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Schwartz: Ten Sentences – Delany Exit Interviews Edition

January 5, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Last week, Jim Delany’s financially successful 30-year run as Big Ten commissioner ended. He retired. The University of Iowa made a lot of money during Delany’s tenure, thanks largely to broadcast deals negotiated by Delany and his staff and the creation of Big Ten Network. Delany gave a small handful of interviews last week, including to CBS Sports and the Chicago Tribune. Here are the 10 meatiest quotes and what they might mean for the Hawkeyes.

1. “Consider them rolled”: This was what Delany said to ESPN executive and Iowa graduate Mark Shapiro in 2004 when Delany turned down ESPN’s offer to broadcast Big Ten games and Shapiro told Delany that he was rolling the dice; Big Ten revenue hit nearly $800 million last year.

2. “I don’t think anybody is going to try to administrate college athletics under 25 sets of rules”: California is moving toward its “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which calls for college athletes who compete in California to earn money on their likeness, which is a great idea but would give California a huge advantage over a school like, say, Iowa; what Delany is saying here is that this is an issue the NCAA will address on a large scale, which means change is coming – eventually.

3. “Once it gets into the court, I think there will be stays until the litigation is finished”: Translation – the NCAA will take California to federal court.

4. “You don’t have uniform scheduling”: Some of the nation’s top programs schedule cupcakes, while others schedule significant opponents; some play in tougher conferences than others – add all this together and you’ve got an inequitable format for determining a national champ, whether it’s a playoff or the BCS.

5. “You can’t quote silence, can you?”: Delany has long championed the Big Ten’s academic credentials, and say what you want about Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, but the Hawkeyes have one of the top athletic departments in the country when it comes to competing nationally and producing academic all-Americans; as for that quote, it was in response to the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein asking whether conferences such as the SEC can measure up to the Big Ten’s academic résumé.

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6. (Side note: Johns Hopkins, one of the premier academic schools in the country, became a Big Ten affiliate member a few years ago to play lacrosse; the only Big Ten university that is not part of the Association of American Universities is Nebraska.)

7. “When I was in school, all the [college basketball] games were sold out. All the games were on TV”: No they weren’t, and no they weren’t; it doesn’t matter how much the old guard romanticizes what they think college basketball used to be – times have changed, and the power dynamic has shifted for the better.

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8. “You can’t have the smallest programs telling the larger programs what they can spend”: Hard to tell whether he was talking about the Mountain West vs. the SEC and Big Ten, or the U.S. Senate.

9. “The Big Ten is the Big Ten. It predated me by 90 years and it will postdate me by 100 years”: The state of the conference is strong, and while his humility is appreciated, let’s not underestimate how much Delany has meant to the Big Ten’s brand over the last decade; he’s been the most important college conference commissioner, ensuring the Big Ten remained near or at the front of every major college conversation.

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10. “Rutgers is a fabulous institution, as is Maryland. And the corridor they occupy with Penn State might be the most important in the Western world – great students, political institutions, financial institutions”: College sports, more than anything, is about money and power, and Delany played the political game right; he never fully accepted athletes as humans, treating them more as assets, but politically his impact on the Big Ten will be felt for generations.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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