Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Notes from Day 2 of the Big Ten meetings
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
CHICAGO -- Day 2 of the Big Ten's spring meetings is in the books, and before I head home, here are some notes, quotes and takeaways from the Hotel Sofitel Chicago.
If you haven't done so already, check out my story on Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the non-accelerated timetable for league expansion. There will be no vote on expansion at the June 6 meeting of Big Ten presidents and chancellors at Big Ten headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany laughs as he talks with the media on Tuesday.
One thing I wanted to clarify about Delany's comments. Just because he talked about a population shift to the South doesn't mean the Big Ten will start pursuing a bunch of southern schools. It's more likely the Big Ten will become even stronger in the northern half of the country (Midwest, East Coast) to offset the changing demographics. That said, the Big Ten would be crazy not to want Texas if the school was interested in joining.
One question I keep getting: Why such a long timetable to study expansion? In hearing Delany and looking over an "expansion fact sheet" provided by the Big Ten today, it's clear that the league wants everyone to know it's being as thorough as possible with this study. College athletics are hardly foreign to expansion, and Delany spent a ton of time detailing what has happened in other leagues. He's basically saying, "We're not the first ones to do this, OK?" The problem is how messy the previous expansions have been (i.e. ACC-Big East in 2003). "A lot of these things that we've studied have been, in my view, improperly studied [by other leagues]," Delany said. "Didn't understand the logistics, didn't understand the culture, didn't understand the academic fit, didn't really understand whether they were doing a merger or whether they were doing an expansion. Expansion is very difficult, and we're learning how to do it better, I think."
Delany declined to comment when asked if new members to the Big Ten would receive the same revenue as existing members or need to buy their way into the league. But I would be very, very surprised if the Big Ten didn't keep revenue issues even for all its members. The equal revenue sharing is a big reason why the Big Ten is so appealing. The Big 12 should take notice. "I'm huge on where we are," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Philosophically, we share evenly in order to help everyone in this league have a quality environment for their student-athletes and ultimately rise all the ships. ... I think what we have really helps all the ships rise. I would have a very difficult time going through expansion and ultimately changing our revenue-sharing model. I would struggle with that."
Delany on the expansion process: "This is no more than a study, and it's a serious study. It's a thorough study, it's a time-consuming study, and it's one that has created a lot of public interest, and I get that."
Delany on the invitation/application process: "Schools would have to apply, and then they would have to receive eight votes [for admission]. But I would presume that nobody would apply without knowing they were welcome to apply. We’re not interested in embarrassing ourselves, or embarrassing anyone else. So the process of due diligence is a long one, but the process of formal conversations about it is a shorter one. The head’s up [other conference commissioners] would get would be before a public announcement, but probably not months before a public announcement.”
Delany on the potential for super conferences: "It's like saying everybody is going to go to a 12-team conference. We didn't. We stayed at 11. I don't necessarily see why if one group does something it thinks is in its best interests, somebody else would imitate it. Unless there were good reasons to imitate it. ... I would be shocked if we would get larger, that other people would automatically get larger."
There actually was some non-expansion talk Tuesday, as I got some injury updates from Big Ten coaches. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said backup quarterback Curt Phillips underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and could be available for the fall, which would be a big boost for the Badgers. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said starting safety Kim Royston should be ready for the season opener Sept. 2 after suffering a broken leg in April.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said preserving the annual Michigan-Ohio State game is paramount when discussing potential division alignments in the Big Ten. "For us, it’s always been at the end [of the regular season] and that’s always had a great buildup and excitement to that," he said, "so you would think that would be part of the conversation. But there’s a lot of factors in play."
Illinois coach Ron Zook on the potential ripple effect of expansion: "I don't think the SEC is concerned, although it sounds like they're getting their ducks in a row, trying to see what would happen in case there was a change in the landscape."