NCF Nation: Jim Delany

Big Ten makes progress in diversity

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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The Big Ten likes to consider itself a leader on many fronts in college sports. Several Big Ten schools were among the first to integrate their football programs, and the first two African-American head football coaches in a major conference called the league home.

But for much of this century, when it came to football coaching diversity, the Big Ten lagged behind the rest of the nation.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/Eric Christian SmithPenn State's decision to hire James Franklin as its first African-American head football coach can't be underestimated.
After the third African-American head coach in league history -- Michigan State's Bobby Williams -- was fired late in the 2002 season, the conference went a decade without another black head football coach. The Big Ten was the only one of the six BCS AQ conferences that did not have at least one African-American head coach during that span; the SEC, by contrast, had four in the same time frame.

Thankfully, things have begun to improve. Two of the last three head coaches hired in the Big Ten -- Purdue's Darrell Hazell and Penn State's James Franklin -- are African-American.

"That's great news, to have that diversity," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Now we just need to give them time and let them be successful where they are and develop their programs. I'm glad there is progress, and we need to continue to do more across the country."

There weren't a lot of opportunities, period, for head coaching jobs in the Big Ten during the recent diversity drought, as schools like Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Ohio State remained mostly stable at the top. But coaching turnover has increased in the league in the past few years; Penn State, for instance, just hired its second coach in three years after going nearly a half-century without a transition.

Was improving diversity a league-wide priority? Conference officials say no.

"What our schools try to do is hire the best coaches in their pool," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "We've had plenty of African-American basketball coaches.

"It's more about a commitment to opportunity and a fair process, and as long as our people are hiring the best people in processes that are open, you would hope and think that it would be sort of a broad representation of people. Whether you hire James Franklin or a new coach at any place, I'm not sure race should be the factor. Certainly people wouldn't want it to be a factor. It's really an outcome."

Still, it's hard not to note the importance of Penn State hiring its first African-American head football coach. More so than Dennis Green or Francis Peay at Northwestern or even Williams at Michigan State, Franklin is leading a flagship, blue-blood program. The timing was fortuitous, as the Pennsylvania native was ready for a new challenge after proving himself at Vanderbilt and the Nittany Lions needed a dynamic new leader.

“It’s a lot of significance," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "We hired James because of the kind of person and coach he is. The fact he’s African American is great. It’s a great testimony to opportunity. A hundred years ago, that wouldn’t have happened in this country."

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Ting Shen/Triple Play New MediaBig Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the hiring process should be fair and a commitment to opportunity for all coaches.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports hasn't yet released its annual hiring report card for college football. But Richard Lapchick, the center's director, said the Big Ten's recent moves are "definitely a sign of progress." While there are only 11 FBS black head coaches heading into the 2014 season, it's noteworthy that minorities have gotten opportunities to lead storied programs like Penn State and Texas (Charlie Strong), Lapchick said.

"That's critically important," he said. "Historically, the opportunities in general that have gone to African-American coaches have been at programs that have been really down, and the opportunities to turn them around have been very problematic. Let's hope [Hazell and Franklin] are successful, because they will help create more opportunities for other African-American and Latino coaches in FBS conferences."

The next step for the Big Ten is to continue to develop and identify the next wave of minority head coaching candidates. Both Franklin and Hazell, who led Kent State for two seasons before Purdue hired him, had already established themselves as winning head coaches elsewhere, though Hazell was also a well-regarded assistant at Ohio State. The Big Ten sent several African-American assistant coaches to the annual minority coaches' forum between 2006 and 2010, and some athletic directors see it as their job to mentor young black coaches.

Smith saw Everett Withers leave the Buckeyes staff this winter to land the James Madison head coaching job and said he is spending time this offseason with running backs coach Stan Drayton to get Drayton accustomed to non-football issues like university budgets and policies.

"We want to have guys who are trained to hopefully win in the interview process," Smith said. "Sometimes, those are beauty contests. You've got to be able to answer the questions the right way and demonstrate an ability to lead."

That's the ultimate goal, to have more minority candidates who are ready when those opportunities do arise. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said that wasn't the case a few years ago, but the pool of potential coaches is increasing.

"We’re starting to see more and more diversity among the coaching staffs and up-and-coming diverse candidates in all various positions in the sport," Brandon said. "Now, we're seeing more representation at the head coaching level. That was bound to happen and important to have happen, and I'm glad to see that trend evolve."
Four years ago, the Big Ten clarified its November night games policy, saying that while a contractual provision exists between the league and its TV partners about prime-time games after Nov. 1, the games can take place if all parties are on board and planning begins early.

The message back then: We can do this, but we probably won't any time soon.

Last year, Big Ten coaches and administrators expressed greater support for night games, including those in November. League commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com he wouldn't stand in the way of such games.

[+] EnlargeGene Smith
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsIf the matchups are right, Ohio State AD Gene Smith is open to November night games in the Big Ten.
But when the Big Ten prime-time schedule came out for the 2013 season, it included no night games after Nov. 1.

Will 2014 be the year we see Big Ten football kick off under the lights after Nov. 1?

We won't know for sure until ESPN/ABC and BTN announce their prime-time schedules this spring, but there's momentum for more night games and later night games, and talks are underway.

"We're more amendable to that first November Saturday," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told ESPN.com, "and I think some of us will be willing to look at that second Saturday in November if the contest is right."

Weather is still a potential deterrent for Big Ten schools to schedule night games later in the season, as it creates possible logistical problems for all involved (fans, game operations staff, police/security). But the temperature difference between late October and the first portion of November often is negligible.

The 2014 season includes Saturdays on Nov. 1 and Nov. 8.

Here are the schedules:

Nov. 1

Indiana at Michigan
Maryland at Penn State
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Rutgers
Northwestern at Iowa
Purdue at Nebraska

Byes: Minnesota, Michigan State

Nov. 8

Penn State at Indiana
Michigan at Northwestern
Ohio State at Michigan State
Iowa at Minnesota
Wisconsin at Purdue

Byes: Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois, Nebraska

The bad news: The Nov. 1 schedule doesn't feature too many big-time games, which could decrease the likelihood of a prime-time contest, especially on ESPN/ABC.

[+] EnlargeMichigan Stadium
AP Photo/The Ann Arbor NewsMichigan likes for its night games to be major events, which could rule the Wolverines out for an early-November game under the lights in 2014.
The good news: Several of the schools hosting games that day are among the most open in the league to hosting night games. Penn State and Nebraska welcome such contests -- in part because of their pre-Big Ten history -- and Ohio State, which is installing permanent lights at Ohio Stadium for the 2014 season, has become increasingly interested. Rutgers comes from a league where you played whenever TV asked you to, and a night game against a good opponent like Wisconsin would bring some nice exposure for one of the new Big Ten additions.

Michigan wants its night games to be major events, and facing Indiana doesn't exactly qualify. Iowa hosting Northwestern is a possibility, especially since the Hawkeyes play only one other home game (Oct. 11 against Indiana) between Sept. 15 and Nov. 1.

The Nov. 8 schedule includes arguably the Big Ten's marquee game of the year in Ohio State visiting Michigan State, a rematch of the 2013 league championship. I'd absolutely love to see this at night, and what a way to kick off November prime time in the league. It's definitely a possibility, but the game also could fill the 3:30 p.m. ET window, which many Big Ten athletic directors prefer (Purdue's Morgan Burke recently called it "the sweet spot").

The Penn State-Indiana game is another potential prime-time kickoff, mainly because Indiana has been so open to night games (six in the past two seasons, nine since the 2010 season).

"We've probably had more night games than most of our colleagues in the conference," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said. "We think it's a good thing for us, it helps our attendance. We're certainly open to that, and my guess is that will be more of a trend."

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas echoes the support for night games, noting that several Big Ten ADs and coaches previously spent time in the Mid-American Conference, where playing at night and on weekdays, especially late in the season, is common.

"We experienced all of that in our past lives," said Thomas, who served as Akron's athletic director from 2000-05. "We talk about the opportunities for the prime-time windows and where we are as individual schools and as a conference in having that kind of exposure.

"I would certainly support it."

Many of Thomas' colleagues seem to be on board. Smith said the athletic directors last week spoke about moving up the timetable for prime-time selections so they can begin promoting games. Prime-time schedules typically have been announced between April 20 and May 15.

"We're putting in lights because we've realized that we can handle night games," Smith said. "In 2006, we were a little bit skittish about it. We know our fans love it, so we've shared with the conference that we're amenable to having more. There's a novelty to it. That helps us with our atmosphere.

"It makes things really exciting."
After the Big Ten approved Maryland and Rutgers as future members in November 2012, league commissioner Jim Delany described the additions as "an Eastern initiative with a Penn State bridge."

The Big Ten is about to cross that bridge, put down roots in another region and brand itself as a truly national league. And despite lingering concerns and criticism from some corners of the conference about the new look, there's no turning back now.

"We’re probably as close to a national conference as there is in terms of demographics and alumni and national reach," Delany told ESPN.com. "It was a great Midwestern conference, and now it's a conference that's much broader."

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Ting ShenCommissioner Jim Delany sees the Big Ten as a national conference.
There was a "theme of national" this week as Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches met at the league's new headquarters in Rosemont, Ill. The meetings focused in part on the integration of Maryland and Rutgers, who had ADs and coaches in attendance even though neither program can vote on league matters until officially joining the Big Ten on July 1.

The Big Ten likely will open a second office in New York next month, as well as a satellite office in Washington D.C., Delany said. The New York office will have some full-time staff. Delany will spend much of the 100 days leading up to July 1 on the East Coast to facilitate and promote the transition.

"There's going to be great synergies here," he said. "They both are great universities with missions that mirror ours. They're in powerful geographic footprints. ... When I think about Penn State as a bridge and think about New Jersey and New York and Maryland and DC and the commonality, as you talk to athletic directors and coaches, there's an awful lot of, 'We're in the same club.'"

Delany's national theme resonated as Big Ten ADs and coaches reviewed a new bowl lineup that includes games in Florida, California, Tennessee, Texas, New York and Michigan. They also discussed the upcoming College Football Playoff and the selection committee with Michael Kelly, chief operating officer of the playoff.

The Big Ten is trying to reach a larger audience, Delany said, and after some missteps with the integration of Penn State in the early 1990s, the league wants to ensure its next bridge to the East Coast has a stronger foundation.

"We're so much more sensitive to working at this," Delany said. "We want to get people to adopt the Big Ten. That means come to New York, play games in DC, play games at [Madison Square] Garden -- play, live and build on a broader scale. It's where you recruit students, where you play bowl games, where your television games go.

"We have 30 percent of the population, 15 percent of the territory, but we're not constrained to that. We have a national look."
The Big Ten is opening a new Eastern frontier with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers as its 13th and 14th members. When it comes to expansion, however, this is getting to be old hat for the league.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
Elsa/Getty ImagesAdding new conference teams has become old hat for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
The conference just went through the expansion process three years ago with Nebraska, and commissioner Jim Delany and many of his senior staff were in place when Penn State gave the Big Ten its first Eastern toehold in 1990. So league officials expect smooth sailing when the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins come aboard on July 1.

"I think we’re in a pretty good place," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told ESPN.com. "We've sort of approached Rutgers and Maryland as we approached Nebraska three years ago: we acclimate them, help them, welcome them and integrate them. And then, we really go forward and don’t look back."

Rudner said constant communication is a big key in making for a pain-free transition. Since the two schools received their official invitations in November 2012, their coaches and administrators have attended every major conference meeting and have had a voice in such things as football scheduling and division alignment, though neither school has a vote yet. Maryland and Rutgers sent their coaches and athletic directors to Big Ten meetings that were held this week in Chicago.

"It’s been a pretty intensive period of trying to acclimate them to a new culture, a new system," Rudner said. "There have been lots of questions, lots of answers and lots of collaboration."

The biggest difference in this round of expansion vs. the addition of Nebraska, Rudner said, is just that the schools are in the East this time. The Big Ten learned a lesson when it added Penn State but left the Nittany Lions on a metaphorical island. That's part of the reason the league is opening an East Coast office, which is still in the works.

Another key difference lies in the football pedigree of the two schools. Nebraska and Penn State entered the league as established powers. Rutgers and Maryland still have a lot to prove in that regard. Many doubt whether the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will do much, if anything, to boost the Big Ten football reputation, but this move is about more than just what they bring on the field.

"In the last 10 years, both teams have certainly had measures of success in football," Rudner said. "It's hard to evaluate what kind of impact they’ll have in the short term. But I think in the long term, absolutely, it will have an impact on our football. We’re going to want to have that strong East Coast presence, and it just opens up another valuable recruiting area for Big Ten football."

Maryland fans will still have to get used to life outside the ACC, while Rutgers will be making a major step up from the American Athletic Conference. There are bound to be some bumps in the road. But Rudner doesn't think those will be hard to overcome.

"I really don’t see a whole lot of overwhelming challenges facing either them or us," he said. "Both institutions are very Big Ten-like."
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The Big Ten finally has a championship game that rivals the SEC's in national significance.

Unfortunately, the Big Ten is following the SEC's lead in another area: handing out discipline.

A league that considers itself a cut above in every area, including player conduct, had an opportunity to make a statement in the wake of Saturday's fight in the Ohio State-Michigan game. Instead, the league went soft, ensuring that its championship game, and Ohio State's national title hopes, would be unaffected by the ugly and embarrassing incident.

Here's what we learned from the Big Ten's ridiculous response Monday night: Fighting doesn't have long-term consequences. Twisting a helmet? Go right ahead. Just conduct yourself like a gentleman afterward.

After spending two days reviewing the officials' report from the game and the video of the fracas, the Big Ten decided to hand down no additional discipline to the Ohio State and Michigan players involved. The league merely issued a public reprimand -- the wussiest punishment possible -- for Ohio State offensive lineman Marcus Hall and the Buckeyes' coaching staff after Hall gave the crowd a double-bird salute following his ejection from the game. No other players were named by the league, which praised both coaching staffs for defusing the fight.

Ohio State's Dontre Wilson and Michigan's Royce Jenkins-Stone also were ejected Saturday, but they and others -- like Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas and Michigan defensive back Delano Hill -- were spared any blowback from the conference.

The Big Ten is falling back on the NCAA's fighting policy, which calls for players ejected in the first half of a game to miss only the remainder of that game. Although the league has issued suspensions before for throwing punches, they have come for players who weren't ejected during the game.

The league had an opportunity to do more and show that behavior like Saturday's, even in a bitter rivalry game, is unacceptable and has long-term consequences. Monday's wimpy response will be seen as an effort to protect the league's title game and one of its biggest brands in Ohio State.

Criticize Ohio State coach Urban Meyer if you want for not tacking on additional playing-time penalties for Hall and Wilson. Honestly, I don't know many coaches who would have. They're trying to win championships and can impose some internal discipline. Michigan State didn't suspend William Gholston for his actions in the 2011 Michigan game, so the Big Ten stepped in with a suspension. The league should have done the same in this case.

Even a half-game suspension, which the SEC probably has trademarked, would have shown some teeth here. Instead, the Big Ten protects its championship game from being affected, and its biggest brand from being impacted in its quest to reach the national title game.

Monday's response will add to the widely held belief by many Big Ten fan bases that the league goes all out to protect Ohio State and Michigan. The response will bring more heat for league commissioner Jim Delany, who still gets ripped for going to bat for Ohio State's "Tat-5" to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

The championship game is a national showcase opportunity for the Big Ten, a chance to display its best product and the values it holds so dear. You'll hear a lot about honoring legends and building leaders, and big lives and big stages.

Then Wilson might return the opening kickoff, and Hall will take the field with Ohio State's starting offensive line. Are those the images the Big Ten wants to present?

"As bad as it was, we're fortunate the incident did not escalate any further," the Big Ten's SECtatement reads. "More can, and should, be done by both coaching staffs in the future to prevent similar incidents."

The Big Ten could have and should have done more, but chose to do the bare minimum.


ROSEMONT, Ill. -- You already know Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is among the most vocal opponents of a pay-for-play system in college sports.

You also should know Delany is among the more vocal advocates for increasing the value of athletic scholarships so athletes can cover basic costs and enjoy their college experiences more, while putting their families more at ease. He was the first power broker to propose them in May 2011. These types of changes should come soon, as major conferences are on the verge of a significant restructuring. In fact, Delany said he expects a restructuring plan to be in place by next spring.

What you probably don't know are Delany's expanded thoughts on the pay-for-play debate, which he believes threatens a collegiate model that has been around for more than a century. He shared his views with myself and three other reporters Wednesday night following the Conference Commissioners Association meeting at the Big Ten's new office. Delany and other major-conference commissioners met about the upcoming College Football Playoff, which you can read about here.

Delany's major point Wednesday night: If athletes want to cash in, they should go pro right out of high schools. Go to the NBA developmental league. Go to some type of minor league for football (it would help if the NFL established one).

If you don't want to be a part of college sports, don't be.

Here's a sampling of what Delany had to say. I think you'll find it as interesting as I did, especially in light of the ongoing Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA.

Mr. Delany, the floor is yours …
  • "Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it."
  • "We've been training kids for professional sports. I argue it's the color, I argue it's the institution. If you think it's about you, then talk to John Havlicek about that, you've got to talk to Michael Jordan about that. These brands have been built over 100 years."
  • "I don't view it as a labor force. I view them as athletes, as students. I view the universities and the brands that have been here for 118 years. It's built by predecessors, from Isiah Thomas to Magic Johnson to John Havlicek to Archie Clark to Red Grange."
  • "You don't have to play for the Redskins or the Bears at 17, but you could develop [at] IMG. My gosh, there are lots of trainers out there. There are quarterback coaches teaching passing skills, guys lifting weights, guys training and running. They can get as strong and as fast in that environment as they can in this environment. Plus, they don't have to go to school. Plus, they can sell their likeness and do whatever they want to do. We don't want to do that. What we want to do is do what we've been doing for 100 years."
  • "I think we ought to work awful hard with the NFL and the NBA to create an opportunity for those folks. We have it in baseball, we have it in golf, works pretty good, we have it in golf, we have it in hockey. Why don't we have it in football, basketball? Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports."
  • "We can't do Title IX and have professional sports in basketball and football, and have lots of opportunities. It's not going to work. It just doesn't fit. But we should do what we can do, which is kids are full-time students, which means they want to be here, which means they prefer to be here. If you would prefer to be somewhere else, we should encourage the sports organizations that benefit from that to find a way to change it. I don't know if they will or they won't. That's not my call. But we could be successful if there were minor-league football and basketball, if there were kids who decided to go that route."
  • "Would you rather be in the D-League in the Dakotas or would you rather be playing here? I think some kids would rather be in the D-League, where that's all they'd focus on. We'd be better off in a lot of cases. We would have less tension about kids who are in school who maybe don't want to be there."
  • "If the only way is pay-for-play, then the courts will decide that. Congress will have to figure that out. I'm not worried about it. What I'm worried about is get a restructure, get a deal, get an outcome that is more sensible for the 21st century."
  • "I'm willing to give up the benefit. If there's so much value here, let them handle that value. Let them extract it. I think I can be very successful because I think what we offer, for most kids, is superior to what the minor-league experience would be."
  • "Being a full-time student is basic, providing opportunities for women is basic, providing Olympic sports opportunities for men is basic. The expectation they should graduate at or about the same rate is basic. I don't want to give those things up. Why? Because we're wildly successful in football and basketball? Now, if a judge says, 'You must pay,' I said, 'OK. Tell us what to do now.'"

The comments from the Big Ten commish blew up my Twitter feed earlier tonight. I'm interested in your thoughts, too, so send them here.
When asked before the season how to repair the Big Ten's ragged reputation, the league's coaches, to their credit, didn't sidestep the topic.

How the Big Ten got to this spot is complicated -- recruiting/population trends, coaching turnover and resource distribution all play a role -- but the solution is pretty simple. It's the same thing a post-comatose Adrian tells Rocky in "Rocky II."

Win. Win.

Mickey Goldmill
United ArtistsWhat would Mickey say to the Big Ten heading into its Week 3 showdowns with the Pac-12? "What are you waiting for?!"
You can almost hear Jim Delany, doing his best Mickey Goldmill voice, shouting, "What are we waiting for?!"

A Saturday like this one.

We talk about conference perception and compare different leagues year round, but we rarely get a comprehensive assessment on the field, especially not in the regular season. There's no ACC/Big Ten Challenge in football, and although schedule upgrades are on the way, both in the Big Ten and elsewhere, there still aren't enough exciting, meaningful, image-shaping games.

That's why Week 3 in the Big Ten is so refreshing and important. After two weeks of mostly unappealing games, the Big Ten has four -- four! -- matchups against Pac-12 programs, kicking off with No. 23 Nebraska hosting No. 16 UCLA at noon ET and ending with No. 20 Wisconsin visiting Arizona State, a contest that will spill into Sunday in Big Ten country.

There are two in-state rivalries on the docket -- Purdue hosting No. 21 Notre Dame and Iowa visiting Iowa State -- as well as some sneaky-good games like UCF-Penn State and Bowling Green-Indiana. Sure, there are your standard non-league sleepers (Western Illinois-Minnesota), but they're finally in the minority.

"There's certain weekends of the year that you can change the perception," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "As you look at the schedule, this is one of those weekends."

Fitzgerald's team did its part by defeating two major-conference teams (Cal and Syracuse) in the first two weeks. With a late kickoff Saturday against Western Michigan, the Wildcats will watch from their hotel as teams like Nebraska carry the Big Ten banner.

[+] Enlargebo pelini
AP Photo/Dave WeaverAfter losing to UCLA last season, Bo Pelini and Nebraska hope to turn the tables when the Bruins and Huskers meet again on Saturday.
Program relevance is a bit of a sensitive topic in Husker Country these days, as Nebraska has come up short in statement games the past few seasons. UCLA outlasted Nebraska in a shootout last September, and the Bruins could provide the only real test for Bo Pelini's crew until a November grind against the Legends division.

"We want to win all the out-of-conference games," Pelini said. "Our conference, I think it's very good, it's deep, and that’s going to show itself as the year goes on. We have a lot of respect for the Pac-12 and their conference.

"It's going to be a challenge. It always is."

Traveling West always presents a huge challenge for Big Ten teams, which had gone 5-20 in the previous 25 true road games against Pac-12 schools until Northwestern beat Cal. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen noted Tuesday that no Big Ten team has beaten Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium in eight tries. He'll take his team to the desert on Thursday to provide extra prep time.

The Badgers have yet to allow a point and ran all over Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech. But Arizona State can light up the scoreboard with quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games and faces a Wisconsin secondary using three new starters.

UCLA poses a similar problem for Nebraska with standout quarterback Brett Hundley, who ranks fourth in QBR and shredded the Huskers for 305 pass yards, 53 rush yards and four touchdowns last season.

While no one confuses UCLA and Arizona State with Stanford and Oregon, wins against two upward-trending Pac-12 programs would boost the profiles for Nebraska and Wisconsin, not to mention the Big Ten. The SEC is the measuring stick for every conference, but the Big Ten recently has had more chances to gauge itself against the Pac-12, both in the regular season and in the Rose Bowl.

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
AP Photo/David StlukaWisconsin's Gary Andersen might be new to the Big Ten, but he knows just what this weekend means for the conference.
"It's important for the Big Ten for a lot of reasons," Andersen said. "It’s a huge opportunity for us and for the other schools and the conference to hop out of conference play before we get into it here in a week or so, and show what we can do against another quality conference like the Pac-12."

Ohio State has more to lose than to gain against a young Cal team, but the Buckeyes look for a complete performance on the road. Illinois, meanwhile, can further validate a surprisingly strong start by upsetting Washington in its Chicago homecoming game at Soldier Field.

"We understand that these types of games are very important for building a program," Illini coach Tim Beckman said.

Purdue's Darrell Hazell could echo Beckman, as his tenure is off to a shaky start following a blowout loss to Cincinnati and a narrow win against Indiana State. Few expect much from the Boilers against the heavily favored Irish, but they have a big opportunity at home against a rival on national TV.

Arguably no Big Ten team needs a Week 3 boost more than Iowa, which, like Purdue, is an unimpressive 1-1. Iowa has dropped its last two against Iowa State, and a loss Saturday in Ames could cripple the Hawkeyes' hopes of a turnaround, especially with a taxing Big Ten schedule ahead.

"Everybody wants our conference to do well," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're all united on that front. Our jobs are to really worry about our teams and how we perform. We've got enough on our plate right now."

Last season, the Big Ten's horrendous Week 2 showing -- a 6-6 record, including an 0-3 mark against the Pac-12 -- cast a negative light on the league, one from which it never escaped. The stakes are similar Saturday. It's the league's first and only chance before the bowls to show the nation that things will be different this year.

Will the Big Ten emerge with arms raised or suffer another early knockout? Tune in Saturday to find out.

Video: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
8:14
AM ET

Adam Rittenberg talks to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about what the future holds for the Big Ten with the NCAA and television deals.

 
CHICAGO -- It's not Jim Delany's style to simply restate the party line. The Big Ten commissioner has always been one to step out on his own.

Wednesday, he took the ongoing discussion about the NCAA one step further.

Delany didn't echo the pointed criticism of the NCAA from his commissioner colleagues, but he agreed that some restructuring needs to be done with college sports' governing body. He devoted much of his media-day address presenting a four-point proposal shaped around academics -- "the substance" to go along with the necessary structural changes, including the possibility of the major football-revenue-generating schools forming a separate division within the NCAA.

"Restructuring, great; high-resource institutions, great," Delany said. "But if we don't reattach and reconnect on these educational-based initiatives … I don't care what restructuring comes out of it -- we're not going to be where we want to be."

Here's a look at Delany's reform ideas:

1. Lifetime educational coverage for college players

Under Delany's plan, an educational trust would be set up by institutions, conferences or at a national level that would ensure education coverage for athletes even if they drop out or leave school early to turn pro. "We'll stand behind you, so when you're ready to get serious, or when you have the time, we'll support your college education degree for your lifetime," he said.

2. Limits on time spent on sports

Delany acknowledged the obvious, that major-college athletes spend way more than 20 hours per week (the NCAA limit) on their respective sports. He also admitted that athletes are specializing in one sport at an earlier age, and that training regimens have ramped up more and more. Delany met with the Big Ten football coaches earlier Wednesday and asked how they can help enforce stricter limits. "It's my belief that if you're going to be a full-time student, you have to have time to be a full-time student."

3. At-risk student-athletes

Delany is supportive of providing educational opportunities to athletes from tough backgrounds, but he questions their readiness to handle the academic and athletic workloads at major colleges. He proposes "a year of residence," by which athletes can acclimate to the athletic environment without losing a year of eligibility. "Give them the financial aid they need," Delany said, "but let's make sure that we haven't shortchanged anyone or exploited anyone because we've taken at-risk students and haven't given them the adequate time to prepare to transition educationally."

4. Increasing the value of athletic scholarships

This is hardly a new issue. Delany first brought it up more than two years ago at the Big Ten spring meetings. Despite support from NCAA president Mark Emmert and other major-conference commissioners, there has been no movement nationally on increasing scholarship values with a stipend, possibly all the way to federal cost-of-attendance values. This would apply to all full-scholarship athletes and meet Title IX standards. "It's the right thing to do," Delany said. "Whether that's $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000, I don't know, but we need to address that." He added that some schools in the five major conferences -- Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- haven't supported the plan to increase the value of scholarships, but it's time to get on the same page.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsOf major NCAA reform, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said, "we may get it within a year."
Delany's plan will resonate with some and come off as idealistic to others. He prefaced it by talking about his belief in college sports and his experiences as a basketball player at North Carolina.

"I believe in the opportunity for young people to go to college through intercollegiate athletics, who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to go there," he said. "I believe in the equal opportunity of players and students to achieve that opportunity. These, in some ways, seem like maybe quaint ideals, but they're more than a quaint ideal to me."

There's no denying that Delany presented his plan with the ongoing Ed O'Bannon-NCAA antitrust lawsuit in mind. He has been steadfast in his belief that college athletes shouldn't be paid and that it could destroy the structure of college sports.

Delany said Wednesday that the O'Bannon lawsuit could end up reaching the U.S. Supreme Court and that Congress could get involved with the Title IX component.

Although Delany's talk centered on the NCAA going forward, he also addressed the organization's embattled leader, Emmert, saying that the NCAA president has done some good things and also made some mistakes along the way while he's "learned on the job."

"We've tried to work with him in every way we can on every major issue that's come up," Delany said. "I wish him the best and have no motive other than to see him and the NCAA succeed, but there's no doubt that we have challenging times and he's the leader of an entity that's our group but also is responsible and accountable for where we are over the last three years.

"But most of the challenges we have at the NCAA predate Mark Emmert."

Delany later told ESPN.com that the NCAA's scrutinized enforcement group has been "a lightning rod within a lightning rod." As a former NCAA investigator, Delany said he plans to study the situation further and provide some suggestions going forward.

"I would like to see the people who make the mistakes pay the price and see the institution pay a lesser price," Delany said. "I would like to see it clearer when an institution is in jeopardy on institutional control that that's reserved for the worst of the worst. And I want to make sure if you make a mistake, there's a process. … We should be able to communicate better which are the major [infractions] and which are the not-so-major ones."

Delany doesn't think the major football-revenue schools have to separate themselves from the rest, and the big schools still will likely always compete against those with fewer resources. But "some autonomy" is needed.

Although the NCAA has come under fire in recent months, Delany sees better days ahead with major reforms now on the table at the highest levels.

"Very optimistic we'll get [change]," he said. "And I think we may get it within a year. The conference commissioners I've spoken with throughout the range of Division I are open for that discussion. It's necessary, and it's a traditional organization and it needs to innovate -- as we all do -- and I'm pretty optimistic that we'll do that."

Adam Rittenberg and Austin Ward review the day's news at Big Ten media days, including Ohio State's controversies, Jim Delany's proposals, and new targeting rules.
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

On Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby criticized the NCAA structure and hinted at big changes in the future. That followed similar comments by SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will speak Wednesday afternoon at his league's media days in Chicago. So Today's Take Two is this: Will Delany join the growing chorus of criticism against the NCAA, and what should he say about it?

Take 1: Brian Bennett

Delany has probably been more supportive of NCAA president Mark Emmert than some of his other peers, but he has to feel many of the same frustrations as his commissioner colleagues. Like Slive, Delany is a big proponent of paying athletes an additional stipend on top of their scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance, and they are upset the NCAA has yet to approve that measure after both stumped for it more than two years ago. Bowlsby said Monday that commissioners of the five power conferences met six weeks ago and were unanimous in wanting major changes to the NCAA structure. It sounds like the major conferences are growing tired of a system where Ohio State and Nebraska have to share the same rules as Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas-San Antonio.

The threat of the power leagues breaking off and forming their own kingdom gives them leverage, although those conference don't really want to be in the business of putting on their own soccer and lacrosse tournaments. Still, this is clearly an organized assault on the NCAA by the most powerful leaders in college football, and I'd expect Delany to weigh in with his own concerns. He probably won't be as pointed in his comments as Bowlsby -- Delany tends to speak in carefully considered, lawyerly tones -- but as one of the sport's most influential figures, whatever Delany says on Wednesday will carry a lot of weight.

Take 2: Adam Rittenberg

I agree that with Delany, it's all about sifting through the jargon to identify what he really means. But there's no way the dean of the major conference commissioners is going to let his colleagues dominate the spotlight. Remember that Delany started the public discussion about increasing the value of athletic scholarships up to federal cost of attendance values more than two years ago at the 2011 Big Ten spring meetings, so we know where he stands on that issue. Emmert actually supports such an increase, but the NCAA's legislative structure gives the smaller schools the power to vote down such proposals. Delany will sense the momentum for major change and capitalize on it in his comments.

How much Delany directly criticizes Emmert and the NCAA will be fascinating, but I expect him to openly discuss the possibility of major conferences forming their own division underneath the NCAA umbrella. Delany knows exactly where the Big Ten stands as a revenue/branding giant, and with new TV negotiations on the horizon, he wants to put the conference in the best possible position going forward. It will be interesting to see if Delany, a former NCAA investigator, weighs in on the NCAA's enforcement woes that have put Emmert in the crosshairs. Delany was deferential to Emmert when the Penn State sanctions came down, but he can't be pleased with the recent mishaps in Indianapolis. Will he directly criticize Emmert's leadership? I doubt it. I expect him to skillfully express his concerns without being as forthright as Bowlsby with his critiques. It should be an interesting session and we'll be on hand to cover all of it in Chicago.
So far, only two current, mostly unknown Big Ten players -- Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise -- have signed on as plaintiffs in the federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA originally brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon.

But other Big Ten players, including standouts, are paying close attention.

Penn State sophomore defensive end Deion Barnes, the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, took to Twitter earlier Monday to voice his opinion on the pay-for-play debate involving college athletes from revenue sports. Barnes began by tweeting that his initial excitement about having his likeness portrayed in the NCAA Football 2014 video game had been tempered, as he realized that many profited off of the game while he did not. The O'Bannon plaintiffs allege the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by using players' names, likenesses and images without compensating them at all.



Barnes immediately began receiving responses -- many from those who also follow the Big Ten blog Twitter page, as we retweeted his initial comment -- and defended his position. He acknowledged that free tuition -- the primary argument against paying scholarship athletes -- is a great benefit, but noted that he doesn't have enough for basic living expenses.

Responding to one person who asked why he doesn't get a side job, Barnes tweeted that the year-round training demands placed on college football players make it difficult to work. That's absolutely true. Players are expected to work out throughout the offseason.



Barnes retweeted several comments supporting his position and also linked to a recent piece from ESPN.com's Lester Munson discussing the impact of recent developments in the case, including the NCAA cutting ties with EA Sports. In one of his last tweets, Barnes writes, "I'm just [sic] saying we should get some type of stipend or something."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and other power brokers have advocated for an increase to the value of athletic scholarships, but there has been no movement nationally as of yet.

It's very interesting to see how current players, especially prominent ones like Barnes, are reacting to the O'Bannon case and the recent news. Will social media be a platform for other Big Ten stars to voice the opinions? Will the schools start instructing players to keep their opinions quiet?

Ultimately, more current players will join the lawsuit as Barnes certainly isn't alone in his view.
The Big Ten and the ACC both recently announced agreements with the Pinstripe Bowl in New York and will match up at Yankee Stadium every December from 2014-19. The tie-in bowl is just part of a push by both conferences to increase their profiles in the coveted New York market. The ACC on Monday welcomed Syracuse as a new member and held several announcements, complete with mascots, in New York City. Next July, the Big Ten will add Rutgers as a new member as it pushes for a bigger presence in the northeast corridor.

Both leagues will have a year-round marketing presence at Yankee Stadium, including fixed signs on the facade.

With the Big Ten and the ACC both gunning for Gotham, today's Take Two topic is: Which league will establish a bigger presence in the New York market? ACC blogger Andrea Adelson and Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg debate.

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Andrew Weber/US PresswireThe Big Ten hopes programs like Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes help it make inroads in New York.
AA, we really should be debating which commissioner, Jim Delany or John Swofford, displayed better form in throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. We both know it's difficult for any college team or college conference to make a major impact in a market where pro sports always will be king. But as someone who lives in a pro town/major market (Chicago), I can tell you there is a sizable segment of college sports fans with many different allegiances who will welcome the product with open arms. And though New York doesn't have as many Big Ten fans/alumni as Chicago, there are enough to make the league a successful product.

The Big Ten might not be the best football conference between the lines, but it remains a branding giant, in part because of its massive fan bases around the country. There are Big Ten bars and alumni clubs in most major cities, including New York. The overall numbers favor the Big Ten in a big way.

As I wrote last fall, the Big Ten's addition of Rutgers and Maryland was motivated more by its existing product than either of the new members. While Rutgers gives the Big Ten a boost in the New York/New Jersey market, the real victory is being able to showcase bigger products like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State more often. New York has the University of Michigan's third largest concentration of alumni outside of Detroit and Chicago. Ohio State has more alumni in New York than any other out-of-state region except for Washington D.C./Northern Virginia. Penn State has nearly 30,000 alumni in the New York-New Jersey market.

The ACC simply can't match that. Sure, it can hold its basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, and Syracuse is a school that resonates in New York. But New York sports fans will have an easier time connecting with traditional football powers like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. The ACC still is perceived as a Southern league. The Big Ten is rooted in the Midwest, but has some of its major members located much closer to New York. Maybe it'd be different if the ACC added Notre Dame as a full football member, but Notre Dame football will continue to be seen as an independent.

The Big Ten has made not only New York, but the entire northeast corridor its top priority in the next few years as it starts the process of negotiating what will be a massive new television contract. It will have a satellite office, most likely in New York, and Delany, a New Jersey native, knows the region and its power players extremely well. Although distribution for the Big Ten Network won't be easy, Delany gives us no reasons to doubt him.

Both leagues will face challenges to gain a foothold in New York, but the Big Ten comes in with bigger brands, a successful television network and fan bases that will be excited to have their favorite teams in their backyard more often. I expect "I love B1G" T-shirts to be on sale in Times Square within two years.

Take 2: Andrea Adelson

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When the ACC officially welcomed Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame into the league this week, it could have settled for a staid news conference at its home base in North Carolina.

Instead, the ACC turned its eyes to the largest media market in the world and proclaimed, "We want this to be ours." Representatives rang the NASDAQ closing bell. League mascots ran amok across the city, a genius marketing move that had folks tweeting and re-tweeting for hours. Swofford smiled and took in the whole scene, a fresh start for a league perceived to be a step behind all the rest.

But this move proves otherwise. The ACC made a forward-thinking decision to hold its welcome celebration in New York, while also sending a message to its dear old friends in the Big Ten. The largest media market in the world is waiting to be turned into the largest college sports media market in the world. The ACC and Big Ten see this. That is why Delany has discussed the magnitude of getting into New York with the addition of Rutgers.

That is why both leagues have signed a bowl agreement with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, complete with signage during regular-season Yankee games. That is why the ACC stormed New York on Monday, (hashtag #ACCtakesNYC) with Swofford announcing that New York City “is a very important part of our new footprint.”

The contest to "own" New York City is on. And I believe the ACC has a distinct advantage. Certainly, the Big Ten has a great deal of alums in the area. But it’s not as if there is an ACC vacuum there. Syracuse has 46,000 alumni in New York City alone. North Carolina has at least 10,000. Pitt and BC are all within a six-hour drive. There is even an ACC Alumni club.

But where the Big Ten might believe it has an advantage with the “power” programs like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, the ACC can draw on another sport to help it win over New Yorkers: basketball. The ACC is angling to play its men’s basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden after its deal with Greensboro, N.C., expires.

Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame all enjoyed incredible success playing in front of sold-out crowds at MSG as part of the old Big East. That arena is a home away from home for the Orange. Though football has far eclipsed basketball on the TV side, I believe the ACC can use its basketball prestige and popularity to help its football product make inroads in New York City.

The Big Ten will get its annual pub at the Pinstripe Bowl. But the ACC stands to get not only its pub from that bowl game, but a nearly week-long advertisement for the league in its entirety with a basketball tournament in New York, too.

Yes, there are tens of thousands of alumni of Big Ten schools in New York. But going into that city with a two-sport approach gives the ACC an edge when it comes to taking a big bite out of the Big Apple.
I live in the Midwest. I also live in reality.

After hearing the gripes from a segment of Big Ten fans about the league adding bowl games in San Diego (Holiday) and the San Francisco Bay area (Kraft Fight Hunger) to the future postseason lineup, it's time for a reality check about bowls and the places in which they're played. As many of you know, the bowl system was launched to promote tourism in warm-weather cities and to allow fans, many of them in Big Ten country, to escape the cold around the holidays. There's a reason bowls are named after roses and oranges instead of snow plows and antifreeze.

People want to watch football in late December and early January in short sleeves and shorts. They want a vacation-like setting. The locations of the bowl games drive the appeal. That's the way it is, and the way it always will be.

While I understand the concerns about travel costs and the other challenges associated with attending bowl games far from home, none of this is new.

It's mystifying that some Big Ten fans can't get over the fact that the league continues to play virtual road games in the postseason, whether it's against the SEC in Florida, the Big 12 in Texas and now the Pac-12 in California. They wonder why there can't be more bowl games in the Midwest.

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AP Photo/Kevin ReeceHard to argue against San Diego and the Holiday Bowl as a December vacation destination.
What do you not understand? No one wants to travel to Big Ten country in late December or early January when they could be in Florida, California or even Texas. They don't want to spend money here when they can have a vacation in a vacation-like environment. Sure, Big Ten fans are already living in the Midwest, but they're not going to spend a week in Detroit or Chicago or Indianapolis or Minneapolis around the holidays. They'll drive to and from the game like it's a regular-season Big Ten contest.

The limited experience Midwest bowl games offer underscores why they'll never be high-profile events. Do you disagree? Send me a marketing plan for a major bowl game in a Midwest city and I'll shoot holes in it. Remember, the most successful bowls appeal to multiple leagues and sponsors.

Monday was a day Big Ten fans should have been celebrating with sunscreen and sandals. The league added San Diego (!!!) to its lineup. What's the drawback? And yet I received tweets and emails grumbling about the additions. During a conference call to announce the two new bowl agreements, Michigan media members bombarded Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany with questions about whether the league still would play a bowl game in Detroit.

Really? We're that concerned about the Big Ten continuing to play bowl games in Detroit, where the league has sent a grand total of three teams during its 11-year agreement with the Motor City Bowl/Little Caesars Pizza Bowl? You can breathe easy, as the Big Ten will enter an agreement with the new Detroit Lions bowl, sources tell ESPN.com.

Let's be clear: I'm not against bowls in cold-weather cities. I have nothing against a bowl in Detroit. I like the Big Ten adding the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, mainly because of the marketing opportunities it presents at Yankee Stadium. If the league adds a tie-in with the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., you'll get no objections from me.

But the reality is that the bigger bowl games, the ones you as fans should want to experience, will never be played in your backyard.

That's the cold truth, and the sooner all Big Ten fans accept it, the more they'll appreciate the new destinations on the league's postseason slate.

Pac-12 renews three bowl games

June, 24, 2013
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Before the Rose Bowl, we'll have the unofficial Rose Bowl North and Rose Bowl South.

The Big Ten has inked new deals with the Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls and starting in 2014 will take on a second and third Pac-12 opponent in the postseason. The agreement for both bowls is six years.

This move has been rumored for a while and it's slightly bigger news for the Big Ten, since the Pac-12 is basically continuing its agreement with two of its current bowl partners. But switching up opponents is always refreshing.

Noteworthy, however, is that the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl gets a boost in prestige because it moves up in the pecking order from sixth to fourth. The Holiday Bowl retains its place in the selection process of Pac-12 teams (after the Rose/playoff pick and Alamo Bowl).

In an attempt to avoid the repetition of sending the same team to the same location several years in a row, the Big Ten is implementing a tier system for its selection process.

"We want to make sure that there is freshness," said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany on a conference call Monday. "That the bowl community is well-served. It's hard when a team goes to say, Florida, five times in six years, it's hard to get them excited. If you've been to the Rose Bowl three years in a row, maybe San Diego and San Francisco aren't the right places to go in your next bowl trip. There will be some selection order, it will be heavily influenced by freshness ... it's constrained by parameters to make sure that our teams and our players and our coaches have unique and fresh experiences."

The Pac-12 also announced on Monday that it's renewing its partnership with the Sun Bowl for another six years and it will pick after the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl selects its representative in the process.

As for the Las Vegas and New Mexico bowls, stay tuned. Asked Monday about the rest of the bowl lineup, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott offered this:

"We're not ready to announce some of our other arrangements," he said. "We will shortly. I think what you'll see at the end of the day, we've optimized our lineup. We've made some changes. But I think top to bottom you'll see improvements as evidenced by today's announcements ... I think you'll see top to bottom an even more robust bowl slate for us."

So more postseason changes could be coming.

Neither Scott nor Delany said the new bowl arrangements between the conferences were a direct result of last year's failed alliance between the teams. But given the history of the leagues and their common interests moving forward, it makes sense that they increase the postseason play beyond the Rose Bowl.

"Our conferences have a tremendous affinity toward one another and obviously tremendous tradition," Scott said. "We've looked for ways to play each other more often ... our schools like to play each other. If you look at the teams our schools play, tough, out of-conference-competition and you'll see a lot of Pac-12-Big Ten matchups. There's a tradition there."

Added Delany: "Our schools probably play each other as much as other conferences do and that goes back a long time. Collaborations don't happen very much because they are difficult. We had some difficulties on our side. [Scott] had some difficulties on his side. But what it didn't do was interrupt the communications. It didn't interrupt the desire to create good match-ups. I'm a firm believer in partnerships -- whether it's a ACC/Big Ten challenge or a Rose Bowl or bringing people together under the College Football Playoff. We figure out a way to do things and we don't worry about what doesn't happen as much as what happens. That was a plane that didn't fly. But once it didn't fly, I'm on to something else. And this is a very good something else."

As for the Sun Bowl, the ACC is contracted through 2013. However, a Sun Bowl spokesperson said Monday afternoon that the league has not finalized any plans beyond this season. The news release, instead, offered this: "The Hyundai Sun Bowl Football Selection Committee is currently under negotiations to bring a quality opponent from a current Bowl Championship Series conference to match up with the Pac-12." Which could either mean the ACC is still trying to finalize the contract, or we could see a new opponent in this bowl game as well.

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