Jim Delany

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Big Ten to introduce new commissioner

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The Big Ten will officially announce and introduce its next commissioner on Tuesday. In a brief memo sent out to the media Monday evening, the Big Ten confirmed it will name its sixth commissioner in conference history at an event in Rosemont, Illinois on Tuesday, June 4.

Current Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced in March he would be stepping down from his position in 2020. Delany’s contract expires on June 30, 2020, giving him one full final year on the job before his to=be-named successor takes over the job. Delany has been the commissioner of the Big Ten since 1989 and he has guided the conference through multiple expansions, first with Penn State early in his tenure, and later with Nebraska in 2011 and Rutgers and Maryland in 2014. Delany has also overseen the launch of the Big Ten Network and has guided the conference to being one of the two most profitable conferences in collegiate athletics.

Simply put, Delany is leaving some pretty big shoes to fill for the job. And within the next 24 hours, we will finally know who will be attempting to fill them moving forward.

Following Delany’s retirement announcement, the Big Ten organized a search committee led by Northwestern president Morton Schapiro. It had been suggested before that Northwestern AD Jim Phillips was among the favorites to land the job of commissioner.

Big Ten ADs chirping for College Football Playoff expansion

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The Big Ten has seen its champion left out of the College Football Playoff three times overall and twice in the past two seasons. Now, as the Big Ten powers gather for spring meetings, the talk about potential changes to the College Football Playoff are picking up some steam among Big Ten athletic directors.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez has previously been outspoken about the idea of expanding the playoff format beyond four teams. As a member of the selection committee, Alvarez has one of the most prominent voices in the game when it comes to playoff expansion, even if the company line from the College Football Playoff is that four teams is the best possible number right now. But the Big Ten is in the midst of changing the discussion as best it possibly can as Jim Delany has begun speaking more favorably for discussing potential expansion, and other Big Ten ADs are beginning to step up to the plate as well.

“I’m open to the consideration and to looking at it and to thinking about it,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said this week, according to MLive.com. “Anytime our Big Ten champion is left out of the playoff … that’s something that needs to be discussed. Because I obviously believe that you go through and you win the Big Ten championship in this league, you’ve accomplished something that deserves to put you in position to play for the national championship.”

Of course, maybe the Big Ten champion just has to avoid having one major bad loss on its schedule at the end of the season. That has been the biggest setback for Ohio State the past two seasons and was at least a part of the reason why Penn State didn’t make the cut a few years ago too.

Even if the Big Ten takes a hard stance in favor of playoff expansion, there is no guarantee that will be nearly enough to lead to any imminent changes to the system. The ACC and SEC remain confident in the current structure, for example, which would seem to make it difficult to pass any proposed changes to the format at this current time. The current contract for the College Football Playoff runs through the 2025 season, the 12th and final year of the initial 12-year TV and media contract for the playoff format with ESPN. Executive director Bill Hancock has said on multiple occasions no changes to the playoff model as far as how many teams may be involved would happen until at least the end of the current contract. As we creep closer and closer to the current contract’s expiration date, the discussions about the future of the playoff will begin to be heavily scrutinized. Contracts can always be adjusted at any time, of course, but the standard response from the College Football Playoff representatives has stayed true to the idea no changes would happen during the current 12-year deal.

Whether you like the current four-team model or not, history in sports has shown the trend is for playoff fields to expand at some point in time. They have expanded in pretty much every sport for as long as postseason sports have been in existence. And it wasn’t really all that long ago the powers that be in charge of the BCS were adamant a playoff would never happen. Now, those same people are running a four-team playoff field that is likely to be inevitable to succumb to the idea of expansion, for better or worse. Right now, the Big Ten is showing its hand in favor of expansion, or at least opening up a dialogue about the future of the College Football Playoff. If you are in favor of expansion, this is your battle cry.

Jim Delany announces Big Ten’s new six-year deal with ESPN and FOX; BTN heading to Hulu and YouTube

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As the Big Ten opened up its media day event in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany brought with him an announcement regarding the future of the conference’s television package. Delany announced the Big Ten has reached a deal on a restructured television package with broadcast partners ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports (for basketball) and an extended deal with Big Ten Network that runs through 2032. And he had more to share a swell.

The exact terms of this new deal have not been disclosed at this time, but it would stand to reason the Big Ten will continue to turn a nice profit through their deals with both ESPN and FOX (and CBS Sports for basketball).

But Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman had some other news to share as well.

In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.

Big Ten Network will be adding a handful of former Big Ten stars to its football coverage; James Laurinaitis, Braylon Edwards, and Corey Wootton. Big Ten Network, now in its 10th year of operation since launching as the first conference-branded network, will also be creating content for regional sports outlets, like an Ohio State show on SportsTime Ohio. The BTN will also work with ESPN to air a special series following new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and BTN’s Big Ten Elite program will chronicle the 2016 Big Ten champions, Penn State.

New Big Ten scheduling mandates Power 5 opponents, no FCS foes

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Starting in 2016 the Big Ten will roll out a new scheduling outline for all conference members to follow. In addition to the new nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten will now officially lock out FCS opponents and ask members to schedule one game against another power conference opponent.

The Big Ten’s move away from no longer scheduling FCS opponents has been discussed openly for a few years now, and now it will be the standard operating procedure. What is slightly new is the mandated concept that one game per year against another power conference opponent will be required. The Big Ten joins the ACC and SEC in requiring its members to schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent.

Asked to clarify, Delany confirmed the outline is a requirement that must be met by each member university. What was left unanswered is whether or not independents like Notre Dame, BYU and Army meet that requirement. It is expected Notre Dame would satisfy the requirement, and the ACC and SEC recognize BYU as a power conference opponent. The SEC also counts Army in that category. (UPDATE: Delany later confirmed Notre Dame and BYU will count toward meeting the requirement.)

Delany stressed the focus on improving overall strength of schedule for the Big Ten, and this philosophy would seem to address that in the years to come. While many Big Ten teams already have games scheduled against other power five conferences, having it be a requirement offers more attractive games for fans and the all more important television partners. With the Big Ten media rights set to expire coming up, rolling out this scheduling strategy is also a wise business decision.

Big Ten has momentum leading into media days, but will it last?

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For the first time in what seems like a generation, the Big Ten seems to be sitting high and mighty in the world of college football as it prepares for its annual media day event in Chicago later this week. After hearing coaches and players and more from similar media day events in the SEC, ACC and Big 12, the Big Ten will finally get a chance to respond and address some of the larger discussions regarding college football in 2015. The Big Ten has plenty of reason to be proud this season, but the big question should be how the Big Ten can follow up the success of a season ago.

Ohio State will roll into Chicago as the defending conference and national champions, and high expectations for Urban Meyer, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Eliott, Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett (and position-changing Braxton Miller) and company in the playoff hunt with a target on their backs in 2015. Michigan will introduce new head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Big Ten world. Wisconsin and Nebraska will once again be top threats out of the Big Ten West, although with new head coaches leading the charge. The conference’s newest additions, Rutgers and Maryland, are entering year two and looking to prove last season’s bowl trips were no fluke. Yes, commissioner Jim Delany has much to brag about following the Big Ten’s most successful bowl season in years, headlined by Ohio State’s championship run with Michigan State’s Cotton Bowl victory (not to mention a winning bowl record against the ACC and Big 12 and breaking even with the SEC (the Big Ten went 1-2 against the Pac-12, but that one was pretty noteworthy).

Delany will once again sit in front of a microphone before the media to present his annual state of the Big Ten address, at which time he has been known to delve into some American history as a tangent to his overall points about the NCAA and the Big Ten. Delany will be expected to offer his latest comments on the College Football Playoff (bank on him being fine with things the way they are), the dreaded satellite camp issue and defend the stature of the Big Ten after the conference was the target of some SEC folks in recent weeks. In other words, expect the usual. Even with a national title and a second New Years Six bowl victory, the Big Ten will have to defend its image to some. But media days will not be the place to do it properly. That test must be taken int he early going of the 2015 college football season.

bigtenlogoMany were quick to write the Big Ten off last season just two weeks into the year after a dreadful Week 2 showing by the conference in its biggest spotlight games. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Michigan State let one get away at Oregon. Michigan was taken down by Notre Dame. It was a rough week, but the conference rebounded along the way and flew under the radar until the bowl season. Now the Big Ten must look to avoid a slow start this fall in order to keep the momentum going forward, instead of taking a step back.

Wisconsin faces Alabama in Arlington in the Cowboy Classic. Michigan opens at Utah. Ohio State begins at Virginia Tech. Minnesota hosts TCU in the season opener. Nebraska will welcome BYU to Lincoln. These are the noteworthy tests for the Big Ten early on. Going 4-1 in these games alone would be a respectable start to the new year. A 3-2 mark would still be a step in the right direction. Anything less would not be so kind in the eyes of some critics. There will be  other notable games as well (Illinois at North Carolina, Iowa vs. Pittsburgh, Nebraska at Miami, Maryland at West Virginia, Michigan vs. BYU) well worth paying attention to, as the reputation of the Big Ten will be put to the test by more than just Ohio State and Michigan State (who hosts Oregon in Week 2).

Will the Big Ten jump ahead of the rest of the power conferences in the opening weeks, or will some be quick to cast the Big Ten aside once more? That should be the message Delany sends to the conference this week. The work is just beginning.