Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany made headlines again earlier this week in an interview with Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.
Delany confirmed that if the Ed O’Bannon case, which is moving toward class-action status, results in college athletes receiving compensation from television revenue, he would consider de-emphasizing the Big Ten’s athletics programs — possibly going to an FCS or Division III model — in the name of amateurism.
“It’s a statement of belief,” Delany told Staples. “I think that’s what would happen. I do not believe that the hypothetical case being put forth — if it actually became the case — that Big Ten institutions would engage in that.”
Believe it as he may, practically no one else did. Sonny Vaccaro, a consultant for the O’Bannon plaintiffs, called Delany’s comments “insane”.
“It’s the most irrational statement I’ve ever seen from a person who’s in power to do something for the players,” Vaccaro said via al.com. “Pay-for-play is not a true statement. What it is and what it always will be is compensation for these kids when they’re no longer at the school so they’re part of the process.”
Recall that it was Delany and the Big Ten who discussed the idea more money for athletes on top of the value of their athletic scholarship — not necessarily a pay-for-play — in May, 2011.
“What I would have hoped is people like this in authority overlooking the athletes, because they have no legal representation, is let’s do the right thing by the participants,” Vaccaro continued. “Let’s understand the world has changed. Basically, it was a threat so the public thinks the players are wrong.
“If that’s what they want to do, they should do it without funding new stadiums and paying millions of dollars to themselves. What Mr. Delany does not admit to is the value of the Big Ten Network to pay the salaries. If this happens, then Mr. Delany and his whole office will be out of work.”
That, or Delany won’t be among the most powerful people in college athletics anymore.
One thing can be agreed upon: paying players (and how to do so, whether it’s market value, percentages based on revenue, added value to a scholarship or otherwise) is a polarizing topic, which leads me to believe that, despite the conversations, it won’t happen anytime soon depending on the result of the O’Bannon case.