Delaney talks about conference success, scheduling
CHICAGO — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney wrapped up the 44th annual Big Ten Media Days talking about the success of the conference and how it would schedule football games going forward.
“You know, this is my 27th Kickoff Luncheon,” Delaney said. “And the feelings that I have coming up here are always the same. My palms are a little bit sweaty. And it’s hard to anticipate all the questions that might be asked. We have great energy. We had a great year last year. And it was a long and interesting run. We didn’t start strong, but we ended strong. But that was last year’s story.
“This year’s story is going to unfold over 13 weeks. There is good energy. And we’re glad to be in the conversation. I’m going to be watching the games as closely as you will be, attending a lot of them. But I think the thing that’s fascinating about college sports is the unpredictability of it all and the number of great teams and the way the game is played. It’s incredibly entertaining.”
Delaney acknowledged the success the conference achieved last season.
“We achieved full distribution before the two members came in officially,” he said. “We added New York, New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia.
We established championships for our men’s basketball tournament. Madison Square Garden in 2018, the Verizon Center 2017. We played our inaugural pinstripe game between Penn State and Boston College at Yankee Stadium. And Maryland, Rutgers, and Penn State, our three most eastern members, were all among the top 10 in attendance growth in college football last year. So we’re pleased with the progress. We have more to do.
“On a broadbased basis, which is part of our conference’s DNA, we probably had our best competitive year in our history where we won 10 national championships. We had 17 different teams play in Final Four type competition. And the players, the coaches, fans, were treated to a year of success. But these 9,500 students who are part of a 580,000 undergraduate population moved forward with their education on the field and off the field. They received in excess of $200 million of direct financial aid. They were learning on the field, off the field, and preparing for a future beyond college.
“So this is our 120th football season. We’re in a good place. We’ve got great energy, and it’s nice to be part of a conversation.”
Speaking of football, Delaney said that he was thrilled to have the Big Ten heading back to the Rose Bowl this season and eight times in the next 11 years.
“We’ll be in the Citrus Bowl this year,” he said. “Because the Orange Bowl is hosting a semifinal game, we’ll be in Orlando for sure. And then we’ll be playing against ACC, SEC, Pac12, and Big 12 opponents in postseason play. So the bowl system is in a new environment because of the College Football Playoff. But I love our bowl alignment across the country.
“And I think our coaches and players have an awful lot to play for, not only for the slot in the Final Four, not only for the Rose Bowl, but throughout the country. So we’re excited about that.”
Beginning in 2016, the Big Ten will change its scheduling format.
“We call it Strength of Schedule 1910,” Delaney said. “We’ll have one major intersectional game each year against an autonomy conference. We’ll have nine conference games, which allows us to play each other on a more regular basis, which I think is important as conferences expand. We’ll have a championship game. And then we’ll have all of our games against FBS competition. I think that’s responsive to what the College Football Playoff committee is looking for. It took a little while to get here because of schedules and expansion. But all of our coaches and players and athletic directors are committed to this platform. We think it’s what our fans want. We think it’s what our players want. And we think it’s what the College Football Playoff committee wants.
The Big Ten will kick off its 120th season Sept. 3 with Minnesota hosting TCU on ESPN and Michigan facing host Utah on Fox Sports1.