Monday in Chicago at the Big Ten Media Day, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany field questions from a large media throng on hand on several topics facing the conference. Here’s some highlights of that question and answer forum with Delany.
Thanks to the Big Ten for sending out the transcription of Delany’s remarks.
Toward the end of his opening remarks, Delany talked about the academic reform agenda.
There's been a disconnect in some ways, but for us these things are inextricably linked,’’ Delany said. “We want to emphasize them today. Our student-athletes compete in football and many other sports, but this is part of their educational experience.
“We've heard from several conferences about their willingness to support cost of education. Why cost of education? Because it's directly tied to education. This is what the college model is about so that education and college athletics is part of the system. It's not part of the system in AAU or Little League or seven-on-seven or professional sports, but it's fundamental to what it is we're trying to achieve.
“About a year ago in this same building, at this same time, I spoke to the issue of cost of attendance. What should we do if we were able to achieve restructuring and what should we do in order to advance the educational part of the intercollegiate athletic enterprise.
“First issue, cost of education. Why? Because that's what it costs to go to college.
“Year of readiness. Why? To ensure the student-athletes are properly prepared academically before competing athletically.
Time demands. Why? To ensure that student-athletes have enough time to be successful in the classroom and life including internships and study abroad.
Lifetime trust. Why? To ensure those who leave school early can finish their degree and come back anytime. Is there a bell curve in college sports and athletics - there are. There's some great students and there's some great athletes. Some are more interested in academics than others. But that doesn't change our mission, which is to make sure that the opportunity exists for a great education for all of our athletes.’’
Before taking questions, he talked briefly about bowl games and the college football playoff.
“On the bowl side, we've experienced bowl tie-ins for over 20 years, and it's pretty straightforward,’’ Delany said. “Bowls made selections, and our teams went and played and had great experiences in different parts of the country.
“Going forward, bowls will make selections and the conference will make approvals. We're doing this to make sure that our athletes, our coaches, our teams and our fan bases have diverse experiences over a period of time.
“We couldn't be more pleased with the bowl arrangements we have in San Francisco, Pasadena, San Diego, Texas, Fort Worth, Dallas, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville, New York, Detroit. So we're looking forward to that. We want to continue to grow these games and provide postseason opportunities in addition to the college football playoff.
“I think Mike (Kelly) did a good job of outlining what the College Football Playoff Committee will be looking for, and what we've tried to do is structure our conference schedule and our scheduling to deliver an opportunity for our teams if they're successful. We make no predictions. We make no excuses. We will play one major intersectional game, nine conference games, a championship in all games against football bowl championship teams.
“So if you want to remember what we're trying to achieve, think strength of schedule, 1910 - One intersectional game, nine conference games, one championship, and no games outside of FBS.
“So we're looking forward to competing this year. We're looking forward to making progress in the reform agenda. And at this point, I welcome your questions.’’
“I really don't have any knowledge of that. We had Indiana play I think it was Penn State in Baltimore a number of years ago,’’ Delany said. “And I know Penn State has been very well received in New York. I was at the game at MetLife Stadium against Syracuse last year. If those are local games for Maryland and Rutgers, it will be their call as to where they're playing. Under our rules the home team could do that, if the visiting team was willing to do that.
“So I'm not familiar with it. I just came from a meeting with the athletic directors. We were talking a lot about schedules, but that didn't come up.’’
Delany was asked about even if the unionization effort fails at Northwestern, did he think it was inevitable that it will someday go through?
“I don't think there's anything that's inevitable,’’ Delany said. “I think that the first thing I would say is that it happened at Northwestern. I think it was surprising, but probably not shocking. And it will get resolved there pursuant to the law and pursuant to the desires of the players.
“Whether or not it's got legs in other places around the country, it's hard to predict or project. I would say even at the outset that, for the most part, these matters of labor are really a state-by-state issue, especially for public institutions, and whatever happened at Northwestern is really more relevant I think to the Stanfords and the Vanderbilts and state institutions.
“So it certainly was interesting and surprising, but again not shocking given the world we live in. It's so dynamic. And we're interested to see, again, the thing go through the process that we have in our country, which is a process of law and dispute resolution, which is fair and reasonable, and we'll work with whatever outcomes are there. And as it goes through, we'll present our position in a vigorous way.’’
Delany was asked about the decision by the Big Ten to stop playing FCS schools in the future.
“First of all, I think that there are FCS teams that have proven their mettle,’’ Delany said. “I can think of one game in the Big Ten -- that was the first game telecast by BTN -- that was quite a shocker and reflected well on Appalachian State. I know that Furman has won big games, Georgia Southern.
“There are selective teams. But the bottom line is that FBS schools have 85 scholarships. FCS has 63 scholarships. The college football playoff entity has signaled to us in a policy statement approved by commissioners and presidents that they are looking for the four best teams in the country and that they're going to make that determination on the basis of the quality of your schedule, the strength of your schedule, winning championships, head to head, and games against comparable opponents.
“So as we listen to that, you know, we don't think so much about budgets as we think about how to position our teams if they're successful for selection into that competition because now that's the structure we have.
“And as we thought about it -- and I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about us, the athletic directors -- you know, we've set on this 1910 model, one intersectional, nine conference, one championship, and no games outside of FBS.
“Is that immutable? No. The athletic directors could come together at any time and make a change. But I don't expect that to happen in the near term. And if it did, I would think it would be in the direction of even stronger standards and guidelines, not more watered-down standards or guidelines.
“So we don't have any predictions. We don't have any excuses. We're simply trying to put our teams into the best possible environment to be successful, and we think that is by encouraging them to play the strongest set of opponents.’’