SBD/July 29, 2014/Colleges

Big Ten's Jim Delany Takes Measured Tone In Power Five's Push For Autonomy

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany yesterday at the conference's media days delivered a message that was "measured in tone and tact ... unlike some of his fellow league leaders," according to Todd Jones of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Delany said that he expects the NCAA D-I BOD "to pass the proposed governance model that would give more autonomy to power conferences." He added, "I'd be very surprised if it doesn't pass. ... If it doesn't, I don't really know what we'd do. I expect there would probably be conversations within each conference, we'd huddle up, and then see where we're at." Delany offered "no threat that the Big Ten and the other four power conferences would form its own division under the NCAA or break away altogether from the governing body of college sports." Delany "wasn't nearly as doom-and-gloom" as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was last week. However, Delany said NCAA enforcement is "overmatched" and needs an overhaul. He seemed "less threatened by other changes to college sports." Delany reiterated his "belief that the benefits of athletics being integrated with academics outweigh the cries of those calling for an entirely new system." He said, "I certainly hope when the dust settles there will be a wide array of educational and athletic opportunities for many men and women. I hope, at the end of the day, the courts will support us in achieving them" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/29). But Delany said that college sports "can be improved ... and should be." He called the Big Ten "the gold standard" for combining athletics and academics. Delany said that Big Ten leaders "continue to think the two are inextricably linked" (USA TODAY, 7/29).

HITTING THE BULLET POINTS: Delany addressed several other topics, including the unionization efforts sparked by Northwestern football players. He said, "I don’t think there’s anything that’s inevitable. I think that the first thing I would say is that it happened at Northwestern -- I think it was surprising but probably not shocking. And it will get resolved there pursuant to the law and pursuant to the desires of the players. Whether or not it’s got legs in other places around the country, it’s hard to predict or project. I would say even at the outset that, for the most part, these matters of labor are really a state-by-state issue, especially for public institutions. ... We’ll work with whatever outcomes are there, and as it goes through, we’ll present our position in a vigorous way" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/29). Delany also reiterated that the Big Ten scheduling model "going forward will include nine conference games, one nonconference game against a power league opponent, and no games against FCS teams." He acknowledged that some high-level FCS teams "are more competitive than low-level FBS squads and that it often costs less to schedule games against the FCS." But Delany said that he is "worried less about the budget and more about making sure his conference has the strength-of-schedule ratings needed to catch the eye of the College Football Playoff selection committee" (ESPN.com, 7/28).

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES? In North Carolina, Adam Smith noted Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner Tom Yeager "doesn't hesitate to defend his turf." In delivering a "different perspective on the major conferences' move for autonomy -- and at times scoffing at it -- Yeager used this past week’s CAA kickoff event at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to fire bow-crossing shots from his league’s position." Yeager: "My attitude is, have at it guys. ... For the first time in decades, Texas can’t blame Towson for their problems. Alabama can’t cite Albany. Michigan can’t blame (James) Madison. USC can’t blame UNH. We’re no longer the villains in whatever happens" (BURLINGTON TIMES NEWS, 7/27).
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