Robert Gates ran the Pentagon. Can he help save the NCAA?


supreme court Unanimously ruled against the NCAA In an antitrust case this summer, a signal incident for many college sports officials, but Gates worried about the future of the association long before that decision. When he was president of Texas A&M, he considered the NCAA efficient in organizing championship events and maintaining national eligibility standards for athletes, but he also saw a rule book, which he compared to the tax code, “a Stupid bureaucracy and an organization that found it very difficult to change.”

When asked which organizational chart he found more difficult—the Pentagon or the NCAA—he replied with a laugh: “Well, they’re comparable—and incomprehensible. They look like the AT&T wiring diagram.”

Gates’ subordinates at Texas A&M regarded him as attentive to athletics, but not as a micromanager. He relied on athletic administrators for day-to-day decisions, but he regularly dined with renowned football coach RC Slocum, whom he called eventually evicted. (Speaking to the time, when he was at the top of the Defense Department, Gates said he often saw That “Texas A&M football has caused me more stress than any job I’ve ever had.”)

Slocum, who spent 30 seasons as a coach at Texas A&M, still fondly remembers Gates.

“I liked him, I thought he was smart and he was not someone who was going to try to interfere with what we were doing,” Slocum said on Thursday.

Gene Sutherland, who led the women’s golf program at Texas A&M for 15 seasons, recalled that Gates and his wife, Becky Gates, would invite championship teams to their home for dinner. Like Slocum, Sutherland remembered Gates as a president who set clear standards and then got out of the way.

“He was very clear with us about what his expectations were, and he was No. 1, to run a clean program and win No. 2,” said Sutherland, now associate head coach at Nebraska. “The Clean Program was at the top of the list.”

And while some university presidents deal with athletics in extremes—either with no interest or virtual obsession—Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg during Gates’ tenure at Texas A&M called Gates to occupy a middle ground. remembered for



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