A rare surprise announcement from the NCAA came out on Tuesday: President Mark Emmert would be stepping down in June of next year or whenever they find his replacement, whichever comes first. Emmert’s departure was described as a “mutual decision”, whatever that truly means, but it will leave one of the most powerful positions in college sports, if not the most reviled, open in relatively short order.
It didn’t take long for a familiar name to pop up as a potential candidate for the job: Washington State University president Kirk Schultz. His name came up just one week after it appeared in many circles as a candidate for the Big 12 Commissioner opening.
Schulz was connected to both openings for a reason. He spent seven years at Kansas State University (in the Big 12!), serving on the NCAA Executive Committee and is currently the Pac-12 representative on the College Football Playoff Board of Managers. He has a long history of serving in athletics capacities and is well regarded for his competency in that area.
After the school shot down Schulz’s interested in the Big 12 opening last week, someone closer to home did that for the NCAA opening today:
We’ll take that as a fairly definitive “thanks but no thanks” from Dr. Schulz’s wife, Dr. Noel Schulz, who also serves as an engineering professor at WSU.
Schulz himself confirmed it a short time later.
I want to address speculation about my candidacy for the upcoming NCAA opening: pic.twitter.com/nlBhjInkJj— WSU Office of the President (@WSU_Cougar_Pres) April 27, 2022
We’ve said it here before but leaving aside the academic side of things at WSU (which is really what a president should focus on, admittedly), having Schulz in place left us confident that no matter the issues facing athletics, they’d be ably guided through it. Had Pat Chun departed WSU last year when he reportedly interviewed or was at least a candidate for several jobs, the blow would’ve been lessened by having Schulz in charge of hiring a replacement.
From the outset, it also just didn’t pass the smell test. If Schulz, who turns 59 this year, wasn’t interested in the Big 12 job, he also almost certainly wouldn’t be interested in the most stressful and more thankless job of running the NCAA. Given where he is career and age wise, Schulz’s current gig certainly seems like his last one and it’s likely his as long as he wants it. So why leave that for a job that, while it would pay better, would certainly be orders of magnitude worse in almost every conceivable way? It didn’t make sense.
Where the NCAA goes after Emmert is anyone’s guess. We know now though that they won’t be giving Kirk Schulz a call.