As the NCAA considers potential punishment for Penn State Univ. in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the Big Ten Conference “could hand down an even harsher penalty -- booting the university out of the conference,” according to Brad Wolverton of the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. A new set of proposals being circulated among Big Ten officials would give conference Commissioner Jim Delany “more power to punish programs that step outside the lines, including firing coaches himself.” The Big Ten Conference Handbook "does not contain language addressing a situation as egregious” as the Sandusky scandal and alleged cover-up by Penn State football staff and school administration. The Big Ten's 12-member Council of Presidents and Chancellors “must approve any decision to suspend, expel, or place on probation any member of the conference.” The league handbook states that expulsion "requires a vote of not less than" 60% of the full council. But a conference spokesperson said that the figure is actually 70%, "or eight members, which will be reflected in the 2012-13 handbook.” A Big Ten official said that the league currently “does not have a contingency scheduling plan should Penn State's football team be banned from playing this or any season.” But fallout from the scandal “has many Big Ten leaders on edge.” Univ. of Iowa President Sally Mason, who also serves as Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors Chair, said that she and her colleagues “plan to discuss those problems in coming weeks, but she has no early sign of what they may decide.”
PROTECTING THE BRAND: Following a December Big Ten meeting, “much of which was taken up by discussions of Penn State, conference officials drafted a set of guidelines to help govern institutional control over athletics.” A league document stated that one “impetus was to protect the Big Ten brand.” While the 18-page plan “does not mention the problems at Penn State, several Big Ten presidents and chancellors said the situation there was a catalyst for the league's action.” Wolverton noted to “guard against further damage to the Big Ten brand, the conference has proposed requiring member universities to put more power in the hands of campus presidents and athletic directors.” The league also “wants to require member institutions to have policies and procedures in place that would dissuade rogue boosters and trustees with inappropriate involvement in programs from trying to influence university leaders' decisions.” The Big Ten would “oversee regular audits of universities to identify any weaknesses in those systems, and could issue sanctions against universities for significant failures to comply.” Mason said, “This document is still a work in progress. Several of our presidents feel it needs more work" (CHRONICLE.com, 7/18).
FROM THE DESK OF THE AD: Purdue Univ. AD Morgan Burke said Wolverton's conclusions were "premature." She "acknowledged surprise that a media outlet had obtained the proposal." Burke said, “This was something for the presidents to look at and they haven’t reached any conclusions yet.” [Delany] was asked to put together the bookends. What are the things they should be looking at? What are the things they should consider? So to make it sound like this is a process that is well under way, I think, is a bit premature.” Burke added that the proposal “would likely be discussed next week when conference athletic directors meet in Chicago as part of the Big Ten’s football media days” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/20). Ohio State Univ. AD Gene Smith said, “The intent is not for the commissioner to come in and say, ‘As a result of our findings, we’re going to fire this coach.’ Findings would be turned over to an institution, and the institution would respond. This would give (Delany) the ability to be strong and firm on a recommendation to the (school) president on how he or she would deal with the personnel situation.” Smith added that he “doesn’t expect a vote on the plan until probably next year” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/20).
IN THE COACHES' CORNER: Univ. of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said that he “doubts that individual schools would be willing to give up control to the conference on such an issue of firing a coach.” Still, he said that it is “important for Big Ten leaders to sharpen their standards” (AP, 7/19). In Detroit, Matt Charboneau writes Michigan State Univ. basketball coach Tom Izzo is “leery of the idea of someone not associated with the university having say over whether someone might or might not be fired.” Izzo said, "If you're not there for the day-to-day interaction, you shouldn't have a say (in whether someone keeps their job). I'm not around the chemistry department day-to-day, so I shouldn't have a say in how they operate” (DETROIT NEWS, 7/20). The Chicago Tribune's Fred Mitchell said, "Giving the commissioner the kind of power that Roger Goodell has in the NFL, I don't see that ever happening.” The Chicago Tribune’s Bob Foltman: “I can't imagine that the university presidents would go along with that.” The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc: “Who’s watchdogging him? You can't do that.” Foltman: “That's just really setting yourself up for some bad things” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 7/19).