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Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 will serve as the next president of the NCAA, the association announced in a press release Thursday morning.
Baker will finish his second term as governor on Jan. 5, 2023, before succeeding outgoing NCAA president Mark A. Emmert in March 2023, according to the release. Emmert, who announced in April that he would step down as president, will work as a consultant for the NCAA through June 2023.
The NCAA’s selection of Baker is an unconventional choice for an association that selected its past few leaders from within the ranks of university presidents and administrators. Unlike most who have served as NCAA president, Baker does not have any professional experience in higher education.
Baker, a former Harvard basketball player, said in the release that he is “honored to become the next president of the NCAA.”
“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.
Harvard Athletics Director Erin McDermott congratulated Baker on behalf of Harvard Athletics in a statement Thursday.
“His leadership style reflects his background as a basketball player and teammate,” McDermott wrote. “Having a highly respected governor and former student-athlete at the helm will provide dynamic leadership for collegiate athletics.”
Baker, who is a Republican, first won the Massachusetts gubernatorial election in 2014 and was successfully elected to a second term in 2018. Democrat Maura T. Healey ’92 will succeed Baker in the state’s top post after he declined to run for a third term despite being one of the most popular governors in the nation, according to a 2022 Morning Consult poll.
Linda A. Livingstone, president of Baylor University and chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, said in a press release that Baker “has shown a remarkable ability to bridge divides and build bipartisan consensus.”
More tributes to Baker poured in from current and former Harvard coaches on Thursday following news of his selection to helm the NCAA.
Tommy Amaker, head coach of the Harvard men’s basketball team, wrote in a statement Thursday that he is “personally AND professionally thrilled and proud for what this selection means for the direction and the future of college athletics.”
“Governor Baker has always led with class and character and has made extraordinary contributions in his life of public service,” Amaker wrote. “At this pivotal and unprecedented moment in the history of college athletics, we are truly fortunate to have him as our future leader.”
Frank McLaughlin, who coached Baker during an eight-year tenure as Harvard men’s basketball coach, said he was “thrilled” by Baker’s selection, calling it one of the “best positive things the NCAA has done in a long time.”
“He understands sports,” McLaughlin said. “He understands how to get people together and get a consensus. I think this is a very, very exciting time for the NCAA.”
Baker, who only played in eight varsity games during his college basketball career, used his leadership skills to be an asset to the team off the court as well, according to McLaughlin.
“He didn’t have great athletic ability or whatever,” McLaughlin said. “I can remember calling him in and talking to him, and I said, ‘Charlie, you’re very valuable to this program,’ so he became a volunteer and he really helped us out.”
“He’s got great leadership, got a great knack for getting along with people,” he added.
— Staff writer John N. Peña can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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