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Original Issue

Walter Byers 1922--2015

When Walter Byers became the first executive director of the NCAA in 1951, he headed a five-person staff in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo. Over the next 36 years Byers, who died last week at 93 of a bloodstream infection, turned the association into one of the largest and most powerful organizations in sports, with a staff of 143 on a budget of $100 million when he retired in 1987. The man who first resisted Title IX later embraced women's athletics, helped invent the term student-athlete and raised the issue of player compensation before most others, urging lawmakers to enact an athletes' bill of rights. After he retired to raise cattle, his book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes, blasted the commercialism he had helped to create.