Brian Cook pointed me towards this New York Times wankfest of Jim Delany’s business acumen that I somehow had missed. Again, Delany always seems to come across to me as a college football version of Jed Clampett, but I’m also fascinated by what everyone now sees as his primary mission.
James Duderstadt, who was president at Michigan from 1988 to 1996, said he worried that the needs of the network had superseded the mission of higher education. “Jim’s role in this is that he is responsible for the Big Ten Network,” he said. “The danger is that the presidents have not challenged that it decouples from the longstanding academic relationships and could destroy something of great value.”
Even the new kid on the block knows which way the winds blow these days.
As Mr. Delany negotiates new subscription rates for the Big Ten Network, Ms. Hermann, the athletic director at Rutgers, knows her objective. “We have to make our contribution to the Big Ten,” she said, “and get cable companies to pay for the Big Ten Network out here.”
Delany is unapologetic about this, and why shouldn’t he be? It’s what the people paying him to do a job want.
While tuition at schools in the Big Ten and around the country has grown, most athletic department budgets remain separate from central administration. The influx in cash goes mostly to cover stadium improvements, new training facilities and rising salaries for coaches. In many states, coaches are now the highest-paid state employees. Mr. Delany made nearly $3 million in 2011.
“The hypocrisy is that money that’s generated makes a few people very, very rich,” Mr. Duderstadt said. “Athletic directors, coaches, assistant coaches, commissioners, too. But institutions are not winning and student-athletes get very little.”
Mr. Delany counters that those TV revenues paid for athletic scholarships worth $150 million last year in the Big Ten. Others question the value of scholarships for big-time football and basketball players, considering that the graduation rate for football players is 58 percent, and for basketball players, 47 percent; many also argue that these athletes should be paid, in light of the huge revenue they generate.
Too bad players don’t have a say in hiring conference commissioners. You might hear something other than odes to amateurism being sung by those enriching themselves under the current arrangement.