INDIANAPOLIS – University of Washington president Mark A. Emmert became the NCAA’s new chief executive on Tuesday, ending the search that began in November.
Emmert succeeds Myles Brand, who died last September from pancreatic cancer. Brand was the first ex-university president to lead college sports’ largest governing body and the first chief executive to die in office. Jim Isch has served as interim president since Sept. 22 and will continue to do so for the next several months.
Emmert will begin his duties Nov. 1. NCAA officials said Emmert was given a five-year contract.
It was a surprise choice.
Early front-runners were University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, Georgia president Michael Adams, and NCAA executive Bernard Franklin.
But the NCAA decided to go in a different direction, opting for a man they thought could deliver the organization’s message effectively in any venue.
Executive committee chairman Ed Ray, the Oregon president who knew Emmert from his days at Washington, said the initial list of nearly 100 candidates was whittled to 32, then to a handful of finalists who were interviewed Tuesday afternoon.
At about 5 p.m. Indianapolis time, Ray called Emmert and offered him the job.
Emmert became Washington’s 30th president in June 2004. He is one of the highest-paid public college presidents in the nation. He came to Seattle from LSU, where he was chancellor.
A native of Fife, Wash., Emmert graduated from Washington in 1975 with a degree in political science. He received his master’s degree in 1976 and his doctorate in 1983, both in public administration from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.
He also has a passion for sports.
In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Emmert said Washington’s performance in the NCAA basketball tournaments was one of the highlights of his year.
“That was a pleasure and a delight to watch,” he said.
When asked about suggestions by some that participation in the NCAA tournament should include an academic requirement, Emmert bragged about the academic abilities of Washington’s student-athletes. He said most of the university’s athletes outperform the rest of the student body academically.
Emmert has been a master at building alumni support and fundraising. During his tenure, the university completed its most successful fundraising campaign in history, raising more than $2.68 billion.