Jim Delany

Jim Delany

Report: Big Ten looking into idea of making freshmen ineligible for competition in football, men’s basketball


Less than a week after it was reported by Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com that some conference commissioners have been discussing the possibility of making freshmen ineligible for competition, another outlet has reported that the Big Ten is entertaining thoughts of following that path in football and men’s basketball.

According to The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, the Big Ten has broached the idea of a “mandatory redshirt” that would be geared towards ensuring that freshmen would use their first year of college to get acclimated academically. In the story, Maryland president Wallace D. Loh voiced his support for the idea.

According to the Big Ten, with football and men’s basketball being the lone sports to produce a graduation rate lower than 75 percent those sports would benefit from this move (if it were to occur).

Men’s basketball and football players lag behind other sports in terms of academics, according to data provided in the document. Among the 34 sports listed in the Graduation Success Rate data, football and men’s basketball ranked last in the 2004 to 2007 cohort, according to the document. Among the 38 sports listed in the Academic Progress Rate data from 2009 to 2013, those two sports also ranked last.

The proposal examines “the imbalance observed in those two sports” and cites that football and men’s basketball student-athletes account for less than 19 percent of Division I participants, yet they account for more than 80 percent of academic infraction cases.

There are some issues with this, most notably the idea that football and men’s basketball would be the lone sports subject to this measure. While those in support of freshman ineligibility would likely point to those academic numbers as the reason why, there would likely be a considerable amount of pushback from those who believe that if freshman were to be made ineligible that should be the case for all sports.

And here’s another question to ask: where was this concern for academics during the most recent round of conference realignment? Major conferences, for the most part, have become larger and span more ground than they did in the past. How does that, and the travel time that comes with it, help the “student-athletes” focus on being a student first?

It will be interesting to see where these conversations take college athletics, but making freshmen ineligible for competition may do more harm than good to the bottom line (money) that drove conference realignment.

Big Ten sends recommendations to NCAA regarding student-athlete welfare

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In recent weeks some college programs have announced initiatives meant to improve the student-athlete experience, with four-year scholarships and programs meant to help those who leave school without a degree return to campus among the benefits. Wednesday afternoon the Big Ten became the first conference among the five granted autonomy by the NCAA to make a move, as it sent recommendations to the NCAA regarding these issues.

Among the moves recommended by the Big Ten are to make sure scholarships meet the full cost of attendance and to also reward multi-year scholarships. These benefits would be available for to scholarship athletes in good standing at their particular university.

The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
•  Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
•  Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
•  Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
•  Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.

Within its statement the Big Ten also vowed to address areas such as the health of their athletes, how much time is required of athletes in their particular sport and ensuring that their athletes get the support needed to succeed academically. It’s likely only a matter of time before the other four leagues granted autonomy (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) make their own decisions regarding how they take care of the needs of their athletes.

Will the Big Ten’s move serve as a model for those conferences to follow? Or will they find other areas of importance that need to be addressed? With the value of a scholarship being one of the major conversation points even before autonomy was granted, more changes are coming in the future for collegiate athletics.

Multiple cities in running for 2018 Big Ten tournament

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In May the Big Ten Conference announced that its 2017 men’s basketball tournament will be played in Washington, D.C., with the league taking advantage of the addition of nearby Maryland to the membership. With that decision being made the next step for commissioner Jim Delany is to find a home for the 2018 event, and according to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune there are a couple options on the table.

One of those options is Madison Square Garden in New York City, which would get the event in the largest media market in the country. However the issue at play here is the presence of the Big East tournament, with that conference having an agreement with Madison Square Garden through the 2025-26 season.

As a result, in order for the Big Ten to get into MSG they would likely have to play their event a week earlier, and the financial cost associated with playing at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” is another issue Delany cited in the Tribune story. With this being the case Delany has also discussed other options for the 2018 Big Ten tournament.

Delany told the Tribune that if the tournament does not go to the Big Apple, strong possibilities to host include Omaha, Minneapolis and Detroit.

“I’m thinking that if it’s not New York, we’ll put it up (for bid) and see who’s really interested,” he said. “Omaha is hungry.”

Before scheduling the 2017 event for the nation’s capital only Chicago (which will host in 2015) and Indianapolis (the 2016 host) had the honor of hosting the Big Ten tournament since its inception in 1998. Will the league membership be in favor of another city hosting the event? Those discussions won’t be completed for a while, but it’s clear that Delany is open to the possibility.

Upcoming television deal expected to produce financial windfall for Big Ten

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One of the biggest factors in conference realignment has been the chase for television dollars, with the most powerful conferences in collegiate athletics setting themselves up to make hundreds of millions of dollars per year. One such conference is the Big Ten, which will expand to 14 members on July 1 when Maryland (from the ACC) and Rutgers (from the American Athletic Conference) join.

While some have argued that realignment should be more about achievements within the fields of play, it’s those valuable television markets that have the greatest influence and with the location of those two schools Jim Delany’s league stands to make a lot of money on its next deal in 2017.

How much? According to Mike Carmin of the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier, the 12 holdovers could make as much as $44.5 million in the first year of that deal.

In a document obtained by the Journal & Courier through an open records request from Purdue University, 12 of the 14 schools are projected to receive $44.5 million each through the league’s distribution plan. That’s the first year Nebraska becomes fully financially integrated into the conference, according to Big Ten deputy commissioner and treasurer Brad Traviolia.

The Big Ten won’t be the only conference to see more money in the coming years. The SEC’s new network will begin operation in mid-August, and the ACC is looking at the possibility of starting its own network in the near future. The ACC will replace Maryland with Louisville on July 1.

The five conferences generally accepted as the most powerful (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) are raking in more money than the other FBS (football) conferences, and that gap is even wider for the leagues that either sponsor college football at the FCS level or not at all.

The money is one of the concerns for those other leagues, especially when considering new initiatives with regards to how much food is made available to athletes and the argument as to whether or not scholarships should meet the full cost of attendance. And with the escalating costs of television contracts, that’s going to be an issue for the foreseeable future.

Jim Delany, Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard spark more pay-for-play debate


In what has become a now-daily occurrence, a well-known member of the college athletics establishment said something for or against paying collegiate athletes, which subsequently turned into a war of words on my twitter feed between the folks that want to see the labor force get a bigger cut of the profits from college athletics and those that believe a full scholarship is more than enough.

This time, it was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who had plenty to say in regards to college athletics and amateurism. Some of the highlights:

  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.'”

Then Iowa State’s Athletic Director Jamie Pollard decided to drop by, doing his best to drive a wedge between the non-revenue sports athletes — whose teams are funded by football and basketball — and the revenue sports athletes.

I’m not going to get to wordy about how ridiculous and shameful the concept of amateurism truly his (just read this), or why most of what Delany said is inaccurate (read this, too), or try and explain to you why college is the only real option for players in revenue sports, or list off the reasons why the “education” these athletes receive is not the same as the education a normal student gets. If you truly believe that college football and basketball players shouldn’t get a bigger cut of the money they generate, than I can’t help you. I just have to be glad you don’t actually have a say in the matter.

The one thing I’ll say is this: the heart of the problem isn’t the lack of pay for the players, it’s the lack of say. They have no power. They have no voice. They only thing really differentiating them from being employees of these universities is a label a court ruling from 50-some odd years ago, yet there is no college athlete union.

The NFL and the NBA have a collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. College athletes are at the mercy of a group of athletic directors that don’t want to see their seven-figure salaries reduced.

If that doesn’t rub you the wrong way, I’m not sure what I can say to you.