Big Ten commish takes on Kilimanjaro

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
2:00
PM ET
As Big Ten players acclimatized to the rigors of preseason camp earlier this month, the league's commissioner endured a different type of conditioning test.

One that ended 19,340 feet above sea level.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
Courtesy of Big Ten Conference Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (front left) and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky (back left) were part of a group that climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro earlier this month.
Shortly after the Big Ten kickoff luncheon in Chicago, Delany boarded a plane for Africa. He gathered with nine others in Tanzania and began the trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

They began the climb Aug. 3, and at 6:20 a.m. on Aug. 8, Delany's group reached the summit.

"It was a terrific trip," Delany told ESPN.com. "We had great leadership, a great group. We had pretty decent weather. We only got rained on once, snowed on just a little bit. But all in all, just a cultural experience, a physical experience, a chance to get away and see how other people live. We were fortunate that everyone who started finished."

Scott Jenkins, the executive vice president of the Tournament of Roses, organized the trip, which also included Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and Kevin Ash, the Rose Bowl's chief administrative officer.

The 64-year-old Delany, who played basketball at North Carolina, spent about six months training for the Kilimanjaro climb. He and Banowsky, 52, climbed Pikes Peak in Colorado in May. Delany also did some climbing in Ketchum, Idaho, and in California.

"Everybody needed to get themselves in great physical shape," Delany said. "Those people who had no trekking, the experience of working at altitude, living outdoors for a week is different. The altitude is a great challenge, especially above 12 or 13,000 [feet]."

The group, which called itself Team Rose Bowl, spent several days adjusting to the elevation between 12,000-15,000 feet before climbing to the summit. Ben Jones, a 2003 graduate of Indiana University who has taken on Mt. Everest and other peaks, led the tour and received help from a group of Tanzanian sherpas.

While a few members of the group fell ill with stomach sickness and dizziness, they all ended up reaching the summit.

"Everybody was pretty determined to make it, and everybody did make it," Delany said. "There were a lot of people supporting us, who were committed in helping us get to the top of the mountain.

"It was difficult, challenging, but it was a lot of fun, too. It was worthwhile."

 

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