I’m sorry, but I can’t help but chuckle about the hope some of you have that this time the schools are serious about academics in pursuing the pipe dream of reinstating freshman ineligibility for football and basketball players. Why is that funny? Because it depends upon believing people like Jim Delany. You know, the guy who once said we’d have a college football playoff over his dead body. The guy who once said that if the NCAA lost the O’Bannon case, the Big Ten would have no choice but to explore turning to a Division III model.
A guy who’s full of shit when the need arises, in other words.
The thing is, he’s not even bothering to bluff this time.
“We’re sort of on the clock, is the way a lot of us look at it,” Delany said in a recent interview with the Big Ten Network. “We’ve got a lot of litigation challenging intercollegiate athletics, we’ve got congressional interest and we have public skepticism. What we want to do is drive the message that education is first, athletics is second, even though these are the two most popular sports commercially.” [Emphasis added.]
Got that? This isn’t about serious academic reform. It’s about optics with the public and having a sales pitch for the courts and the feds. That’s all.
Delany as the front man is pretty amusing, too, when you get down to it.
And yet Delany is also more responsible than any other college athletics figure of the past 30 years in commercializing those sports. He annexed Penn State in the early ’90s, touching off the first massive TV-driven realignment wave. He started the influential and money-printing Big Ten Network. He touched off Realignment Mania II five years ago when the league began hunting for a 12th member that eventually became Nebraska, and then he took it to another degree with his conference’s East Coast push.
You know what would really help Rutgers’ basketball players focus on academics? Not having to travel to Iowa City in the middle of the week for a conference game, as they did last week.
Ah, c’mon. They could always study on the plane, right?