Big Ten spearheads for major change

League advocates for autonomy under NCAA umbrella

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany addresses members of the media on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Ill. (Scott Dochterman/The Gazette)
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany addresses members of the media on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Ill. (Scott Dochterman/The Gazette)

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Big Ten officials consider the intercollegiate model at a crossroads, where change is necessary or the whole system crumbles from within.

That’s why the league continues to spearhead a charge for autonomy within the NCAA umbrella. High-revenue conferences like the Big Ten, the Big 12, Pac-12, ACC and SEC, want to control a litany of issues that other leagues cannot financially sustain. With active litigation against the NCAA, as well as unionization efforts and an explosion of television revenue, the time is now for change, Purdue Athletics Director Morgan Burke said.

“We’re already in a slippery spot right now where the general public has lost a fair amount of confidence in what we consider to be the intercollegiate model,” said Burke president of the D1-A Athletic Directors Association. “What’s at stake here is today is there’s $2.7 billion in financial aid for divisions I, II and III that you’re putting at risk.”

Jim Delany questions and answers

Big Ten administrators are in near-agreement that their schools should provide a stipend commensurate to the cost of attendance at each school. At Iowa, the difference between a full scholarship and the cost of attendance during fiscal year 2013 was $4,205, according to numbers supplied by the school to The Gazette via an open-records request. Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said Wednesday the current difference is around $2,100.

Differences at other Big Ten schools ranged from $1,354 at Illinois to $4,691 at Ohio State. It’s undetermined whether the number would become the same throughout the league or if it varies among institutions.

Providing that stipend won’t be cheap. Costs would range from $500,000 to $2 million per school.

“It’s got to be done for men and women. It’s got to be done for Olympic sports and revenue sports,” Burke said. “It’s the right thing to do.

But it won’t be that easy. There’s no uniform method for making those changes. The five conferences have yet to agree on voting procedures to enact unique legislation. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said of the 80 schools under the autonomous umbrella, there are significant voting differences. To pass legislation Delany advocates for either three of the five conferences consisting of 60 percent of the schools or four of the five conferences with a simple majority.

Others have suggested the leagues go with a bar as high as 67 percent and four leagues’ approval.

“We think that would drive us toward quasi-reform or something that would be watered down reform,” Delany said. “Because I’ve never seen any kind of reform agenda with those kinds of support, those kinds of majorities.”

Many of the other causes the Big Ten champions include post-eligibility education. That includes helping those return to school after a pro career or athletes with health issues. It also could include instituting non-workout periods for athletes and reinforcing the 20-hour weekly practice rule.

It’s undetermined whether those issues will pass once the major conferences are granted autonomy. But changes are coming regardless.

“Are there going to be implications to things that we tweak? There’s no doubt,” Nebraska Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst said. “But I hope at the end of the day we’re not conflicted by making some bold moves to get there by being afraid of what’s behind the door. Lord knows we’ve already made those mistakes before. I think folks are going into this with their eyes wide open.”

“One of the reasons why we’re different from the Bulls or the Pacers is we have an output layer that we show kids that are doctors, lawyers and engineers who have done great things later in life,” Burke said. “If all the sudden the kind of the negative things become the norm, then I don’t this enterprise continues.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3169;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.