James Isch wants to fulfill Myles Brand’s unfinished goals at the NCAA.
For now, that’s Isch’s job. He was named Brand’s interim replacement Tuesday, less than a week after the NCAA president died of pancreatic cancer at age 67.
Isch had been serving as the NCAA’s vice president for administration and chief financial officer, overseeing the budget for the premier governing body of college athletics.
“We will continue to focus on academic reform, the fiscal stability of our organization and, most importantly, continue to emphasize the student-athlete,” Isch said during a conference call with reporters. “Within the next few days, I will be reaching out to members of the athletic community and our staff as we chart our course.”
NCAA Executive Committee chairman Michael Adams said the decision was made Monday night. He gave no timetable for naming a new, full-time president.
But until then, Isch is in charge and Adams does not expect the longtime NCAA executive to be merely a figurehead. Adams said several other candidates were considered, though he did not name them, and that he wants Isch to pursue the kind of agenda Brand laid out.
“He (Isch) served as liaison to the search group that brought Myles Brand into this organization, and if we don’t get the financing right, all the other association goals would be moot. So the board has full confidence in Jim Isch’s ability,” Adams said. “We will move ahead with Myles’ goals.”
Isch joined the NCAA’s staff in 1998 after holding administrative posts at Arkansas, Kansas State and Montana State.
Over the past nine months, as Brand underwent cancer treatment, Isch was one of four members on the president’s cabinet who helped oversee the day-to-day tasks. The other three were Bernard Franklin, Greg Shaheen and Wally Renfro, all of whom hold vice president titles.
The executive committee is not scheduled to meet again until Oct. 29, with details of the formal search almost certainly taking center stage. Among those believed to be top candidates are Franklin, Adams and University of Hartford president Walter Harrison.
“Myles did talk with me about the people in the association in which he had the most confidence,” Adams said. “He mentioned four or five people in that regard. He did not offer a belief in who the next interim should be and, as Myles usually did, he trusted the decision of the committee.”
Isch worked on the NCAA’s strategic-planning effort in 2003-04 and the Presidential Task Force in 2006, a project designed to help universities make more cost-effective decisions about athletics. He also helped oversee the NCAA’s move from Overland Park, Kan., to Indianapolis.
Isch’s top priority: Following Brand’s vision with a personal touch.
“I’m going to be reaching out to all the vice presidents, but I will be facing special reliance on the other three individuals who were part of the small group that helped direct and guide the association during Myles’ illness,” Isch said. “I would intend to also expand that group some. At this point, I can’t tell you exactly how many.
“But I can tell you this. I will be on the road.”
Isch, an Army veteran, earned a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State and a master’s from Boston University. He also has a doctorate degree in philosophy from Kansas State.
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