Emmert and the vacancy


Mark Emmert

Let’s see now, once again: A large part of the rationale behind paying university presidents such ever-increasing salaries is the concern that if they weren’t so paid, that they might leave if they turned out to be good in their job . . .

So here we are, as University of Washington President Mark Emmert, who has gotten a good deal of praise over the last several years (and surely deserved it for his strong fundraising skills, another other positives), and was given a compensation package amounting to $906,500 . . . splits for a new job, as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

You could say of Emmert, fairly, that the fact such a major national organization scooped him up says something about his reputation as a university president. But the practical reality is that a super-intensive (and expensive) search effort won’t guarantee a great president, and high pay won’t either do that or make a good one stay.

In this case, the departure does look linked to the fiscal cuts UW has taken in the last few years. While Emmert has maintained a firmly diplomatic face for the institution, his wife has let loose with what sounds like dinner-table conversation at the Emmerts’, as in this from an e-mail to House Speaker Frank Chopp: “It [UW] had bigger cuts than any University in the country, including in California! The state is starving your district’s golden goose and yet you DON’T even mention it as a concern?!!!! … I need to know why you do not seem to care.”

None of this showed up in any of the official statements by Emmert, the board of regents, state officials or the NCAA – none of them would have any interest in saying so now. But you wonder: Might Emmert have simply decided to hang in at UW if the funding picture for the next few years looked a little brighter?

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