Outgoing Big Ten boss Jim Delany optimistic for football national titles to come

Nick Baumgardner
Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — Jim Delany's annual address at Big Ten media days tend to feature two things: Length and opinions. 

So it made sense that Delany's final preseason talk, given Thursday in Chicago, had a bit of both. 

Delany's final day as the league's commissioner will be Jan. 1. From there, the retiring Delany will hand over the keys to Kevin Warren — who was selected as the conference's new leader earlier this summer. 

But before that happens, Delany has one more year. And plenty of thoughts about where college athletics are headed and where things have gone wrong. 


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"We've had a lot of projects that succeeded and a lot of projects that fell on deaf ears," Delany said when asked if he'll leave the Big Ten with any regrets. "I think we made some real serious mistakes in the 70s that have come to create problems for us. I think one was the loss of the four-year scholarship. One was the loss of the $15 per month laundry (cost of attendance benefit). And the other one was the loss of freshmen ineligibility. 

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany smiles during the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football media days Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

"I think that's expedited everything and hasn't allowed the for the full socialization, culturally and academically, for students. I raised that issue about five years ago and there wasn't much of a reaction. It was more of a thud. Those are areas and issues that concern me and a few others. But not really enough (to change anything)." 

Delany will leave behind a legacy as one of the most powerful men in college sports. Delany created the Big Ten Network, a game-changer nationally, and was the driving force behind two rounds of conference expansion. The Big Ten is the richest league in the country, as full-share schools took in more than $50 million from the league last year. 

The Big Ten has a $2.6 billion television contract. Money flows everywhere. 

But not everything is perfect. 

The Big Ten has been left out of the College Football Playoff for the last two years. Long a supporter of the idea of schedule strength, Delany's Big Ten still features nine-game conference slates — something the Southeastern Conference has refused to put in place. For now, Delany says the Big Ten is not changing its stance. And he's hopeful the CFP will continue to look harder at strength of schedule. 

Beyond that, he believes the league is ready to break through and become a force nationally again. 

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren

"I think we're built to win championships. I think many of the teams in our conference are built to win national championships and conference championships," Delany said. "Our last three (Big Ten) champions were ranked No. 5, No. 5 and No. 6. I don't know how Ohio State was ranked sixth last year, by the way. ... But we recruit nationally, we have national television that's second to none. We had resources, we've reinvented our stadiums. We have national class coaches who demonstrated success before they came here. 

"I wouldn't be shocked to see more of a dominating presence for Big Ten football over the next half-decade or decade." 

Delany's been the face of the league for three decades. 

But come 2020, it'll be up to Warren to move things forward. Delany's excited for everything that'll come next. 

"When (Warren) comes in, what we're trying to do is use that time in a way that gives him a sense of the rhythm of the conference. We'll have conference commissioners meetings, joint-group meetings," Delany said. "We've invited external partners in — from television to bowls to other groups. They'll come in and spend time with him so when Jan. 2 comes he can put faces together with organizations. 

"I don't think it'll be awkward at all. I don't expect that it would be. We have a nice way with each other. I'm incredibly impressed with what he's done in his life. I think it's going to be a great fit and I"m really proud of the decision the presidents made here. One of the commitments I made was to try to be the best commissioner in transition that I can be. I'm confident I can do that." 

Contact Nick Baumgardner at nbaumgardn@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.