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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is set to become the next president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Baker and current NCAA President Mark Emmert are each soon departing their current jobs. Baker didn’t seek a third term as governor in Massachusetts, while Emmert earlier this year announced he would step down effective March 1, 2023.
After a nationwide search, the NCAA’s Board of Governors settled on Baker as the next president of the nonprofit organization that regulates student athletics among 1,100 universities and colleges in the US.
Governor Baker has shown a remarkable ability to bridge divides and build bipartisan consensus, taking on complex challenges in innovative and effective ways,” said Baylor President Linda Livingstone, chair of the NCAA’s Presidential Search Committee. “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 appointment comes as the NCAA is amid a major overhaul in how it functions.
In 2021, the NCAA agreed to allow student-athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). And it’s been almost five years since legal gambling on college sports began spreading across the nation after the US Supreme Court in May 2018 said the legality of such gambling should be left up to each state. Previously, the federal government’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had limited full-scale sports betting to Nevada.
Baker’s Backstory, Future
Baker has served as governor of Massachusetts since 2015. He will be replaced in early January by Democrat Maura Healey, who won the state’s gubernatorial election last month over Republican Geoff Diehl.
Though Massachusetts doesn’t term-limit its governors, Baker chose to pursue another endeavor. He’s found it with 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 in a statement. “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,” Baker added.
During his eight years as governor, Baker’s administration oversaw the opening of each of the state’s three commercial casinos. Plainridge Park opened as a slots-only casino in June 2015. MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, two integrated casino resorts with slots and table games, respectively opened in August 2018 and June 2019.
Baker’s predecessor — Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick — was in office during the 2011 passage of the Expanded Gaming Act that authorized as many as four brick-and-mortar commercial casinos in the commonwealth.
Sports Betting Proponent
Baker supported Massachusetts’ recent legalization of sports betting. Likening sports betting to cannabis in that consumers of both industries participate regardless of their legal status, Baker lent his backing to regulation efforts in order to protect bettors while generating new tax revenue.
[Sports betting is] a little bit like marijuana. If you just leave the black market there, you don’t bring it out of the shadows,” Baker commented in June.
After months of legislative deadlock regarding regulatory specifics –most importantly whether betting on games involving in-state colleges would be allowed — Massachusetts lawmakers sent Baker a sports betting compromise in early August. The governor signed the statute a week later.
In-person sports betting is expected to begin next month. Online operations are likely to commence in March.
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