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Mitt Romney on Charlie Baker’s move to the NCAA: ‘Into the fire’

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) departs from the Senate Chambers during a nomination vote at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 05, 2022 in Washington, DC. Congress faces multiple legislative hurdles before their holiday recess including passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act and government funding for 2023.Anna Moneymaker/Getty

As a former GOP governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney knows a thing or two about the challenges of governing the reliably blue state and of charting a next act afterward. But asked about outgoing Governor Charlie Baker’s next job leading the NCAA, Romney said Baker will have his work cut out for him.

“Boy, from the frying pan into the fire,” Romney told The Globe.

Romney, now a senator for Utah, had high praise for Baker, pointed to increasingly political challenges for the collegiate sports organization, which has been under considerable scrutiny and tumult. States have been moving to allow college athletes to earn money in their roles, and court decisions have prompted the NCAA to allow athletes to profit from their identities as brands.


“It’s kind of a dysfunctional organization,” Romney said. “I think it’s in some respects organized to be dysfunctional. And state laws are pulling at the once hegemony of the NCAA to oversee intercollegiate sport that makes it a very difficult challenge. But you know, Charlie’s a big person, physically and in terms of his capability, and I expect he’ll wrestle things to the ground.”

The hiring of Baker for the role came as a surprise when it was announced Thursday, as he has no high-level experience in education or collegiate sports, though at 6 foot 6, he did play basketball at Harvard. The two-term governor did not run for re-election, and Democratic Governor-elect Maura Healey easily defeated the Donald Trump-aligned conservative Republican who ran to succeed Baker.

Romney served as governor from 2003 to 2007, after which he pursued two unsuccessful presidential bids, falling short of the nomination in 2008 and then falling short against then-President Barack Obama in 2012.

After receding somewhat from the public eye and settling in Utah, Romney re-entered politics, winning a Senate race in the state in 2018. Since Trump’s campaign and presidency, Romney has served as a vocal critic of the more conservative wing of his party and has emerged in Washington as a key moderate working on bipartisan deals under President Biden.


As Baker’s departure marks a solid Democratic takeover of Massachusetts’ top posts and Republicans, many of whom were aligned with Trump, were shut out of congressional contests in New England in last month’s midterms, Romney said the party should take a lesson that it needs to hew to the center.

“There continue to be a large number of elected officials who keep thinking that doing more and more to activate the (GOP) base is the way forward,” Romney said. “I think that’s a mistake. And as long as we’re focused on activating the base, we’re going to lose middle America. And New England is part of middle America.”

Tal Kopan can be reached at Follow her @talkopan.