All eyes on Big Ten commissioner
CHICAGO (AP) -- For those who think he's holding the future of college sports in his hands, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has a message -- get a grip.
He's seen this all before.
"I've had a lot of experience with expansion outside of the Big Ten," he said.
Delany saw schools come and go during his decade as commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference, but the stakes are a little higher this time.
The Big Ten is considering expanding from 11 teams and there's a strong belief that any move would force changes in the Big East, Big 12 and maybe every major conference. It's quite a position for a conference that has taken its share of hits in recent years for its perceived shortcomings on the field.
At the center of it all is Delany, a native of South Orange, N.J., attorney and former point guard at North Carolina under Dean Smith. He was relatively new to the Big Ten job back in 1991 when it added Penn State, and was the driving force behind creating what is believed to be the first conference-owned television network -- a key piece in the decision on whether the Big Ten will grow again.
Delany has been at pains over the last six months to tamp down speculation about what the league might do, even while his counterparts at the Big 12 and SEC have talked about being proactive in case there's what Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has called a "seismic" shift.
Delany said he doesn't see a fuss, but instead a collegiate landscape with a long history of change and schools simply trying to find their matches.
He saw it when he left the NCAA as an enforcement official to become Ohio Valley commissioner in 1979, right after the league added Akron in an effort to expand into more metropolitan areas. Youngstown State came in two years later, and neither lasted more than 11 years. Delany saw Western Kentucky, the "bell cow of the Ohio Valley for many years," leave for the Sun Belt Conference in 1982.
"I saw South Carolina leave the ACC while I was a student there. I saw Georgia Tech join the ACC," Delany said this week at the league's closely watched meetings in Chicago. "I saw Boston College leave the Big East and go to the ACC. I saw Virginia Tech leave one conference and go to another conference. I see this in many ways as institutions finding the right place for themselves."