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Jim Delany talks de-emphasizing athletics; we call his bluff

Rutgers Announces Move to Big Ten Conference Getty Images

The importance of the Ed O’Bannon case vs. the NCAA in regards to the future of college athletics cannot be stated enough. As we touched on briefly back in late January, the lawsuit is still on track to become a class-action that could eventually result in college athletes receiving (and deservedly so) a piece of the ever-growing television revenue pot.

Needless to say, that would dramatically alter the idea of amateurism that the NCAA and several college admins hide behind. One of those admins is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. In an intriguing article from Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples, which you can and absolutely should read HERE, Delany openly explored the idea of the Big Ten moving to a de-emphasized athletics model should athletes ever receive compensation in a pay-for-play scenario.

Here’s what Delany wrote in a declaration supporting the NCAA against the O’Bannon’s pursuit of class-action status. In it, Delany introduces the possibility of using a Division III model:

“…it has been my longstanding belief that The Big Ten’s schools would forgo the revenues in those circumstances and instead take steps to downsize the scope, breadth and activity of their athletic programs. Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.”

And this is what Delany told Staples:

“It’s not that we want to go Division III or go to need-based aid,” Delany said. “It’s simply that in the plaintiff’s hypothetical — and if a court decided that Title IX is out and players must be paid — I don’t think we’d participate in that. I think we’d choose another option. … If that’s the law of the land, if you have to do that, I don’t think we would.”

Delany wasn’t alone in filing his declaration. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Texas athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris PlonskyBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack have also filed similar documents.

Staples writes candidly “If the Big Ten schools dropped athletic scholarships and moved to Division III or into the non-scholarship FCS realm occupied by the schools of the Ivy and Pioneer leagues, it would inject some intellectual honesty into this debate. Schools and leagues say they want to run amateur sports that enrich the collegiate experience, but then they run football and men’s basketball like professional sports. This would mean a group of 14 schools leaving millions of dollars on the table to run true amateur athletic programs that exist only to enhance the university experience of their students.”

And therein lies the biggest deterrent for Delany and anyone else considering a future with less emphasis on athletics and its revenue potential, whether it’s a DIII model or otherwise: no one, and I say this quite confidently, is going to seriously leave that much money on the table based on some out-of-date belief that those who work hard to help generate that revenue shouldn’t receive even a small portion of it.

(If they did, more power to ’em. At least someone would be standing by their words. Just be prepared for a massive pay decrease or pink slip.) 

But consider Delany’s job description. As Big Ten commissioner, Delany is responsible for serving his presidents and athletic directors. What he wants doesn’t always reflect what his conference wants, or what it will get. By Delany’s own admission, he hasn’t polled them on the idea of moving to another model. But he does feel confident that they would support his idea.

“… I think our presidents, our faculties and our boards of trustees would just opt out,” Delany said of a pay-for-play. “I don’t know what the opt-out means, whether that’s Division III or another model.”

Picture the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State agreeing to de-emphasize their athletics programs. No, really. Go ahead.

How about new members Maryland and Rutgers? The Terps moved to the Big Ten solely because of money and the Big Ten expanded to 14 — and could expand again to 16 — to grow its footprint in richer television markets.

Those schools have factions to consider too, such as wealthy alumni, season-ticket holders and network subscribers. All play a pivotal role in making the Big Ten one of the most recognizable and profitable brands in college athletics.

Delany insists he isn’t bluffing. We’re saying he is, and we’re not alone. Remember how anti-playoff Delany was?

Then again, completely scrapping everything you’ve built for the sake of making sure some athletes don’t get paid is the most college athletics thing ever.

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34 Responses to “Jim Delany talks de-emphasizing athletics; we call his bluff”
  1. barbeaux says: Mar 18, 2013 10:20 PM

    Heaven forbid they share the millions and millions and millions they make.

  2. barbeaux says: Mar 18, 2013 10:22 PM

    *they make is perhaps the wrong phrase…should be glean or something like that…the schools and conferences don’t make the value…the players do.

  3. normtide says: Mar 18, 2013 10:44 PM

    I believe it, they are already playing division III football. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  4. alligatorsnapper says: Mar 18, 2013 10:48 PM

    Extremely few schools, if any, would opt out of the hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars on the table, huge salaries for conference commissioners, their huge staffs, their huge state of the art headquarters, individual school ADs and their staffs, and most especially top coaches and associate/assistant coaches, huge stadiums with luxury suites and the latest LCD scoreboards and screens, luxury accommodations at the best hotels and with the best transportation…

    Delaney along with any other conference commissioners, college presidents, ADs and coaches, who think this way, will be quickly voted down by their Boards when they look at the bottom line. They apparently fear the success of O’Bannon’s legal suit, especially if it evolves into a class action.

    Like southernpatriots’ partriarch told me some years ago, college athletics was getting so lucrative that they would have to start sharing the money eventually with athletes some kind of way and it would have been nice if they had already begun to do it with a stipend of a few hundred dollars each month for pocket money, and maybe a little more for those schools which do not supply free laundry service.

  5. bralinshan says: Mar 18, 2013 10:57 PM

    Nobody makes players go to college. If you play football, and want to play in the NFL one day, college is the only path….

    There are two outcomes for those that would like to play in the NFL:

    1. They are either good enough and won’t necessarily require the education that they receive to make a good living (though they might still benefit from a degree)…


    2. They are either not good enough…or get an injury that prevents the NFL from being a valid path.

    In the case of #2, it’s a damned good idea to take advantage of your free education. If you don’t, then that will be your issue. I have two kids in college now, one on an athletic scholarship, and I’m grateful for the fact that they can get an education. I’m especially thankful for the athletic scholarship. That scholarship is more than good enough for me.

    I don’t need to see anyone’s pockets lined while they are in college. And my son is learning a lot about how to manage his “lifestyle” with very little money in his pocket. And he’s loving every minute of it.

    The portrait of the “exploited” student athlete is over the top. Take advantage of the free ride…there is value in that degree that money cannot buy.

  6. txnative61 says: Mar 19, 2013 1:27 AM

    The rationale for forming the BCS was to protect the traditions of conferences and the bowl system and affiliations. They have gotten so far from that ideal in the greedy quest to get every dollar possible that such statements are laughable. All to keep a few college athletes from having the pocket change given by fellow students’ parents. I hope they all follow through with it, and it totally destroys the corrupt BCS/Conference infrastructure. Surely our University’s can do better.

  7. sparky151 says: Mar 19, 2013 1:29 AM

    Money is terribly corrupting to college sports, especially to impressionable young men so only athletic administrators can be trusted with the money.

  8. thraiderskin says: Mar 19, 2013 1:31 AM

    As far as I’m concerned, the rest of the B1G has already de-emphasized the importance of College Football. Perhaps Delaney is trying to explain how bad the other teams are in the conference. Hell look how competitive PSU was and they had every reason not to be.

  9. lbijake says: Mar 19, 2013 9:22 AM

    Next think Delaney will be saying someone hacked his twitter account and he never said that. He is so full of it as he is afraid his salary will get cut by paying the real talent.

    Set my people free.

  10. florida727 says: Mar 19, 2013 9:39 AM

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I disagree with the concept of paying athletes. Foremost, they’re getting a six-figure education for free. That’s a pretty hefty “payment” right there. But I do see a couple of other things in play here…

    1) If want to HELP athletes have some spending money, help them get local jobs. They can work to earn extra money just like every other student does. Deliver pizzas, work at the local grocery store, whatever. The athletic departments can even work together with local businesses to make this happen. A lot of folks have this notion that all athletes do is go to class (hopefully), practice, and work out when they’re not at practice. Wrong. They, by rule, are limited to how many practices they can have and the workout schedule is flexible enough that they CAN work a part-time job IF they choose to do so.

    2) Delaney’s not completely off his rocker, but no, they won’t go all D3 on anyone any time soon. What they will do though is drastically reduce the number of scholarships offered. You’ll see 2- and 3-star players walking on at some of the higher profile programs. If I read it right, D1 schools can offer the equivalent of 63 FULL scholarships in football (most schools give ‘partials’, so the number of athletes getting something is usually higher than 63). If they have to pay scholarship players, expect the number to go down at the very least.

    3) Before you think all the money is being consumed by the football program and the administrators, etc., remember that these revenues fund all the other non-revenue generating sports. (Women’s field hockey isn’t exactly a huge financial boom to most universities I’m guessing.) Start paying football players and you can expect other sports being eliminated.

    In summary, I’m not in favor of paying athletes. The percentage of players that “go pro” is so obscenely low, if they’re looking to spend some of that TV money, spend it on educating the reality to some of these players that they’re NOT going to get an NFL paycheck. Focus on getting your degree. I played college basketball at a small school and got hurt. Was I good enough to go pro? No. But I accepted the reality that any chance I did have was gone early. Work as hard at academics and you did at athletics. That work ethic is what got you a six-figure education for FREE. That’s no small accomplishment.

  11. polegojim says: Mar 19, 2013 9:43 AM

    @bralin – EXACTLY….

    They ARE paid to play today. It’s called tuition.

    They make about $100,000 – $120,000 to play football for 4 years.

    I’m sick and tired of hearing people WHINE about young men who get a complete free ride for a GREAT education… ESP in the B1G… and are asked to use their talents to play football in return.

    What is the freaking downside?

    If they don’t want to attend the ‘football scholarship’ college – there are plenty of other options. Buck up like a big boy and just pay for your own education!

    Plus… it’s only AFTER the fact that some players are wanting $$$ for using their ‘likeness’. The school invests a tremendous amount of $, time and effort developing them into who they are LATER.

    Again… if you don’t want your picture on a poster 5 years after graduation… GRADUATE from somewhere else.

  12. polegojim says: Mar 19, 2013 9:45 AM

    @norm…. that’s just because we HAVEN’T been paying our kids as others have… and have always emphasized the education. ; )

  13. normtide says: Mar 19, 2013 9:55 AM

    Great points Florida and polego. Well except about the B1G not paying, I remember pryor’s cars.

    I like a small stipend. Many are far from home, with little support. The problem with giving kids paychecks are clear. First, title 9. The law says you would have to pay all athletes. Not to mention, a soccer player would end up filling suit for his money. Second, while the epic schools could pay, the others could not. These players are offered a chance for a degree, whether they take it is up to them.

  14. drummerhoff says: Mar 19, 2013 10:01 AM

    TV rights money is a bubble. Its there up to 2025 … After that, no one wants to get caught paying for a players hospital bill. That’s what Delany and others are really saying.

  15. mogogo1 says: Mar 19, 2013 11:50 AM

    So, they’d give up all the money rather than share any with the athletes? And Delany actually thinks there’s a single person on earth who will take him seriously?

    And without that money, how would Delany envision athletic programs getting their funding? He’d advocate millions being taken from the schools’ general funds to pay for big-time athletics at the level they are now? He’d be okay with Big 10 sports resembling DIII with modest facilities and limited national travel? Or he’d be okay with sports being eliminated so football and basketball could maintain some semblance of their current levels? There’s no magic money tree out there that would allow the current financial model to go away without there being huge repercussions. Delany sounds like a total fool, and worse yet he seems to believe everybody listening is a bigger fool.

  16. floridacock says: Mar 19, 2013 12:06 PM

    Even with the TV money most D1 schools are struggling or in the red. Coaching staffs will have to cut their pay to make this happen. NOT!

  17. cameron poe says: Mar 19, 2013 12:21 PM

    Here’s a novel concept. Instead of paying these kids why doesn’t the NCAA just eliminate some of the asinine and arbitrary rules they currently have in place. Don’t give these kids paychecks on top of scholarships, but also don’t act like it’s a heinous act for a restaurant to give them a free meal, a parent of a teammate or friend to give them food or gas money, or for a local car dealer to give them a loner car for a little PR, and most certainly under no circumstances punish them or the university for selling memorabilia they earned through their own blood, sweat, and tears.

  18. tngilmer says: Mar 19, 2013 12:27 PM

    Need based scholarships only and single platoon (limited substitution) football. I would love it.

  19. Deb says: Mar 19, 2013 1:19 PM

    Nice article, Ben. These guys are just posturing. They’re taking an extreme position because they don’t want to divvy the pie with the players (interesting that Womack, rather than Slive, signed off for the SEC). But if they lose the court battle, they’ll cave. You can’t send them back to the Division III farm after they’ve seen the bright lights and Big Bucks.

  20. drummerhoff says: Mar 19, 2013 3:39 PM

    college football on prime time network tv is relatively new and one thinks it will last forever.
    when the tv money dries up, the B1G’s AAU consortium will still get oodles of grant money.

    He’s playing a card game with 2 hands … So if he’s bluff with one hand … is it really a bluff?

  21. nightman13 says: Mar 19, 2013 4:32 PM

    College athletics are a Republican’s dream, a revenue producing business where it is illegal to pay the workers.


  22. alligatorsnapper says: Mar 19, 2013 5:25 PM


    The NCAA was established by college and university presidents. The overwhelming majority of college and university presidents, as with most college and university professors, are Democrat, just to keep truth in posting.

    The biggest capitalists today, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc. are Democrats.

  23. mcjon22 says: Mar 19, 2013 9:27 PM

    Just make them choose between getting a cut of the revenue, or having to pay Thousands of dollars a year for room, board, and tuition.

  24. barbeaux says: Mar 19, 2013 10:49 PM

    I’m missing something. How are major programs “running in the red?” The figures show otherwise:

  25. danoregon says: Mar 20, 2013 1:28 AM

    The Big 10 going DIII – I’m sure every coach in every sport in the conference just lobbed a few chairs against the wall. Don’t think that comment won’t come up in recruiting battles.
    It would be admirable if the comment came from the idea that college sports has become over commercialized, but everyone knows its just about the schools not wanting to share.

  26. sssjim7 says: Mar 20, 2013 1:34 AM

    Yeah… my crazy idea of Ohio State and Michigan going to the SEC is getting better and better all the time:)

  27. nightman13 says: Mar 20, 2013 11:51 AM


    The NCAA is very different now than when it was established and when is the last time that Warren Buffet or Bill Gates tried to crush unions or lower minimum wage?

    Comparing Buffet and Gates, who are extremely charitable and generous, to the likes of the crooked Delany and others making billions in untaxed money off of athletes that don’t get paid is patently absurd.


    Seriously? You think these athletes actually get a good deal because they get free room and board? How about they trade the free room and board for the billions of dollars the NCAA makes off of them.

    There is no money without the athletes, just like there is no money for corporations without their employees.

    Saying they don’t deserve a cut of the money they make is like saying you shouldn’t get paid at your job because they already give a free chair and desk.

  28. normtide says: Mar 20, 2013 12:11 PM

    I have yet to see an actual plan on how to pay players. I like the stipend idea, but is it every player? Can ball state pay it’s back up kicker? What about walk ons? What happens when a golfer sues? What about recruiting, people complained about deregulation already. Do you only pay stars, because that would never work.

    I do believe a free education counts as something. If you don’t know the value of an education, you probably don’t have one. There are jobs that don’t pay, you apprentice for free, just for the job training.

    I want to see a plan, that includes title nine, recruiting, insurance, everything.

  29. Ben Kercheval says: Mar 20, 2013 12:16 PM

    “I want to see a plan, that includes title nine, recruiting, insurance, everything.”

    Tough, ain’t it, normtide? There are plans out there, but they can’t get a majority vote. To me, the most reasonable step is adding value to an athletic scholarship. The problem: Can every program afford it? The NCAA had originally passed legislation on this before it was tabled a short time later.

    I’d say life isn’t fair and let percentages of tv revenue and market value determine who gets paid what, but I know that will never, ever fly. But you could also do a combination where you add value to the scholarship, and then certain players get a percentage of their jersey sales after they leave.

  30. normtide says: Mar 20, 2013 12:42 PM

    The only way I see it working is with the 5 BCS leagues. Also, can you just pay football and basketball players without other athletes filling suit?

    I am all for a much smaller division 1A, but are fans of smaller schools? Its really the only way to make a playoff work. I am also against the BCS leagues subsidizing the schools who couldn’t pay their players. Like you said, let the market work it out.

    It’s just that people say pay them, like it’s as easy as cutting a check.

  31. nightman13 says: Mar 20, 2013 3:03 PM

    I do value an education, as I have an extensive one. However, football and basketball players at high level BCS schools are not getting a real education, at least not most of them. They are being kept eligible to play sports and most of these kids that can’t cut it at the pro level are not well equipped to handle the real world because they had tutors, ridiculous majors that don’t prepare them for any real job or poorly developed life skills honed by getting taken care of as long as they are useful to the school.

    It’s not a free education, it’s a free remedial education for a lot of these kids, especially in some of the conferences that have tragically low graduation rates amongst their athletes. The educational standards are so low to keep these guys eligible that it defeats the purpose of the “education” they are supposed to be getting.

  32. florida727 says: Mar 20, 2013 6:04 PM

    With all due respect #nightman, I disagree with your position stated in your 11:51a post: “There is no money without the athletes, just like there is no money for corporations without their employees.”, because it’s not a valid comparison/argument.

    As we all know, college sports fans are just, shall we say, a little “demented”. Face it, we’d all follow our favorite teams if 1-star athletes were all they could recruit. And don’t kid yourself: if TV can drag in eyeballs, advertising rights fees will be there.

    As far as your most recent post goes, “remedial” is a bit of a stretch. The athlete can make of their education what they choose. I had a friend who played on Florida’s 2 national championship basketball teams while majoring in engineering (funny story: one of his profs didn’t believe he was on the team until Donovan called him and told him my friend was going to the SEC tournament and would not be in class the next day :) ).

    The bigger problem with big-time athletics is that almost ALL of the kids at the BCS schools think they’re going to the NFL, NBA or whatever as soon as they’re done at “fill in the blank” University. So yeah, they CHOOSE to take the soft majors. One word for you: accountability. These athletes need to realize there is life outside of sports (can’t believe I actually wrote that, geez).

    Bottom line: they ARE getting a six-figure education. It’s up to them to make the most out of it. If they waste their good fortune, that’s their problem.

  33. gamustangdude says: Mar 25, 2013 11:14 AM

    It doesn’t matter either way for me. I hear both sides of the argument; athletes shouldn’t get paid because they get free tuition / room and board. Yeah that makes some sense, if we assume that all players are receiving full rides, some maybe receiving partial and some have no scholarship at all. In addition, some schools cost more than others. A $100,000 dollar education at one school may only be to a $30,000 education at a different school. It’s all free so it really shouldn’t matter, right? However, is it all “free?” Some athletes may be receiving a free education in monetary terms, but in all actuality they are paying for it in tangibles such as blood, sweat, and tears amongst others. If I’m putting in the same amount of work at a $30,000 dollar school that another athlete is putting in at a $100,000 school is it evenhanded?
    On the other hand, schools are making a lot of revenue over college athletes. If we are going to start paying players / giving them stipend then it would need to be NCAA controlled and not up to the schools, in my opinion. Think about how recruiting would change drastically if “school x” is able to provide more stipend money then “school y”. If the notion of paying players is going to get some serious playing time, the NCAA would have to control that pot of money and somehow equally split it to all athletes at all NCAA athletic programs. That would imply that the athletes on the women’s Lacrosse team from Long Island University (Brooklyn Campus) would make the same amount of money as the athletes on Alabama’s Football team. That would open up a completely bran new can of worms.

  34. gamustangdude says: Mar 25, 2013 11:16 AM

    so many typos, some wonder If I ever went to college, smdh

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