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.

Chad Morris finally finalizes $3.5 million contract with Arkansas

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Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.

The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:

Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.

(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.

Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.

Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich rules out alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium

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Death Valley is staying dry.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.

“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”

Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.

The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.

It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.

“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”

Mike Gundy and AD Mike Holder will be together at Oklahoma State at least through 2021

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Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.

Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.

Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.

The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.

Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.

Alabama’s check for season-opening game significantly bigger than Louisville’s

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Louisville hasn’t even started the season and they’re already behind Alabama. Well, at least when it comes to their bank accounts.

The Louisville Courier Journal obtained the contracts for the Tide and Cardinals game in Orlando that will kick off the 2018 season for both in September and found that Alabama’s payout is $4.5 million — nearly double Louisville’s $2.75 million that they are taking home.

The disparity can probably be chalked up to one team being the national champions and a bigger draw for the game itself but it turns out there’s another reason Nick Saban’s side has a few more dollars on their side of the ledger: tickets.

Alabama’s contract obliges the school to buy 18,000 tickets for distribution to its fans, while Louisville agreed to purchase only 10,000. Both schools will be granted two 20-person suites, 25 parking passes and 200 complimentary tickets, as well as 1,000 tickets at $25 each for students.

While selling 8,000 more tickets could add up to that difference (at roughly $218 a piece) in guarantees, it’s nevertheless a little unusual to hear of such a large disparity between teams. As the Courier Journal notes, Alabama received the same amount as their opponent for neutral site games in 2017, 2015, 2014 and 2012.

Louisville’s game against Auburn also had a bigger pay day than what they’re getting from the folks in Orlando but they were on the hook for three times the number of tickets back in 2015. Perhaps the smaller ticket package this year is a bit of a sign that even the school itself knows this is rebuilding season for Bobby Petrino and opening against the defending champs is going to be a steep challenge between the lines.