Though he’ll likely be most remembered in Indiana for being the person who fired Bob Knight, Myles Brand’s legacy in regard to collegiate academia and athletics marked his greatest impact. Brand’s connection to young people and their future careers was demonstrated through his Indiana Chamber board of directors position while at both Indiana University and the NCAA.
I was a student at Indiana University during the Knight firing. Even though his decision was extremely unpopular at the time (illustrated by the alarming vitriol of some on campus), I’ve since held great respect for Brand for doing what I too felt to be the right thing. Brand died Wednesday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 67, and is remembered by the NCAA News.
NCAA President Myles Brand, the first university president to serve as the Association’s chief executive, died Wednesday from pancreatic cancer. He was 67.
"Myles Brand was a dear friend and a great academic leader. He was a tireless advocate for the student-athlete," said Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia and chair of the NCAA Executive Committee. "Indeed, he worked to ensure that the student was first in the student-athlete model. He will be greatly missed."
Brand, who began his tenure in January 2003 after having served as president at Indiana and Oregon, died at his Indianapolis home. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2008 and announced his condition to the NCAA Executive Committee, the national office staff and the leadership at NCAA member schools in January, saying the long-term prognosis for his condition was "not good."
Brand remained committed to leading the Association even through his illness, guiding the national office staff and communicating with presidential leadership up until the final days. He attended the Men’s Final Four in Detroit, was at the table for the Association’s spring governance meetings and worked at his office into September.
Brand built his presidency on academic reform and advocacy of intercollegiate athletics, accomplishing both. Under Brand’s leadership, Division I adopted an academic reform structure anchored by the Academic Progress Rate, a team-based, term-by-term measure of academic success that encourages improved academic performance. Divisions II and III also made significant advances under Brand’s watch — Division II by implementing an identity campaign and a strategic-positioning platform tied to specific divisional attributes, and Division III by fortifying its philosophy to manage unprecedented membership growth.
Brand also spearheaded a landmark Presidential Task Force that in 2006 called for institutions to moderate athletics spending and to better integrate athletics into the mission of higher education.
"Myles Brand will be remembered not only for his unyielding demand that intercollegiate athletics reflect the values of higher education but also for his advocacy of the student-athlete," said NCAA Executive Vice President Bernard Franklin. "This was a man who understood the importance of higher education, as well as the benefit of athletics participation as part of the educational experience. He did not waver from that as a tenet of NCAA operations, and as a result, the Association will continue to benefit from his influence for years to come."
University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, who chaired the NCAA Executive Committee during Brand’s push for reform, said Brand "leaves a clear and strong legacy that captures all the best things about college sports."
Harrison praised Brand for his presidential leadership and "setting appropriate standards and the appropriate tone on our college campuses."
"Likewise, his tenure as president of the NCAA marked an era of significant positive change," Harrison said. "He led the Association as it became much more responsive to its members’ needs. He furthered the movement to make university presidents and chancellors primarily responsible for governance of the Association and oversight of college sports. He set very high standards for maintaining what’s unique about the college sports experience in an era of growing commercialism."
That "growing commercialism" was a concern of Brand’s, especially recently. He focused the bulk of his final State of the Association address at the 2009 NCAA Convention on the topic, calling for a "shared responsibility" among the NCAA national office staff and member schools to monitor commercial trends and establish both legislation and "good judgment" about policy that at its core does not put student-athletes at risk in commercial activities.
"There is no question that commercial activity is necessary for mounting intercollegiate athletics programs, certainly in Division I, but also in Divisions II and III," Brand wrote in the speech that NCAA Vice President Wallace Renfro delivered at the January Convention. "But that commercial activity must be undertaken within the context of higher education. It must be done the right way. The answer is to use regulation where clear prohibitions are evident — exploitation of student-athletes, for example — and apply values-driven judgment where flexibility is required."