’s facing legal challenges to its decades-old amateurism model, and increasing scrutiny from Congress.
“The NCAA is confronting complex and significant challenges, but I am excited to get to work as the awesome opportunity college athletics provides to so many students is more than worth the challenge,” Baker said in a statement.
The news comes several months after the NCAA announced that President Mark Emmert would step down by June 30, 2023. The NCAA said it asked for feedback from more than 300 “individual NCAA stakeholders.” In September, it posted a job description that exceeded 2,000 words with the help of search firm TurnkeyZRG.
Emmert, for his part, will still consult for the NCAA until the end of June.
Editor’s note: This story will be updated.