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Conference Commissioners: Intercollegiate Athletics Change Agents

Photo by Marc Bryan-Brown
The commissioners of three of the most recognizable conferences in the country addressed a long list of issues during the second day of the conference.

Here are some quick hits on the session:

On conference realignment:
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany answered questions about the recent additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten. “The paradigm has shifted, and all five major conferences are outside their footprint,” he said. “We saw continuing changes and we thought there were more risks embracing the status quo.” Delany acknowledged that sometimes realignment isn’t popular with the conference fan base. “We have lost some things that are very valuable,” he said. “There may be some ambivalence (about new markets), but I think over time that can be overcome if the institutional connections and the competition” are able to grow. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive added that, when it comes to realignment, he prioritizes geographical identity over media possibilities and, before adding a new school, has to ask himself, “Will the SEC be the kind of preeminent conference 20 years from now that it is today?”

Agents of Change

Mike Aresco, Big East Conference
Jim Delany, Big Ten Conference
Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference

On a new media rights deal for the SEC:
“We’re close,” said Slive. “We’ll characterize it as in the final stages of conversations with both (CBS and ESPN), and we hope to have something to be able to say publicly in January.” As for the launch of an SEC network, he was pretty clear that such a thing is imminent. “If you were to ask how many more conference networks are we going to see, I’d say at least one,” he said.On a new media deal for the Big East:
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco is trying to finish a new media deal while also handling instability caused by realignment. “We reinvented ourselves to a large extent,” he said. “I support this model, that the basketball and football will cross-promote each other.” Aresco claimed that six companies are in the mix for the new deal. “The Big East brand is still extremely valuable,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of the brand with 30 years of equity.”

On whether Big Ten Network affected expansion:
When asked about how much Fox (Big Ten Network) influenced the decision to add Maryland and Rutgers, Delany replied that they weren’t consulted, which surprised many in the room. “We made the move we made because we thought the Big Ten as a conference, not for the Big Ten Network, but as a conference, would be in a great position for the next decade,” he said.

On the biggest change they’d like to see 5 years from now in college sports:

Slive: “To continue to use the pulpit that we have to remind everyone that what we do is really just part of a much larger picture, and that’s a hard balance to maintain. It’s part of an educational system, and we take care of our student-athletes in the best possible way.”

Aresco: “I’d like to see (conference) consolidation finally take hold so there’s less uncertainty and people can build on what they have.”

Delany: “It doesn’t get told a lot, but the number of athletes getting the experience of competition and education. We’ve got kids going to school every day, graduating at good solid rates and having good competitive experiences. That’s a big part of what we do.”

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Media, CBS, ESPN

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