SBD/June 23, 2014/Colleges

Did Jim Delany Hurt NCAA's Case After Asserting College Athletes Are Overworked?

Delany said the Big Ten likely would cease to exist if players were paid
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany in court on Friday said that college players "at the highest levels are overworked and unable to fully participate in the college experience," according to Sharon Terlep of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Delany testified on behalf of the NCAA in the Ed O'Bannon antitrust trial. Though Delany "agreed with the NCAA's stand that players shouldn't be paid, he echoed many of the same arguments made by plaintiffs in the case." Delany said college players "cannot take full advantage of what is a very competitive and global place." For instance, many athletes "would be hard-pressed to participate in study abroad programs or internships." Delany also "reiterated a proposal he's made ... that freshmen athletes be prohibited from playing a sport in their first year of school" (WSJ.com, 6/20). Delany said of bringing back the freshman rule, which was in effect until '72, "It is maybe a silver bullet, if not the silver bullet." In N.Y., Ben Strauss noted Delany's point was the experience that shaped him as a North Carolina basketball player from '67-70 "should be available to all college athletes" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/21).

A DIRE PICTURE: The AP's Tim Dahlberg noted Delany "painted a dire picture Friday of what college sports would look like if players were paid." He said that his conference "likely would cease to exist and the Rose Bowl probably would not be played." He added that if some schools agreed to pay players, they "likely would be kicked out of the conference because the move would create an imbalance among schools that could not be resolved." Like NCAA President Mark Emmert, Delany said that college sports "would be irreparably damaged in many ways if a century-old tradition is breached by payments." Delany acknowledged that the Big Ten "gets hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from its sports," with each school receiving a $25M share of the proceeds. But he said that most of this money "goes into programs and academics, even at a time when coaches are earning millions of dollars a year" (AP, 6/20). ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach wrote under the header, "Big 10's Delany Hurts NCAA's Case." After nearly 2 1/2 hours of testimony, it "might have been difficult for observers in the crowded courtroom to determine whether Delany was testifying for the plaintiffs or the defense." In fact, the NCAA "might have been just as well off sending a member of the Drake Group or Knight Commission to the stand." His testimony "shot yet another hole in the NCAA's best defense" (ESPN.com, 6/20).

HYPOCRISY EXPOSED? SI.com's Andy Staples noted lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Hausfeld's cross examination of Delany lasted 52 minutes, and besides a "few moments, it was quite cordial." Hausfeld "didn't even need to ask all the questions he had prepared" (SI.com, 6/20). In N.Y., Joe Nocera wrote the O'Bannon trial "is offering a kind of shadow history of the NCAA." Memos and e-mails "are being introduced that show that there has been concern for years inside the NCAA and member schools about the very issues being litigated." There "were several references in emails to amateurism that were less than reverential and gave one a sense that amateurism was really anything that the NCAA said it was." The plaintiffs "unearthed several internal emails that used the word 'hypocrisy' to describe the NCAA’s business model." As it turns out, Emmert’s day and a half on the stand last week "did not yield any 'gotcha' moments." He "held his temper -- something he hasn’t always done -- refused to be baited" by plaintiffs' attorney Bill Isaacson, and "stuck to his guns." The real evidence "came from the plethora of emails and documents Isaacson was able to introduce" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/21).
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