• Outgoing Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker is making a move into the world of sports, landing a high-profile position. Baker, who didn’t run for re-election in this past election cycle after serving as governor since 2015, will be the next president of the NCAA, the nonprofit organization that oversees college athletics. The organization made the announcement Thursday morning. Baker’s current term as governor ends Jan. 5, 2023. He’ll begin his new role in March 2023.

    Baker is an atypical candidate for the job, which has historically been given to university presidents and athletic directors. That includes Mark Emmert, the man Baker will replace. Emmert has been the NCAA president since 2010, and before that was the president of the University of Washington. It was announced in April Emmert would be stepping down at the end of the year.

    With his hire, Baker will be the first person to head the NCAA who has not held one of those two titles since Walter Byers, the first ever president of the NCAA who held the job from 1951-1988. Six other individuals have held the title since, plus one interim president. Prior to being governor, Baker worked in the healthcare field including serving as the CEO of Harvard Vanguard and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care for 10 years.

  • Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks at a forum during the opening of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on September 19, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • “I am honored to become the next president of the NCAA, an organization that impacts millions of families and countless communities across this country every day,” said Governor Baker through the NCAA’s statement. “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. And for the fans that faithfully fill stadiums, stands and gyms from coast to coast, I am eager to ensure the competitions we all love to follow are there for generations to come. Over the coming months, I will begin working with student-athletes and NCAA members as we modernize college sports to suit today’s world, while preserving its essential value.”

    “We are excited to welcome Governor Charlie Baker to the NCAA and eager for him to begin his work with our organization,” Linda Livingstone, President of Baylor University and Chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, who helmed the presidential search committee, said in the statement.

    “Governor Baker has shown a remarkable ability to bridge divides and build bipartisan consensus, taking on complex challenges in innovative and effective ways. As a former student-athlete himself, husband to a former college gymnast, and father to two former college football players, Governor Baker is deeply committed to our student-athletes and enhancing their collegiate experience. These skills and perspective will be invaluable as we work with policymakers to build a sustainable model for the future of college athletics.”

    Baker’s political experience is what likely was the draw. He’s a logical candidate to help the NCAA navigate working towards towards national NIL (name, image, and likeness) reform and an eventual federal NIL law. NIL is the mechanic that now allows college athletes to be paid, but in its infancy has little foundation and the structure around the payments can vary from state-to-state. The NCAA adopted an interim policy for how NIL will be handled back in June of 2021, then updated it this October. His experience with the sports gambling industry, which he dealt with in the process of brining sports gaming to Massachusetts, likely will also be helpful.


  • “Governor Baker arrives at the NCAA at a moment of significant transformation. Legal shifts in the environment surrounding college sports have challenged the NCAA’s ability to serve as an effective national regulator for college athletics, resulting in an untenable patchwork of individual state laws,” the NCAA’s statement reads.

    “Partnering with federal policymakers to develop a consistent, sustainable legal framework to address issues common to student-athletes and athletic departments across the country will be a top and immediate priority,” the statement continues. “Throughout the search process, Governor Baker’s history of successfully forging bipartisan solutions to complex problems stood out to the search committee as uniquely suited to the NCAA’s present needs.”

    How did Baker end up on the NCAA’s radar? According to the Sports Business Journal, the Red Sox may have actually played a role in that.

    In their story about Baker’s hiring, they write, “Len Perna, chairman of TurnkeyZRG, assisted the NCAA with the search. The longtime search executive explained to SBJ how he came across Baker: “I was networking around the industry. One of my calls was to Sam Kennedy, CEO of the Red Sox. I mentioned to Sam the NCAA is looking for an executive who has four things: passionate about higher education; ran a business as CEO; was also in government; and was a student athlete and could dunk a basketball. Sam laughed and said: ‘I think I might actually have somebody. Ever heard of Charlie Baker?'” Baker played JV basketball at Harvard.

    Current Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was elected back in November as the next governor to succeed Baker. Healey herself is a former NCAA athlete, having been a captain of the Harvard basketball team.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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