Monday, July 23, 2012
Notes from Big Ten call on Penn State
By Brian Bennett
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Iowa president Sally Mason -- chairwoman of the league's council of chancellors and presidents -- spoke to reporters for about 30 minutes on Monday about the Penn State sanctions.
In case you missed it, the Big Ten issued its own set of sanctions against Penn State that basically mirrored the NCAA's ruling. The league's one significant action was removing the Nittany Lions' share of postseason revenue during the team's four-year bowl ban, a penalty that will add up to about $13 million in lost revenue. Here are some notes and tidbits from the call:
- Did the conference ever seriously consider kicking Penn State out of the league? Mason said that "everything was on the table" when the chancellors and presidents discussed penalties. But she said there was no serious movement toward expelling the Nittany Lions as a member. Though Mason expressed her deep disappointment with Penn State's actions, she also said that "the Big Ten stands behind Penn State as one of our fellow members as they try to move forward."
- There was speculation the Big Ten might try to hit Penn State where it hurts the most: TV revenue and opportunities. The league could have taken away some Big Ten Network shares or kept the Nittany Lions off television in its nonconference games. The Big Ten Network reportedly paid each school about $7.2 million last fiscal year. But ultimately, Delany said, the league felt the school was being punished enough by the NCAA sanctions (which included a $60 million fine) and the $13 million loss of bowl proceeds. "We thought, all things taken together, that what had been done was sufficient," Delany said, "and that TV and the playing of actual games, along with other privileges of membership, should not be affected."
- Mason noted the Big Ten had "legal counsel embedded with the Freeh group" that issued the report on Penn State two weeks ago, and that the league fully accepted the findings of the Freeh report as fact.
- Despite the potential diminishing of one of the Big Ten's signature football brands, Delany said the Penn State situation would not prompt the league to look toward more expansion. In fact, he expressed confidence that the Nittany Lions would bounce back quickly as "many of the ingredients for success are still in place at Penn State," he said.
- Remember this wasn't the Big Ten punishing some strangers. Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was an influential member of the presidents' council. Delany considered himself a good friend of ex-Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and his admiration for Joe Paterno was well known. "Anger is probably not the right word," Delany said. "Sadness, pain, hurt. But I have to also put that into the context of the tremendous damage and harm that was done to young people as a result of the omissions and the acts of the people that were involved, and also the tremendous harm done to Penn State and ultimately to other members of the Big Ten."
- In an understatement, Mason said "this is not a proud moment for the Big Ten." A league that prides itself on its ideals and virtues and went so far as to name its divisions "Legends" and "Leaders" is understandably being lambasted for having such a scandal in its midst. Delany said the league has "been damaged, but not mortally damaged. ... I think that we're resilient as people, as leaders. Our institutions have been operating for 150-plus years. We're part of the culture, we contribute to society. I'm hopeful we can learn lessons from this and become better as a result of it. I would say it's as damaging as any set of actions or activities I've been involved with in my 33 years as a commissioner. I accept that as fact. But I also believe there is opportunity for hope, for redemption and for improvement."