Delany Comments: Bellwether or Bitcher?
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Conference commissioners, like all big-brand poobahs, think long and hard before they offer any utterances.
Bob Delany was marking a position in the play-for-play debate that, by inference, has the support of most -- if not all -- of his constituents. Those are the Big Ten university presidents, and make no mistake, they're watching the escalating arms race in college sports with more alarm than fascination.
Delany's proclamation has its advocates and detractors, of course. But the significance of his going public is that he's confident he has strong support to do so. And he definitely has influence. The only pockets of resistance come from the SEC and Big XII, but not even they are unanimous in the opposition anymore.
His timing is also interesting. Delany is an advocate of major conferences playing nine-game schedules to ensure more attractive matchups for media outlets, which help generate more revenues. The Big Ten is moving to that format in 2016; the Pac-12 and Big XII already have it in place. The SEC still doesn't have the membership votes to do so, which means their schools are currently slated to schedule four non-cons per season.
Thus, Alabama's decision to cancel its home-and-home contract with Michigan State this week was met with diplomatic exasperation by everyone else involved. The claim of 'scheduling uncertainty' rang hollow. It's well known the SEC teams don't like to leave their region very often -- Tennessee provided an exception this year, honoring a contract with Oregon -- and as the Tide's alternative to Michigan State is likely to be a Southern cupcake, this development seems to have added fuel to the fire that the direction of big-brand college football needs major adjustments to be made sooner rather than later.
There are numerous considerations in the debate for change in the NCAA landscape, not the least of which are these:
- Successful athletic programs play a significant role in alumni relations, including donations to the general academic funds.
- Every major football program wants an absolute minimum of six home games and prefers more, as they're literal ATM machines, so they all press for at least two non-con home games. (Cue the FBS schools.)
- A general set of rules and regulations for more than the top 64-or-so athletic programs is simply untenable.
- Ethically addled boosters and misguided allies (eg- agents, go-betweens, etc) have expanded the gray area of shamateurism to unacceptable lengths.
Growing irritation at the NFL and NBA using schools as de facto minor leagues -- Delany's comments about baseball, hockey, and golf having their own developmental leagues were particularly pointed -- also seemed to catalyze the Big Ten commissioner's sentiments that now is the time to do something.
It could be that Delany's comments are an indication that the boiling point is near.