Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany proclaimed that his conference has helped move the “aircraft carrier called college sports” forward in recent years. That’s meant helping lead the charge for autonomy among the “Power Five” conferences and expanding the Big Ten’s presence on the East Coast. Now Delany and the Big Ten will push for more academic and athletic balance in collegiate sports, and restructure the way its 14 members schedule football games, the commissioner explained at Friday’s Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
The Big Ten football teams agreed to play nine conference games, one required nonconference game against a “power five” opponent, and will no longer play FCS opponents starting in 2016.
A new TV deal for the conference was also a topic of discussion and Delany said negotiations should begin this fall and winter. ESPN and the partner Big Ten Network currently air all conference football games and other university sports.
Here’s a taste of what Delaney had to say:
• "Broadly stated, it’s about identifying the sweet spot where education and athletics can come together in a way that is supportive of a lot of students. I think that is where we have made some progress, but I think we have work to do."
• "We have something called '1910.' We think we have come up with a conference plan. We have one championship game, we have nine conference games [beginning in 2016]. We have one intersectional game vs. an autonomous opponent, and we have zero games vs. FCS. They are all vs. FBS starting in 2016."
• "As we were looking at our future, there are challenges around the game-day experience. So I think better competition draws the fans more. I think if you asked players, they don’t like practice very often but they love games. They love big games. So I think it’s partly [for the] player and fan and television. … Everybody knows a major intersectional opponent on the road is more difficult, but it can swing both ways. We would have loved to win the game at Oregon and we would have loved to have beaten LSU, but playing those games is important. Whether you win it or you lose, it’s a great gauge, it’s a great measurement. And I think it’s what this is about, playing big games on big stages gets the juices going and flowing."
• "There are so many issues [across college sports] that we are dealing with now. Most of us are absorbing the change and preparing for the future. We had added cost of education and committed ourselves to dealing with the time demands. And the conference has committed to no reduction in aid during the term of its award. And there is a return-to-achieve a degree if it was interrupted. I think we are moving toward that sweet spot. We still have challenges but are making good progress. We have to be prepared to make more, too."