NCAA vs. Joe Nocera, Take 2

New York — A year ago, Joe Nocera walked into the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, an annual gathering of influential athletics leaders here, and passed through largely unnoticed. The New York Times columnist had just written a lengthy article for the Times Magazine on the need to pay college athletes, and he sensed he might have more to say.

Turns out, he had a lot more to say. Since last December, he has devoted more than a dozen of his twice-weekly columns to college-sports issues, many of them scathing takedowns of the NCAA. He is also working on a book about college sports and the association.

His latest column—which looks at the white hat he says the NCAA tries to wear in messy investigative situations, and concerns over its lack of disclosure in pursuit of justice—suggests the association could be the “next tobacco.”

In a session here, a moderator asked Mark Emmert what he thought of that accusation. Seemingly flustered, the NCAA’s president said he had not read the column.

“I know his views, and I don’t need to read his columns to know them,” he told the hundreds of people gathered here. “It’s just not a good use of time.”

Mr. Nocera, who was sitting a few seats away from me, kept tapping away at his laptop and didn’t look up. I caught up with him after the session, where he said he was busy mapping an outline and potential characters for his book.

Earlier this year, I wrote about some of his run-ins with the NCAA (he has also written about some of my work). At the time, I asked him how much longer he planned to keep writing about college sports. “As long as it takes,” he said.

On Wednesday he told me he planned to keep writing columns about perceived NCAA injustices while researching his book. But he doesn’t intend to give away everything in the newspaper. “I don’t want to blow my punch lines,” he told me. “Not that much.”

As we were walking away from the conference hall, a man stopped him near a coffee shop. “Are you the Times guy?” he said. “I’m a big fan.”

Later, after the man had left, Mr. Nocera said, “That doesn’t happen very often.”

The NCAA certainly hasn’t sent him any valentines. But as he stays on the beat, it makes you wonder if the two sides shouldn’t try to look each other in the eye more often.

Mr. Nocera said he had registered for the NCAA’s convention next month but was questioning whether it would be worth attending. He certainly wasn’t planning to use it to build good will with the association.

“They hate me,” he said. “But that’s fine.”

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