With realignment quieting, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany eyes policies
BY SETH GRUEN Staff reporter August 15, 2013 9:27PM
Updated: August 15, 2013 10:38PM
KENOSHA, Wis. — Conference realignment across the country has begun to settle somewhat with the Big Ten set to integrate Rutgers and Maryland next summer, bringing its membership to 14 universities.
But that doesn’t mean the NCAA’s power conferences aren’t watching one another.
The revenue from television contracts has increased dramatically. So while Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said his priority is to integrate the conference’s newest members, he didn’t completely dismiss the idea that the conference could get even bigger.
Delany was at Northwestern’s practice Thursday as part of his tour of the Big Ten’s training camps.
“[Realignment] has settled a little bit, more than it was a year ago,” Delany said. “But I think everybody is alert to opportunities, and it’s probably good that it’s settled down. People can work on their integration.”
The additions of Rutgers and Maryland cemented the conference’s presence in the eastern part of the country, extending the reach of the profitable Big Ten Network to some of the country’s largest television markets.
Part of the initiative in adding those schools was to ensure the Big Ten had a presence in two regions of the country, similar to the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and SEC.
While the major conferences are already far-reaching, there has been speculation that the potential to make more money could motivate a conference to expand nationwide.
Considering the Big Ten was at the forefront of conference realignment and the development of a television network, there’s reason to speculate it could be a prime candidate to grow further.
But Delany wasn’t sure that would happen with any of the nation’s power conferences.
“I don’t know about a nationwide conference,” he said. “But I think we have a national reach — our television network, our bowl relationships, the recruitment. So I think if there’s a conference with national reach, it’s probably us as much as anybody else.”
In the meantime, the most prominent issue being discussed among conference commissioners is the restructuring of NCAA policies.
That has given Delany, one of the most influential voices in college athletics, the chance to advance several initiatives.
His focus is on the quality of life of student-athletes. That includes giving them a miscellaneous stipend up to the cost of education, for which he has long been a proponent.
But he was most passionate about identifying and helping at-risk students.
Delany first addressed the issue at Big Ten media days amid the scrutiny Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was under for the way he has disciplined his players. This summer, three Buckeyes had alleged legal issues.
One of those players was running back Carlos Hyde, who was accused of assaulting a woman in a Columbus nightclub July 20. Hyde won’t face criminal charges, but he will be suspended at least three games for “conduct not representative” of the football program.
Delany said the conference can’t mandate any sort of program for at-risk students, but he would like to begin the conversation with coaches about how to eradicate such issues.
“If we’re going to take at-risk students, we have to make sure they have all the support they need,” Delany said. “In some cases, that might mean a year of readiness, kind of a targeted freshman situation.
“I’d like to sit down with our coaches and really examine the time spent, especially for at-risk students.”