Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany is in the process of receiving a $20 million bonus for his work leading the conference’s athletic departments to unprecedented profitability.
That’s a lot of cash – even for a visionary who saw the road to massive earnings through launching the Big Ten Network.
During a time when the debate regarding student-athletes deserving some of that cash rages, and control of the right to unilaterally exploit the images of current and former athletes are being decided in court, that $20 million does not provide the best look for the Big 10 or college athletics.
Delany answered a question whether he should accept that money given the current climate of contention about student-athletes receiving only free classwork that should lead to a degree and room-board in exchange for being an integral part of the product that generates so much wealth.
“I think the apt comparison is probably not with the student. I don’t think it ever has been. I understand people will make that connection. I just don’t make it,” Delany offered as a very smart and lawyerly response.
Delany is a lot of things, and smart is at the top of the list. He refused to get lost in the weeds of a logical argument he knows he cannot win. Side step like Floyd Maywether slipped a right hook, and live to fight another round.
The economics of collegiate athletics are about to substantially change in favor of athletes, but that change can be forestalled long enough for Delany to escape with his pockets filled and his legacy intact.
He’s a year away from turning 70, and retirement is on the not-too-distant horizon. Delany will undoubtedly write a very interesting book in which he will open the crate of his core beliefs. At that point he will say what he couldn’t yesterday, “Of course, student-athletes deserve to be paid. They create wealth for everyone who touches college sports, and deserve their share.”
Yesterday was not the time for the head of the richest conference in college sports to get honest, but that day is coming – as is the day when student-athletes get their piece of an ever expanding pie.
In the meantime, the rich get richer.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.