NCAA chief operating officer Jim Isch – the hierarchical No. 2 in the organization behind president Mark Emmert – will depart the association in the coming months, multiple sources have told Yahoo Sports.
Long considered the right-hand man of Emmert, Isch was expected to step down at the end of June but is now in the process of negotiating a severance package that could push the date of his departure beyond the end of this month, sources said.
"We are not going to speculate on personnel matters," NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said.
The departure will mark yet another top-tier NCAA position turning over under Emmert since he took over in April of 2010. During that span the association has faced a growing quagmire of high-profile lawsuits, endured the implosion of several prominent investigations and seen its enforcement arm stripped apart through firings, retirements, or employees leaving for other jobs. Emmert, specifically, has had his leadership questioned through the fallout of the University of Miami probe, as well as during mounting challenges to the NCAA's financial and amateurism model.
Now Isch's departure will add to widespread administrative turnover under Emmert, which has already seen the departures of Tom Jernstedt, a high-powered NCAA vice president of football, baseball and women's basketball; NCAA men's basketball tournament czar Greg Shaheen; Division II steward Mike Racy; NCAA general counsel Elsa Cole and many others.
But few of those individuals wielded the power of Isch, who essentially controlled the NCAA's finances (more than even chief financial officer Kathleen McNeely) and who was believed to have the ear of Emmert. Prior to Emmert's arrival, Isch had acted as the NCAA's interim president following the death of president Myles Brand in 2009. He then played a pivotal role in the candidate search for Brand's replacement, including the courtship of Emmert, whom Isch had shared time with as administrators at Montana State University from 1992-95.
Most recently, Isch came under fire for his role in the NCAA's bungled University of Miami investigation, in which the association paid an attorney of former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro to gain access to evidence relevant to the case. In the fallout of that revelation, the NCAA fired enforcement head Julie Roe Lach for her role in procuring $20,000 to reimburse the lawyer. Emails later revealed Isch had been forwarded the reimbursement proposal by Lach and approved her special finance request for the Miami investigation. But in a seemingly disjointed ruling, an outside investigation ultimately determined that while Isch bore responsibility for approving the funds to Lach, he hadn’t approved them being used to reimburse Shapiro’s attorney. It was that distinction which appeared to ultimately save his job.