As yesterday’s statement from the Big Ten indicates, I think it’s slowly dawning on college presidents that O’Bannon is turning into a losing proposition for them. Now even if they lose the trial, the walls don’t start falling down around their ears immediately. There’s an appeal process that they’ll likely milk for all it’s worth if for no other reason than that every day the inevitable is postponed is another day they don’t have to share the loot with anyone else. But that won’t last forever. Plus, there’s the concerns raised by the unionization effort at Northwestern and other litigation threats. All it takes is losing once.
At some point, then, it’ll be time to turn to the last refuge – politics. And don’t think that’s not already on their minds.
Did the reform movement arrive too late? Delany doesn’t think so. “Are you kidding me? This will be with us for a decade,” he said. “Between the reform, the restructuring, the litigation, congressional activity. This is the beginning. Not the end.”
A sentiment echoed by one of his bosses:
“A lot of water has got to go under the bridge before we’d have serious conversations about doing that,” Kaler said. “There’s a whole long list of possibilities that are out there. … A lot of people think this will go to the Supreme Court and maybe even Congress. There’s a lot of water to move.”
These guys, as much as they may protest to the contrary, ain’t going the Division III route. There’s simply too much money involved for them to walk away from it. They will run to the feds instead, to try to hold on to what they’ve got. And, yes, the irony of Jim Delany asking people like Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch for assistance isn’t lost on me. (And probably won’t be lost on them, either.)
Here’s the thing, though – who’s to say they’re any good at lobbying? Delany can be Delany when it comes to bullying mid-major conferences who want him to throw them a bone, but how does that work when he’s the one who comes asking for a favor? Will the presidents he speaks for be willing to do any serious horse trading for an antitrust exemption, or will they continue to operate with the same combination of arrogance and myopia that’s gotten them into the mess they’re trying to extricate themselves from?
And, maybe more importantly, should they even assume Congress is of a mind to help?