December 19, 2022 – TurnkeyZRG has assisted in the recruitment Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as the next president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the major governing body for intercollegiate athletics, effective in March of next year. Gov. Baker’s term as governor ends on Jan. 5. He succeeds Mark Emmert, who will continue to serve the NCAA as a consultant through June.
“College sports is undergoing significant transformation,” said Len Perna, chairman and CEO of the search firm. “The legal and policy environments are shifting continually, threatening the NCAA’s ability to maintain a consistent experience and a level playing field for student-athletes across the country. The best way to continue to support student-athletes is for the NCAA’s next leader to bring a new set of skills that meet the challenges of the moment. Gov. Baker’s record of bipartisan leadership in both the public and private sectors will be invaluable in the hard but critical work of bringing Democrats and Republicans in Congress together to secure a stable, sustainable future for college athletics.”
“As a former student-athlete at Harvard (where he played basketball for the Crimson), and as a husband and father to former student-athletes, Gov. Baker brings important personal perspective that will keep the needs of student-athletes at the center of the modernization of college sports,” said Mr. Perna.
Gov. Baker’s appointment marks the culmination of a comprehensive and inclusive national search process, led by a subcommittee of the NCAA Board of Governors and TurnkeyZRG. Prior to recruiting candidates, the search committee spent months identifying and assessing the qualities most needed in the organization’s next president, including input from more than 300 individual NCAA stakeholders.
“We are excited to welcome Gov. Charlie Baker to the NCAA and eager for him to begin his work with our organization,” said Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor University and chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, who headed the presidential search committee. “Gov. 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, Gov. Baker is deeply committed to our student-athletes and enhancing their collegiate experience,” said Dr. Livingstone. “These skills and perspective will be invaluable as we work with policymakers to build a sustainable model for the future of college athletics.”
A Distinguished Career
Gov. Baker, now in his second term of the state’s top executive position, 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. 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. Throughout the search process, said the NCAA, Gov. 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.
Prior to his tenure as governor, Mr. Baker had a distinguished career in business, non-profit, and government administration. Immediately prior to being elected governor, he was executive in residence at General Catalyst Partners, where he served as an advisor to a variety of companies working on “responsible innovations.” Earlier in his career, Gov. Baker was CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health benefits provider. Prior to this, Gov. Baker held variety of leadership roles in Massachusetts state government, including as secretary of administration and finance, and as secretary of health and human services. Early in his career, he ran a state policy think tank focused on innovations for improving healthcare.
TurnkeyZRG has assisted in the recruitment of Wren Baker as next vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics for West Virginia University (WVU). The school recently parted ways with director of athletics and associate vice president Shane Lyons. “I am thrilled to welcome Wren Baker to the West Virginia University family as our new athletic director and I have no doubt his personality and energy will connect with our student-athletes and coaches, as well as our campus community and alumni,” said Gordon Gee, president of the West Virginia. “When we began this search, we were determined to find someone who could lead in the modern realities of intercollegiate athletics and build on the legacy of his predecessors.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a member-led organization dedicated to college athletes. Nearly 500,000 college athletes across all three divisions compete for about 1,100 member schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and even Canada. The organization oversees 90 championships in 24 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.
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.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media