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Dan Shaughnessy

Good luck, Charlie Baker, you’ve got your work cut out at the NCAA, and other thoughts

Charlie Baker says being named NCAA president is an “amazing opportunity” and this being “a bit of a pivotal period” for college sports.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Picked-up pieces from a week on the dusty trail in Arizona . . .

▪ Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker Thursday was named the new president of the NCAA.

Sheesh. The man who looks like Roger Goodell is now going to try to fix something far more broken than any professional sports league.

Good luck, Charlie. Big-time college sports is a cesspool. The NCAA makes the MBTA look like a well-oiled machine.

When Baker, who could have been governor for life, announced he was stepping down after two terms, I assumed he was preparing to run for president of the United States.


No. He’s now president of the NCAA, which could be more challenging than sitting in the Oval Office.

Baker’s now got to deal with the billion-dollar, blatantly professional, borderline criminal greed of big-time college sports while at the same time trying to serve worthy, Division 3 programs with true amateurs playing for the love of the game. It’s like overseeing Brookline Booksmith and Amazon Prime simultaneously.

Poor Charlie now has to monitor frauds such as Deion Sanders (think he cares about anyone at Colorado ever graduating?) urging Colorado footballers to rush to the transfer portal, while still honoring the majority of college athletes who have nothing to do with March Madness or absurd/monied Division 1 football programs.

At his introductory news conference Thursday, Baker — who played basketball at Harvard (which is not to be confused with the one-and-done/bags-of-cash experience of John Calipari’s Kentucky ballers) — spoke of this “amazing opportunity” and this being “a bit of a pivotal period” for college sports.

I’ll say. The transfer portal and the big-dollar NIL (name, image, likeness) opportunities for a small number of star athletes (such as some volleyball players and gymnasts who have endorsement deals as social media stars) have dramatically changed the already scorched-earth landscape of big-time college sports. The notion of “student-athletes” in these cash cow programs is a legitimate joke and has cultivated an audience of sports fans who think of the Texas Longhorns the same way they enjoy the Dallas Cowboys. And none of it has anything do with the traditional mission of the college experience.


Here’s an example: UCLA is going to the Big Ten. Think about that. The University of California at Los Angeles, the college home of the likes of Jackie Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is soon to join the Big Ten — home of Michigan and Ohio State.

I reached out to two-time NCAA champion UCLA center Bill Walton, a Southern California legend, to ask what he thought of the move and Walton texted, “Tragically sad.”

Indeed. When it comes to big-time college sports, it’s all about the TV deals involving bowl money and March Madness. The already-flawed system has been broken by NIL opportunities and the dreaded transfer portal, which shatters all team concept and allows any disgruntled, impatient star to switch to another school with no consequences. This is why you are seeing great coaches such as Jerry York and Jay Wright get out of the business.

I asked Baker about the portal Thursday and he said, “I am a fan of college sports and I think the transfer portal is one element of a whole series of elements that need to be part of the conversation going forward. At this point in time . . . I’m not going to comment on the pluses and minuses.”


Swell. I can do it for you, Gov.

The portal is a nightmare. It makes it impossible for any kind of continuity for big-time programs. It invites corruption, cash, and cars. Hello, Buddy Garrity. The portal makes a joke of coaching a big-time college team, or supporting said team from the sidelines.

It’s the same with NIL. How’d you like to be the unpaid offensive lineman blocking for a Heisman candidate running back who is making tens of thousands of dollars to tote the ball for State U?

Meanwhile, Baker knows he needs to serve the majority of NCAA athletes — legitimate students with no cash-for-play, and no professional sports on their horizon. These are your sons and daughters, just trying to play Division 3 lacrosse to enhance their college experience.

Good luck, Charlie. Your first day on the job is March 1. By Easter you’ll be longing for those golden days of trying to fix the Orange Line.

▪ Quiz: Name three players who won a Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and a Super Bowl (answer below).

▪ I warmed up for France vs. Morocco by watching “Casablanca,” which was written by Theo Epstein’s grandfather and his twin brother.

▪ Speaking of Red Sox general managers, wonder how the folks on Jersey Street liked seeing Xander Bogaerts standing alongside Don Orsillo for his introductory news conference in San Diego this past week. Sox fans are still livid with management for kicking Orsillo to the curb. Meanwhile, was the never-controversial Bogaerts delivering a broadside to the SS Henry, beaming in his new uniform jersey and saying, “This team really wants to win . . . ” As opposed to? The Red Sox play in Petco Park (The House That Larry Lucchino Built) the weekend of May 19-21.


▪ Was Dansby Swanson a character in “Downton Abbey”?

▪ How long will Alex Cora put up with Red Sox ownership putting value and payroll flexibility above winning? The Sox did Cora a solid by bringing him back after his one-year suspension, but a good manager wants to win now and my sense is that the dugout boss will find a way out of here if the Sox continue on their cost-cutting dash to the bottom.

▪ When Chaim Bloom came to Boston, Mookie Betts and Bogaerts were both 27 and Andrew Benintendi was 25. All three All-Stars are gone and Boston’s yield was Average Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs (designated for assignment Thursday), Connor Wong, Franchy Cordero (allowed to walk as a free agent), Josh Winckowski, Grant Gambell, Luis De La Rosa, and Freddy Valdez.

▪ Close your eyes and try to imagine there was a baseball expansion draft this winter. After Rafael Devers, whom on the Red Sox would you protect?

▪ Quarterbacks the Patriots have beaten this year: Jared Goff, Zach Wilson (twice), Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Ehlinger, Jacoby Brissett, Colt McCoy. Kind of makes me wonder about the legitimacy of the Patriots’ defense.


▪ Former Boston College athletic director Chet Gladchuk didn’t get caught up in the emotion of last Saturday’s Army-Navy double-overtime thriller, won by Army, 20-17. Minutes after the loss, Gladchuk walked into the Navy locker room and fired Ken Niumatalolo, the winningest coach (109-83) in program history. “I was a little bit numb prior to him saying that, so most of it I couldn’t comprehend,” Niumatalolo told ESPN. “I’m just like, ‘Chet, why don’t you take some time to relax.’ ” Army-Navy will be played at Gillette Stadium next year.

▪ Until proven otherwise, the Warriors are Jayson Tatum’s daddy. They embarrassed him in last season’s Finals and last Saturday night at the Chase Center it was the same story as Tatum struggled mightily in a nationally televised rematch. Tatum compounded the problem with his passive-aggressive insistence that the game was No Big Deal for him. “Tonight was probably more meaningful to you guys than it was to us,” Tatum said. Not very MVP-like.

▪ When do the Yankees officially name Aaron Judge captain? He will be the 16th in team history. The last two were Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. The Yankees spent $360 million to keep their best player. The Red Sox let them go and get virtually nothing in return. Now Imagine the Red Sox trying to name a captain. Seriously. Devers is their best player and he’s well-liked, but he’s probably a goner and does not qualify as a leader.

▪ Will cryptocurrency shillers Tom Brady and David Ortiz be asked to testify when FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried goes to trial?

▪ The Wall Street Journal reports that a beer typically costs $14 for soccer enthusiasts fortunate enough to score a lager in Qatar. Alcohol sales are banned in and around stadium venues. In an unrelated note, the Journal reports that Hawks guard Trae Young bought the Los Angeles-area home of former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews for $20 million.

▪ Laugh at Dan Campbell all you want, the Lions have won five of their last six. The Jets want no part of them Sunday.

▪ As expected, the NFL’s broadcast partners embarrassed themselves by ignoring Deshaun Watson’s nefarious deeds when Watson returned from his 11-game suspension against the Texans. There was a lot of talk about Watson’s readiness to play and his ability to run the offense after being away — with very little mention of the behavior that got him suspended.

▪ Old-time hockey fans might want to check out, “The Greatest Comeback. How Team Canada fought Back, Took the Summit Series, and Reinvented Hockey,” by John Bacon.

▪ Quiz answer: Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh, Cowboys), Marcus Allen (Southern Cal, Raiders), Charles Woodson (Michigan, Packers). Note: Reggie Bush (Southern Cal, Saints) did as well, but the Trojans’ 2004 national championship was vacated, and Bush was stripped of his Heisman for being retroactively ineligible.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.