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'Really good fit': College athletic officials support Baker as NCAA boss, but have requests

UMass Amherst football players.
UMass Amherst
UMass Amherst football players.

The head of athletics at UMass said Governor Charlie Baker is the right man to lead the NCAA.

The organization made the announcement Thursday.

UMass Amherst Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford said he's extremely excited about the choice.

"He's proven to be a consensus builder, a really straight-thinking CEO and that I think at this juncture of the NCAA's life, is really a good fit," Bamford said.

Bamford said Baker's public and private sector experience — as well as the time he spent as a student athlete — will also help him in his new role.

Dick Lenfest, director of athletics at Westfield State University, also said he's excited about the choice of Baker. But he was surprised by it, given that the NCAA typically chooses university presidents to lead it.

Lenfest said he hopes Baker is able to secure more funding for Division III athletics.

"We're the largest division — between Divisions I, III, and III — however we're funded the least," he said.

A top sports economist in Massachusetts said Baker will have his work cut out for him. Andrew Zimbalist is professor emeritus at Smith College.

"I think he's going to find that the waters are much more challenging in Indianapolis than they were in Boston," Zimbalist said.

Zimbalist said an anti-trust exemption is critical to the NCAA's future, and that has to go through Congress.

"That's why Charlie was picked for this job." he said. "Charlie, of course, is a Republican who's shown an ability to work across the aisle and so they're hopeful that he can pull a rabbit out of the hat and somehow get the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress to go along with the idea of an anti-trust exemption."

Baker starts in his new role in March.