Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is one of the most powerful people in college sports, so when he makes statements suggesting the possible implosion of the college sports scene, people will listen to what he has to say. Delany may be a wise person who understands the inner workings of the game today than some might ever be able to comprehend, but he seemed to go to a wild extreme while testifying as a witness in the Ed O’Bannon antitrust trial in California on Friday.
Delany suggested the Rose Bowl would actually be in jeopardy if players were being paid to play football. For the Big Ten, the loss of the Rose Bowl would be as close to doomsday as it could get given the conference’s dedication to the storied bowl game, its tradition and long-standing relationship between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl.
“There wouldn’t be a Rose Bowl if either [the Pac-12] or [the Big Ten] were operating in a very different wavelength in terms of paying players,” Delany said Friday while on the witness stand. Delany was suggesting the game would be at risk if one conference was paying players while the other was not.
Of course, if both conferences allowed for paying players, perhaps Delany’s tune would change. While the antitrust lawsuit is not specifically about directly paying players to pay, the topic continues to be a boiling point for the trial and was one that was discussed at great length on Thursday and Friday with Delany and NCAA president Mark Emmert taking the witness stand.
“These games are owned by the institution, and the notion of paying athletes for participation in these games is foreign to the notion of amateurism,” Delany said.
Delany echoed some of the same thoughts expressed by Emmert when discussing amateurism. To paraphrase, the two believe that the amateurism model set up decades ago, in a different era, should be good enough to fit in with today’s world. Delany is quite the visionary, and his testimony overall may have done more damage than good for the NCAA’s case, but what these two sometimes fail to see is today’s college sports scene is not comparable to what existed in previous decades. Adapting is the key. Delany knows that, as evidenced by Big Ten moves since he has been named commissioner of the conference. The Big Ten has added four schools and started the first truly successful conference-specific cable network under his watch.
Would the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of them all and the true crown jewel of the Big Ten (and Pac-12) really be in much jeopardy of players were being paid? If the day does come, expect Delany to have his shelter to be stocked with nothing but the finest preserved foods and supplies and a direct feed to the Big Ten Network running day and night.