Big Ten’s Jim Delany endorses NCAA approach to change
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Two days after high-ranking college athletics officials met in Indianapolis to discuss potential changes to the NCAA’s governance structure, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany applauded the efforts.
“I thought it was a good step,” Delany told reporters at Big Ten men’s basketball media day Thursday. “There’s been a lot of talk about restructuring over the last six months to a year, a lot of feelings of frustration. Most of the conference commissioners over the summer were reflecting the frustration that was coming from within their conferences for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s the practitioners not having a chance to participate. Sometimes, it’s not being able to get at certain critical areas that they feel like they need to get at.”
Delany reiterated the sentiment that conference commissioners from the “Big 5” conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — hope to gain more power and control in a new governance model so they can use their vast resources to address issues like the full cost of attendance, something that may not be affordable or feasible for all of the NCAA member schools.
“We’ve at least preliminarily concluded we don’t want to leave the NCAA, and we don’t need a Division IV,” Delany said. “We can be in a big tent if we can get the appropriate matter of political redistribution. We can have an (NCAA men’s basketball) tournament, everyone can be in it. We can do revenue sharing. We can all brand together. We can all be Division I together. We can all have a big tent.
“But the conditions for that are that we need the political autonomy and the political authority to address things we must address on behalf of our student-athletes, on behalf of our universities. We have the resources to do it, and we need the authority to do it. How that happens, we’ll work that out over the next weeks and months. …
“We don’t want to draw lines and put certain people in and certain people out.”
Delany said he’s not talking about paying players, but rather the cost of attendance and the well-being of college athletes.
When asked about conferences outside of the Big 5 potentially adopting future measures and rules, Delany said, “The changes would be, in many areas, permissive. If you have the resources, do it.”
Consider the United Nations and its security council, which wields veto power. In a similar way, the Big 5 would have much more control over decisions that affect all NCAA members. And if the Big 5 enacts a rule, such as deregulating how many meals schools could feed athletes, smaller conferences that can’t afford it don’t have to implement it.
Another topic Delany feels the bigger conferences need to address — and likely doesn’t affect smaller schools nearly as much — is the issue of agents and third-party influences.
“We need to examine the agent rules,” Delany said. “Our athletes need access to good information. They don’t need to do it in the shadows. We need to look at that. We need to figure out what it is that works for us.”
Other topics, like academic standards, would affect all NCAA member schools, Delany said. The length of seasons and recruiting “should be very similar” for all schools, he added.
The NCAA would need to adopt a new governance model to put this much power in so few hands. That means the presidents and athletic directors at schools in smaller conferences would have to vote to support the new system. Big 5 commissioners have been selling it as a win-win — there would still be methods for revenue sharing, there would still be access for all to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s very unusual for people to vote themselves less authority to give someone else more authority,” Delany said. “But it’s not a money grab. It’s political authority.”
The issue is far from resolved. NCAA Division I Board of Directors chairman Nathan Hatch told USA TODAY Sports earlier this week that he will lead a subcommittee of seven Board of Directors members that will work with NCAA president Mark Emmert to come up with a template for the new governance structure over the next several months — welcome news to those clamoring for change.
“Right now, the level playing field philosophy is so powerful, and the differences between 351 schools and 32 conference is something that we can’t really deal with,” Delany said. “We’re going to have to get this changed.”
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