The pipeline from high-level Massachusetts politics to high-level sports activities management has turn into a robust one in recent times.
Charlie Baker and Marty Walsh have been shut colleagues for a number of years of their respective tenures as governor of Massachusetts and mayor of Boston, and now they improbably discover themselves each in sports activities positions, Baker as president of the NCAA and Walsh as government director of the NHL Gamers Affiliation.
That pathway was a topic of debate at Wednesday’s function occasion on the Globe Summit, the place Baker mentioned his function at a pivotal time in collegiate athletics, with convention realignment, the switch portal, and NIL guidelines radically shifting the panorama.
Walsh’s path to the sports activities trade was a bit extra easy than Baker’s, having been tapped by President Joe Biden for a cupboard place as Secretary of Labor, a job he swapped for a task largely outlined by labor negotiations with the NHLPA.
Baker’s leap to the NCAA, pushed by Pink Sox CEO Sam Kennedy, was a bit extra shocking. However between government management at a macro stage, and balancing dozens of conferences, a whole lot of committees, and greater than a thousand member colleges, Baker’s new gig does bear some similarities to his outdated one.
“My willingness to work in that type of surroundings appears to be like loads just like the one I got here out of, the place you’ve got legislators and native officers and advocates and plenty of stuff coming at you from one million instructions on a regular basis,” Baker mentioned.
“Being in an surroundings like that’s acquainted. I believe, greater than something, it needs to be that I’ll discover methods to create what I’d describe as frequent floor, and get us to the place the place we make selections earlier than issues occur versus reacting and responding when one thing occurs.”
Baker made clear the group’s understanding of its place within the social media age, when younger individuals can construct a model and an affect on-line. He takes no problem with that; the priority is how Identify-Picture-Likeness guidelines have been applied.
“The priority I’ve about the way in which it really works now could be that there’s no framework and no transparency and no accountability,” Baker mentioned. “I imply, it’s nearly unimaginable for a student-athlete or their household to know if what somebody is telling them is true or not — an agent, a rep — and that bothers me.
“It’s onerous to inform what the market worth appears to be like like, it’s actually onerous to inform. If somebody says, ‘I’ve achieved this for 5 – 6 different youngsters,’ no one is aware of. And I’ve talked to student-athletes which have mentioned to me their concern about this factor is that they simply don’t know who to consider.”
Baker was requested concerning the distinction between his private reputation as governor — he persistently polled as one of the widespread governors within the nation all through his time period — and the wide-ranging unpopularity of the group he now presides over.
For Baker, progress on that entrance started with a state-of-the-business evaluate and conferences with all 97 conferences to listen to grievances and kick-start conversations about the way forward for collegiate athletics.
“I’m going to satisfy with all of them, yearly, and do the very best we will to be student-athlete-focused, and likewise considerably forward-looking,” Baker mentioned. “If we do this, and we do it nicely, and we implement the holistic student-athlete mannequin and the insurance coverage damage safety program and a few of these different issues, we will work on the model.
“However I’ve at all times felt, when you have points along with your model, you possibly can’t blame that in your comms individuals. That’s not your comms individuals. They’ll solely work with what they’ve. And it’s as much as us to determine a technique to persuade individuals it is a completely different NCAA.”
Whereas Baker’s new function entails loads of the politicking and paperwork he handled on Beacon Hill, it does have its perks. He highlighted final month’s occasion at Nebraska, the place the ladies’s volleyball group performed in entrance of 92,000 followers, a second that gave him goosebumps.
“That was mind-boggling, it actually was,” Baker mentioned. “Look, I performed sports activities, my spouse performed sports activities, my youngsters play sports activities; I like watching youngsters play sports activities, I simply find it irresistible.
“I’ve met in all probability a thousand student-athletes, and for all of the noise that exhibits up on social media, these face-to-face moments I get to spend with student-athletes after I go to campuses for one factor or one other, that’s the place I get what I might name the constructive vibe concerning the future.”
Get the most recent Boston sports activities information
Obtain updates in your favourite Boston groups, straight from our newsroom to your inbox.