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

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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.

Nick Saban thinks skipping bowl games could lead to recruits doing same thing in high school

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Grand Poobah of college football and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had some interesting ideas about the sport over the years that conflict with the general consensus of his peers. The latest subject to fit that mold? How players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping their bowl games could filter down to the high school level with recruits.

“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.'”

The Crimson Tide coach is referencing not only the two tailbacks skipping bowl games but also the possibility that upcoming December signing date could be moved up on the calendar. Big 12 commissioner (and chairman of the Football Oversight Committee) Bob Bowlsby said at his conference media days that the date for signing could be changed or even extended to a longer signing period as part of ongoing discussions about the recruiting process.

Talk of players signing with a college prior to their senior season in high school has not been broadly talked about by coaches or administrators but it does seem like everything is on the table when it comes to NCAA reforms in this area. It remains to be seen if any recruit will actually go as far as sitting out a full year in order to protect himself from injury in order to play in college… just as it remains questionable as to whether Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions will develop into a broader trend at the college level.

Coaches are no fans of dramatically altering the status quo and it seems Saban is among the group who want to stem the postseason defection of players before things turn into a regular occurrence at any level of football.

Coastal Carolina coach Joe Mogila has precautionary surgery on trachea

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Coastal Carolina is one of the newest members of the FBS ranks and the program’s first ever Sun Belt conference media day was supposed to be one of the highlights for the school transitioning the ranks in college football. Unfortunately for the Chanticleers, their head coach won’t be able to make it following a health scare.

The Sun Belt released a statement Friday afternoon saying that Coastal Carolina assistant Jamey Chadwell will represent the team at media day after head coach Joe Mogila “had a precancerous nodule on his trachea and doctors wanted it removed as a precaution.”

The 68-year-old Mogila is perhaps best known to those outside the sport for his time on Wall Street, including a productive stint as CEO of the company now known as TD Ameritrade. He got the itch to coach college football however and has been in charge of the Chanticleers since 2012, leading the program to a 51–15 record at the FCS level.

Chadwell was named CCU’s offensive coordinator this past January after previously serving as head coach at Charleston Southern. Neither the school or the conference indicated any timetable for Mogila’s recovery but based on the release it seems the operation was a success and the coach is now recovering.

Coastal Carolina opens the season on September 2nd against UMass in what will be the school’s first game as a FBS program.

So it begins… Ole Miss recruit decommits after Hugh Freeze departure

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It didn’t take long before Ole Miss to suffer on the recruiting trail from the abrupt departure of Hugh Freeze as head coach on Thursday evening.

In what was probably only a matter of time (just a few hours as it turns out), Rebels 2019 Houston (Tex.) cornerback recruit Bobby Wolfe confirmed to ESPN that he had decommitted from the program on Thursday night following Freeze’s resignation. Several other recruiting services also confirmed the news and noted that many of Ole Miss’ 2018 commitments are starting to have second thoughts about the situation in Oxford.

That the team is struggling to pull in recruits like they were in Freeze’s heyday when the Rebels were a regular in the top 10 of the recruiting rankings is not exactly surprising. Even before the head coach was shown the door, the school was dealing with the fallout from an ongoing NCAA infractions case and are facing the possibility that their bowl ban will extend beyond the self-imposed sit-out of the 2017 season.

With Wolfe no longer committed, Ole Miss doesn’t have a single 2019 pledge according to 247Sports and has just 10 players in the 2018 class — all of whom are three-stars or lower — that currently sits 11th in the conference team rankings. As for the Texas cornerback, he recently picked up an offer from SEC rival LSU and had Baylor extend a verbal scholarship offer not long after re-opening his recruitment.

Former 49ers executive reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor

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Jim Harbaugh is reaching back to his NFL days for the latest hire at Michigan.

Veteran Bay Area journalist Tim Kawakami reports that recent San Francisco 49ers personnel executive Tom Gamble is headed to Ann Arbor to join the Wolverines staff.

According to the fine folks over at sister site ProFootballTalk, Gamble left the 49ers in February shortly after John Lynch was hired by the franchise as general manager. He worked with Harbaugh when their tenures with San Francisco overlapped in 2011 and 2012 before Gamble eventually departed for a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s unclear what role specifically Gamble will take with the Wolverines as Harbaugh already hired a new director of player personnel this year by bringing Sean Magee over from Navy. The former 49ers executive doesn’t have much college experience in the past few decades beyond scouting so it will be interesting to see what his official title at Michigan will be once formally announced by the school.

Either way, it seems like Harbaugh is fully investing in off-the-field roles like his peers at Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and he is not shying away from reaching into the NFL ranks to do so.