Is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany really the most powerful man in college sports?
He has one of the most impressive resumes and has catapulted the Big Ten into the envy of every other conference. The SEC may win football championships, but no conference comes even close to the financial and academic success of Delany’s schools.
Even the Penn State saga barely tarnishes his image or that of the conference. It wouldn’t surprise me if Delany jettisoned Penn State and brought in Rutgers, Pitt or some other program. Hell, he tried to gain dictator-like powers just before the big NCAA/Penn State announcement.
Delany was one of the game’s most powerful men before the Big Ten Network was even an idea. Despite some of the crazy stares by outsiders, Delany moved forward with the creation and launching of the majorly successful network — the first national conference-owned television network devoted to the athletic and academic programs of a single league.
How successful? BTN is estimated to be in 75 million homes and is in 19 of the nation’s top 20 markets. BTN is also a key factor in each Big Ten program receiving more conference money than any other university in the nation.
Delany is nearing 25 years in charge of he Big Ten and he remains the most powerful man in college football. Forget about the SEC’s Mike Slive or the Pac-12’s Larry Scott, Delany is still the alpha dog.
Maybe his recent attempt to retain the status quo with the BCS instead of a playoff showed a chink in his armor, but make no mistake … Delany is already thinking about six steps ahead. So he lost this battle, but he’ll pick up a big win somewhere else down the road.
Delany’s choice of Division names (Leaders and Legends) was universally panned, and he seemed to be shocked by the flak. What’s also interesting is the fact that many Big Ten fans have grown tired of Delany’s arrogance, despite all he has done for the conference.
Despite not being afraid to use his influence for the sake of the Big Ten, the fact he acts like an emperor who is not accountable to anyone ruffles a lot of feathers. Then there are those outside of the conference who tire of his insistence on the higher standard held by the Big Ten and that his teams “do it the right way.”
Delany’s football teams may be behind the SEC in on-the-field talent, but he is running the most financially sound conference in the nation. Is he perfect? Far from it, but he’s made a lot of good decisions … especially when it comes to expansion.
Despite what has happened lately with Penn State, the Nittany Lions were a great get 20 years ago. While Delany has swung and missed on Notre Dame a couple of times, going out and getting Nebraska was also the right move.
The negative of all this, though, is his moves led to panic around the rest of the college football landscape. Now we have a new-look conferences all over the place — and not or the better.
Delany could not have completely understood how his last expansion would change the conference landscape, but he was at the forefront while commissioners like former Big East head John Marinatto was left flat-footed.
Love him or hate him, Jim Delany is college football’s most powerful person.