College football is full of polarizing characters from coaches and players to mascots and play by play announcers. Every fan has a different opinion of the other teams in the country and that opinion can vary depending on who the opponent is the next week. There is one figure in college football that no one disagrees on. The overall feeling is loathing, the man is Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany and he is the Most Polarizing Man in College Football. Obviously that statement is not scientific and would be very difficult to prove, but in order to try and prove anything there has to be facts to back it up, so here's why Jim Delany makes fans so angry.
Why Delany Irks the Big 10
Why would a man who has done so much good for the Big 10 during his tenure as the commissioner draw such ire from his own fans? After all the Big 10 has consistently put multiple teams into BCS games in one season, the Big 10 network was a brilliant idea even with the poor execution and the league has been recently described as making money "hand over fist" by some in the media. The conference is in no financial trouble, but the era of the BCS has put more pressure on conferences to change with the times. Delany's decisions such as stopping Big 10 games from being played at night in November, not extending the season to compete with games played in other conferences and his dismissal of expanding the league are problems that may seem small now, but will hurt the conference in the long term.
Prime Time College Football games have become the most popular and sought after timeslots in the sport. Taking away the night game atmosphere from the Big Ten when the most important games are being played in November hurts the league in a number of ways including recruiting. Most fans would agree that there is a difference between an 11 AM kickoff and a 7:45 PM kickoff. The crowd gets rowdier the later the game is played and night games are presumed to be more important than day games.
Think about what time of day the Football Night in America's Game of the Week is played on NBC or the fact that Monday Night Football is so beloved. Night games are bigger and better and to not have any Big 10 night games in November doesn't make sense. Weather has always been the reason Big 10 has a problem with night games late in the season. Last year there was only one played and it was in the Metro-dome. Still using the NFL as an example there are Sunday/Monday Night games scheduled for this season in the following cities in November and December…Chicago, Cleveland, Denver and Green Bay. Those games are going to be cold, but it would be shocking if not every one of them was sold out.
Delany has limited the time a game can be played and he continues to limit when games are played. When the Big 10 finishes their season most of the important games left in the country are still two weeks away. Rivalry weekend is the last weekend of November for most conferences; the Big 10 does it a week early. While everyone is talking about the Big 12 Championship or the SEC Championship the Big 10 already signed up most of their teams for bowl games. In 2010 the Big 10 will be enacting a permanent bye week to extend the season one more week, but leagues like the Pac 10 and Big East still play non-championship games the first week of December. Of course the solution to this problem is another issue for Delany.
The solution to the season ending in early November is to expand and add one more team to get to 12. Yes, the Big 10 has 11 teams, but we won't hold that detail against Delany. Delany argued against expansion this week by loosely attacking the ACC for not getting all they expected out of their move to 12 teams, but since when is Big 10 Football compared to ACC Football. Does anyone really think that the Big 10 would have a problem selling out a championship game in December like the ACC does? It is an excuse and a bad one. Adding an additional team allows the conference to make more money with a championship game; it puts the Big 10 in the national spotlight for another week during the season and helps voters get one final comparison on the same day instead of thinking back a week or two.
These issues may seem like minor details, but to Big 10 fans they are a big deal. The potential is our there for Big 10 teams to get hurt with the lack of prime time games, the league can be forgotten while we enjoy a full slate of games the first Saturday in December and expanding the league is the way to make sure this doesn't happen. Expanding the league is not an easy thing to do, but Delany should be more open to it because the expansion would do more good than bad.
Why Delany Irks Everyone Else
There are three reasons why the rest of the country has a problem with Jim Delany, the first reason and biggest reason is because he is viewed as holding back the country from a BCS Playoff. Delany's love for the Rose Bowl and the tradition of a Pac 10/Big 10 match-up has closed his mind to any possibility of change in regards to a College Playoff. He has denied this in the past, but every fan knows that Delany and soon to be retired Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen were two of the biggest stumbling blocks in a playoff. Tradition is what makes college football so special, but change is also a big part of the sport as well and Delany is a big piece of the puzzle as to why College Football will never move towards a playoff.
The next problem with Jim Delany is the terrible way he defends his conferences failures. Delany often comes off as a sore loser and whether it is in recruiting or on the field he has made a number of comments that rubs fans from other leagues the wrong way. A couple years ago after the Big 10 had a terrible recruiting season and Delany sent out an email to fans to explain the conference's lack of recruiting success. His best comment was…"I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics." What does that mean? Who says that? What kind of commissioner loses and then tries to explain the failure with a letter to the fans trying to make them feel better? It reminds me of Kevin Bacon in Animal House while the Delta Fraternity is ruining the parade…ALL IS WELL, ALL IS WELL!!!
The final reason the rest of the country takes issue with Jim Delany is because of his awful sense of timing. The Sunday before the NCAA Basketball National Championship this year between Michigan State and North Carolina, Delany decided to open up his mouth about how it was unfair his conference was dogged all season and MSU making it to the championship game was the leagues vindication. Sure this is basketball, but the statement was very telling. He blamed the lack of respect the Big 10 was getting this season on the meda, "I think media companies aren't located on the West Coast," Delany said. "They're not located in the Plains. They're located on the East Coast. There is on Broadway and off Broadway. There is familiarity with the coaches and players, and it's where [the media] went to school. [But] I think their acumen and insight isn't backed up [by the results]. Fans complain about a media bias, but it is off when the conference commissioner is the one doing it.
Delany chooses to comment before the Big 10 has won a championship; he defends the league for being there but not finishing the job. This statement would have had more meaning if it came after a National Championship. This would have been appropriate had Michigan State won or if Ohio State had won either of their last two BCS Championship game appearances. Delany would not have needed to say a thing, he could have gone Stan Smith in the episode of American Dad when he found Oliver North's gold. Middle finger in the air and nothing else would be needed. Even as childish as the one finger solute would have been, it would have made more sense than talking before the game was played.
Is the Hatred Warranted?
These reasons are more than enough make Jim Delany the most hated man in College Football. The longer he procrastinates on moving the league into the 21st century, the more likely the Big 10 could find itself behind the eight ball in future seasons. No other school, player or coach is disliked more because any of those three would be loved by their own fans. Delany has no fans, he has no supporters; all he now has is the disappointment from the fans of his conference and hatred from the rest of the country. Delaney can fix the national opinion of himself, but he doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.
What are your feelings about Jim Delany? Are you the only person in America who likes him or do you have someone you hate more? E-mail me or follow me on Twitter. Brian Harbach