Robert Gates Ran the Pentagon. Can He Help Save the N.C.A.A.?

The Supreme Court docket unanimously dominated in opposition to the N.C.A.A. in an antitrust case this summer season, a sign occasion for a lot of school sports activities officers, however Gates nervous concerning the affiliation’s future lengthy earlier than that call. When he was president of Texas A&M, he thought of the N.C.A.A. proficient at organizing championship occasions and sustaining nationwide eligibility requirements for athletes, however he additionally noticed a rule e book that he likened to the tax code, “a stultifying paperwork and a corporation that discovered it very troublesome to alter.”

Requested which organizational chart he discovered extra daunting — the Pentagon’s or the N.C.A.A.’s — he chuckled and replied: “Effectively, they’re comparable — and incomprehensible. They appear to be an AT&T wiring diagram.”

Gates’s subordinates at Texas A&M regarded him as attentive to athletics however not as a micromanager. He relied on athletic directors for day-to-day selections, however he additionally frequently dined with R.C. Slocum, the celebrated soccer coach whom he in the end ousted. (Talking to Time whereas he was atop the Protection Division, Gates stated that he had usually noticed that “Texas A&M soccer brought on me extra stress than any job I’ve ever had.”)

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

“I favored him, I believed he was good and he was not somebody who was going to attempt to intrude with what we have been doing,” Slocum stated on Thursday.

Jeanne Sutherland, who led the ladies’s golf program at Texas A&M for 15 seasons, recalled that Gates and his spouse, Becky Gates, would invite championship groups to their residence for dinner. Like Slocum, Sutherland remembered Gates as a president who set express requirements after which moved out of the way in which.

“He was very clear with us what his expectations have been, and that was to, No. 1, run a clear program and, No. 2, to win,” Sutherland, now the affiliate head coach at Nebraska, stated. “The clear program was on the prime of the listing.”

And whereas some college presidents take care of athletics in extremes — both no curiosity or digital obsession — Kevin Weiberg, the Massive 12 commissioner throughout Gates’s tenure at Texas A&M, remembered Gates occupying a center floor.

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