Big Ten’s Delany, NFF to honor Parry
By John Mutka firstname.lastname@example.org April 29, 2012 11:33PM
Big†Ten†Commissioner†Jim†Delany†listens to questions during the Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Rosemont, Ill., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: April 30, 2012 10:38AM
Hard to believe, but Jim Delany is racking up his 23nd year as Big 10/12 Commissioner.
Even harder to fathom is that he is only the fifth Big Ten boss since its birth in 1896.
“That tells you something about the stability of the conference,” said Purdue’s Jim Vruggink, a driving force behind the Northwest Indiana Chapter’s National Football Foundation banquet, which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. “Great leadership.”
Delany will be making a rare appearance in Northwest Indiana at the Avalon Manor for a program which will honor senior scholar-athletes and region All-Stars as well as Michigan City’s Dave Parry (posthumously). He worked hand in hand with Delany as the supervisor of Big Ten officials for 19 years and was heavily involved in the creation of collegiate instant replay. Parry’s widow, Patricia, will receive a special award.
Parry would have been honored before, but illness prevented the long-time NCAA and NFL official from attending last year’s banquet. Unexpectedly he died shortly after retiring as the first national coordinator for college football officiating.
Dedicated professionals like Parry helped Delany turn the midwest conference into a national force over the last two decades. Considering what’s going on elsewhere the Big Ten is an island of sanity in the midst of chaos.
“That’s a great line,” said Vruggink, chuckling. “And that’s largely attributed to his strong and effective leadership from the start.”
During his 30 years of involvement with Purdue sports Vruggink has watched Delany preside over the addition of Penn State (1992) and Nebraska (2011), devise Legends and Leaders divisions and create a December football playoff in Indianapolis.
While other conferences continue to push and pull, adding and subtracting in a chaotic tug of war, the Big Ten has expanded in an orderly fashion.
Though the Big Ten has always marched to a conservative drummer, it started the whole domino effect with Penn State.
“The first time Jim went through it he was working with his bosses, the college presidents,” said Vruggink.
“What I really respect was the next time the expansion thing came up with Nebraska he was remarkably different. The process was very open, there were procedures. Everybody knew what was going on. I thought he handled it very well. It was very smooth.”
While the Big Ten proceeds in an orderly fashion, conferences like the Big 12, the SEC and the Big East seem to be making convulsive gestures.
“Other conferences have gone willy-nilly with expansion,” said Vruggink, who is the executive director of the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the NFF. “They’re going through this arms war, almost like one-upsmanship, the Big Ten has not gotten caught up in that.”
Of course the dandy dozen’s priority is generating football revenue. There the Big Ten excels, routinely leading Division I in attendance in spite of Indiana and Northwestern’s inability to plant fannies in seats.
Delany also established a bowl tie-in 1991. Ten years later eight teams represented the Big Ten in bowl games, five of them played on New Year’s Day, which was once monopolized by the Rose, Orange, Cotton and Sugar bowls.
Doing everything but walking on water, Delany created the Big Ten Network, which is the first conference-owned national network. Since its 2007 debut the BTN has expanded to 300 affiliates, reaching more than 75 million homes.
Recently, the Big Ten also added hockey to its list of official sports with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin participating. Starting in 2013 they’ll play each other four times to fill a 20-game conference schedule.
Delany joins a list of celebrities who will be applauding 53 high school football standouts, 22 seniors will receive NFF scholarships and six will be named finalists for the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, which will be announced at the banquet.
Thirty-one others were nominated as Region I All-Stars. The All-Stars include Logan McRae of Crown Point and Mason Zurek of Andrean, who have also been nominated for the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
Guests will include Purdue’s three-time all-Big Ten basketball standout Robbie Hummel, who will become the first non-football player to receive the chapter’s Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award. The Valparaiso alum earned it by overcoming two ACL surgeries and countless hours of rehab to average 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. It’s the latest honor for Hummel, who received the Lowe Senior Class Award during the Final Four in New Orleans.
Others who will be involved in “Celebrating Our Stars” are Hobart native John Johnson (Indiana), who played for the Bears’ 1963 NFL champs, and former All-American running backs Leroy Keyes (Purdue) and Allen Pinkett (Notre Dame). The thread that binds them is “Sports as a way of Life.”
Keyes is a college Hall of Famer and a two-time Heisman Trophy runnerup who played for Philadelphia and Kansas City. Pinkett still owns Notre Dame’s scoring record (53 TDs) and spent seven years in the NFL.
Leading up to this banquet the NFF’s Northwest Indiana Chapter has doled out more than $131,000 in grants and scholarships.
Tickets range from $30 to $40. For information contact John Friend (923-8927), David Shutkovske (762-7724, ext. 2101) or Bob Ferguson (464-9134).
Being 99 when he died, Clark’s Ed Shields probably outlived some of the kids he coached. Back in the 50s, when I biked from 121st St. to the Robertsdale campus, the balding, bespectacled coach produced winning basketball year after year. His undefeated 1941 team was before my time, but unfortunately, Hammond High or East Chicago Roosevelt or Washington almost always derailed the Pioneers in the sectionals.
Sectionals in the 50s were festive events, giving us an excuse to skip school. We hopped a bus to the Civic Center, brown-bagging it to watch as many as 16 teams (if memory serves) jump through hoops nearly all day long. Some of Shields’ players I remember were Steve Stavros, who later coached the Pioneers; Dick Daugherty, Holton Easter, Tom Czyz, Augie Prahlow and Basil Kristoff.
He coached basketball from 1940-61, doubling as athletic director for the last few years. Always the gentleman, Shields never seemed to lose his cool.
“Go you Pioneer.”