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The worst job in America

We’ve all heard of the great resignation, the pandemic induced trend where people leave their current jobs for perhaps something better, something more flexible, or perhaps for nothing at all. It a confluence of generational divide, Covid aftershock, a robust job market that empowers the labor, and, at least by popular vernacular, the idea that people are now taking stock of what matters most to them, which apparently isn’t making as much money as possible. As someone with kids and a mortgage, I don’t fully understand the movement, but I do get that people are looking to leave jobs that make them miserable and eventually find ones that make them less so, realistic or not.

If that is the case for you, here’s one soon to be open job I’d recommend you stay away from. That job is President of the NCAA, a job held for the past 12 years by Mark Emmert. Start date for the next boss will be July 1, 2023, so you’d have plenty of time to relocate to Indianapolis. The pay is quite good, nearly $3 million a year, which goes a long way in flyover country. There’s other perks, like you can basically go to any college sporting event in the country, and, up until about six months ago, you could largely penalize any college athletics program for the most mundane of infractions. Things like getting athletes getting a free sandwich from an alumnus or having a job at the wrong time of the year. But even with all that, I’d strongly advise you to stay away from this unique employment opportunity. Because it may simply be the worst job in America.

As you likely know if you’re at all a college sports fan, the entire institution of intercollegiate athletics, the venerable pastime that dates well back into the 1800’s, is what we technically would call a hot mess. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, but perhaps the most notable is the new allowance of student athletes to be able to profit off their name, image, and likeness, or NIL, something that was strictly forbidden in years prior. Because of that and in the period of several weeks, big time college sports went from one of the most restrictive work environments in the country to essentially the wild west. Where once athletes previously were allowed butter, but not peanut butter on team provided bagel snacks, now there are alumni funded collectives that are signing high school athetes to multi-million dollar deals in exchange for their image rights. The escalation has been quick even by the most optimistic predictions, and no one right now has any idea how to either put the genie back in the bottle or even how this whole thing ends.

That, in a nutshell, will be the job of the next NCAA president, taking the reins from Emmert after 13 years of largely fighting against the obviously inequities of an unpaid labor market and allowing the escalating war games of universities that paid top coaches often more than their professional counterparts. Since about the 1930s, the NCAA has lived by constant bureaucratic incrementalism, where rule books got bigger and bigger to try to control a co-curricular program that had far surpassed any reasonable expectation. It’s like the FCC trying to regulate the Internet – they’re just not make for that. And not for nothing, the entire of concept of college sports now includes mega universities like Texas who spend more on sports than most university’s entire operational budget in the same organization as schools of a few hundred students just hoping to make payroll with enrollment. That is just one not-insignificant part of the job of the next NCAA President, a job that will not qualify as work from home.

Of course, such personnel changes do raise larger questions. Like will the NCAA survive, or should it. Will it break into a bunch of new sub-categories, so Canisius and Ohio State aren’t in the same division anymore. And what would all this mean for each individual colleges that hosts varsity athletics, all of whom have their own specific reason for doing so, and all who will have to think long and hard about what a post-NCAA world might look like for everything from admissions to alumni relations. This is what we commonly call a no-win situation.

That said, if this all still sounds appealing to you, you may consider applying when the search opens. Or at the very least, it may remind you that your last job wasn’t all that bad.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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