NCAA Selects TurnkeyZRG to Lead President Search

With the collegiate sports regulatory organization undergoing rapid change, the recruiting firm’s willingness to devote the time and dedicate the staff to an extended discovery process was a key factor in landing the search assignment.

June 27, 2022 – The NCAA board of governors has selected TurnkeyZRG to lead its search for a new president. Mark Emmert will be stepping down as president and will continue to serve in the role until a new president is chosen and in place or until June 30, 2023. “We’re honored to assist the NCAA board with this important search,” said Len Perna, chairman and CEO of TurnkeyZRG. “It’s not plug-n-play. Lots of listening and discovery across a wide range of stakeholders is in order to refine and perhaps redefine the needed role in our new world. We’re huge believers in intercollegiate athletics and were more than willing to put in the extra time and staff to ensure we get this right.”

The NCAA is going through a period of rapid change. Issues like name, image and likeness, pay-for-play, the transfer portal, and many other changes have created a shifting landscape in intercollegiate athletics. The NCAA serves many different members, of all sizes and competition levels, across Division I, Division II, and Division III.

The NCAA was looking for a search firm that could put in the time and dedicate the staffing to an extended “discovery” process to meet and listen to all the different stakeholders across the entire spectrum of intercollegiate athletics. TurnkeyZRG proposed a novel concept of talking to 50 industry leaders outside intercollegiate athletics, from higher education, pro sports, media, tech, and even government relations, to look for perceptions and ideas as to how to best evolve the NCAA and its role.

“The board of governors wants to use the summer months in the most productive ways possible to support the NCAA presidential transition before a new board is in place,” said John J. DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board of governors and Georgetown University president. “To continue to maximize this time, the executive committee will direct the search firm to begin conversations with NCAA members on what they would like to see in a new NCAA president.”

TurnkeyZRG will begin with a listening phase in which the firm will meet with different governance committees, membership groups, and national office staff to gather their input on the position of NCAA president. This will allow the search to continue while a new board assumes its duties starting August 1.

The new board will appoint a search committee that will receive updates from TurnkeyZRG, direct any additional information gathering, and finalize the position description. The board of governors will make the final selection of a chosen candidate based off the recommendations and feedback from the selection committee.

“With the significant transitions underway within college sports, the timing of this decision provides the association with consistent leadership during the coming months plus the opportunity to consider what will be the future role of the president,” said Mr. DeGioia. “It also allows for the selection and recruitment of the next president without disruption.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes. NCAA schools award nearly $3.5 billion in athletic scholarships every year and provide vast support to help student-athletes graduate at a rate higher than their general student peers.  The employees at the NCAA’s national office oversee all championships, manage programs that benefit student-athletes and support member committees that make rules and policies for college sports.

Serving Sports, Media and Entertainment Organizations

Founded in 1996, TurnkeyZRG is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm filling C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level positions throughout sports, media, and entertainment. Over the past 25 years, the firm has filled more than 1,400 positions. TurnkeyZRG helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity companies and other clients identify, recruit, and hire the best management talent.

TurnkeyZRG Assists the Atlantic Coast Conference in Finding New Commissioner
TurnkeyZRG has assisted the Atlantic Coast Conference in the selection of James J. Phillips, the Combe Family vice president for athletics & recreation at Northwestern University, as its next commissioner.

The ACC conducted a comprehensive, inclusive nationwide search process facilitated by TurnkeyZRG. The firm spoke with stakeholders across the ACC in developing the job description, and assembled a diverse array of candidates across sports, education, business and government. 

“Jim is one of the most talented athletic administrators in the country and uniquely qualified to successfully and seamlessly take over the helm of the ACC,” says ACC Board Chair Kent Syverud (Syracuse University). “Over the course of nearly 13 years, Jim has elevated and cemented Northwestern’s position as an outstanding Power 5 athletics program. Northwestern’s ascension in the world of intercollegiate athletics is a testament to Jim’s vision, leadership and foundational dedication to the success of student athletes. The ACC is fortunate to have someone of Jim’s caliber and integrity lead the conference at this pivotal moment in intercollegiate athletics.”

Collectively, TurnkeyZRG consultants have placed coaches and athletics directors at many PAC-12 universities, including Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State.

Mr. Perna has 30-plus years of experience in the sports and entertainment industry, with senior-level management experience in sales, event marketing and management, sponsorships, venue feasibility and development, facility operations, licensing, and legal affairs. Since founding Turnkey, Mr. Perna has managed over 1,400 executive searches, according to the firm.

Recently Called In

The Big 12 Conference recently retained TurnkeyZRG to lead its search for a new commissioner. The board is seeking to identify a diverse pool of experienced candidates from which to select the Big 12’s next Commissioner. The commissioner’s role is to work collaboratively with the board, ADs, FARs, SWAs, student-athletes, alumni affairs, etc. help the conference collectively discern an innovative business structure for the future while retaining the conference’s traditions and values.

The search firm is seeking candidates with a strong preference for individuals who have learned and mastered the quickly evolving business of sports, sports media, sports marketing, and sports performance. Experience in intercollegiate sports is a plus.

Related: TurnkeyZRG Seeks Head Baseball Coach for Yale 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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