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NCAA president's huge salary, extensive legal fees part of organization's massive expenses

The NCAA paid its president, Mark Emmert, nearly $3 million in salary for the Sept. 2019-Aug. 2020 year -- despite a pandemic. It also shelled out more in legal fees than all the operating expenses of 171 of its 227 top NCAA Division I members.

The NCAA paid its president nearly $3 million and separately plunked down some $500,000 in lobbying costs as part of the almost $68 million the organization spent on legal fees, public tax records revealed on Monday.

President Mark Emmert, who 10 years ago made $1.7 million in salary, saw his compensation package climb to $2.9 million for the organization's fiscal year that unfolded from Sept. 1, 2019, through August 31, 2020.

The half-million in lobbying costs – much of that expense connected to the United States Supreme Court case of Alston et. al vs. the NCAA – is perhaps a particularly staggering figure considering the nation's top court ruled unanimously against the NCAA for its longstanding, suppressive amateurism rules that were found to be in violation of Sherman anti-trust laws.

Additionally, the figures come to light on the heels of the NCAA's sweeping new Name, Image & Likeness legislation that just this month began to allow student-athletes the opportunity to profit from their personal brands and likenesses.

For context: only one known marketing deal for an NCAA student-athlete is worth more than the association's legal influencing fees.

The reported $2 million pact that Tennessee State basketball guard Hercy Miller – son of rap icon Percy “Master P” Miller – recently obtained thus far is the only publicly known payday greater than what the NCAA spent in its attempts to influence legislators, per its most recent tax filing.

The data was revealed after USA Today filed an open records request with the organization to examine the NCAA's most recent federal tax return.

Consider: the NCAA's $67.7 million in legal fees, per USA Today's reporting, is more than the total operating expenses during the 2018-19 athletics year for 171 of the NCAA's 227 member institutions.

From No. 1 Texas to No. 55 Central Florida, each athletics department in the '18-19 year, per public data, operated with at least $67.9 million in expenses; all the rest, including notable programs such as the Air Force Academy, Boise State, Cincinnati and UNLV, among others had total operating expenses for their entire athletics departments that rang up less at the cash register than the NCAA's spending on legal fees.

The NCAA tax filings reflected $67.7 million in legal fees, half of which was earmarked for its defense efforts in the Alston vs. NCAA loss.

Per, the NCAA has approximately 720 employees and revenues in excess of $1.1 billion. That figure is some $250 million more than the reported revenues for Major League Soccer, per the site, and also more than half the $2 billion of NASCAR.