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.
By most accounts, the meeting between Northwestern and Illinois in historic Wrigley Field was either a home run buzz event or a sacrifice fly due to having to play by adjusted Wrigley Field rules. No matter the downsides to take from that unique matchup between the Wildcats and Illini in 2010, Northwestern wants to make it happen again soon.
Teddy Greenstein of The Chicago Tribune spoke with Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips this week about the possibility of returning to Wrigley, and he seems optimistic it will happen again. The question is when it may be possible to set another game in stone to be played in the aging baseball venue.
“We’re anxious to get something done,” Phillips said. “I’m close with those guys. I talk to (Cubs Chairman) Tom (Ricketts) all the time. Everyone is motivated to do it. It’s really on their timeline.”
As noted by Greenstein in his original report, Northwestern and the Cubs previously agreed to stage five football game sin Wrigley Field in 2013, but no definite dates were set with that original agreement. The Cubs know they would have to make some adjustments in order to make college football a more enjoyable experience, having learned the lessons of what is and what is not working a few years ago.
“We would move the dugout top, and that would allow us to put a 12-foot perimeter around the whole field,” Cubs president Crane Kenney said in 2013. That would certainly be a good place to start, and perhaps would help eliminate the need for both teams to play going the same way on the field in the future, as they did in 2010.
Northwestern and Illinois played each other in Soldier Field last fall, and will do so again in the more traditional football stadium in 2017 and 2019. These are home games for the Illini, who just hired former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith this offseason.