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CHICAGO — Jim Delany has led the Big Ten Conference more than a quarter-century, but the iconic commissioner gave a clue Tuesday that his reign has an expiration date.
At the league’s annual media days event, the 68-year-old Delany was asked if he intended to lead the Big Ten beyond the new six-year media rights contract. It appears unlikely.
“I have a lot of energy, and I have a lot of interest in what’s going on in the college space today from the operational issues, reform issues and the existential threat,” Delany said. “So I will be around for a bit. Whether I’m around here for six years is probably a little bit beyond how I see it.”
USA Today reported Delany plans to step down in 2020.
Delany replaced Iowa native Wayne Duke as Big Ten commissioner in 1989. During his tenure, Delany added four schools to the Big Ten — Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers — and expanded satellite offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. He pushed for the league-owned Big Ten Network, a joint venture with Fox, that debuted in 2007.
Recently, the Big Ten agreed to terms on media rights deals with Fox, ESPN and CBS that will bring in about $440 million annually. While there was no official announcement and Delany declined to confirm the contracts, he acknowledged the length of years.
“There’s always speculation,” Delany said. “People always leak. Sometimes they’re really accurate. Sometimes they’re high and sometimes they’re low.”
According to Sports Business Journal, Fox and FS1 will provide the league’s primary content (25 football games, 50 men’s basketball) annually for $240 million. ESPN and its family of networks retained a second portion for $190 million per year. CBS kept its Big Ten basketball package for $10 million.
Fox owns 51 percent of the Big Ten Network, while the league owns 49 percent. The rights deal begins with the 2017 football season and ends after the 2022-23 men’s basketball season.
“In terms of the six-year period, that’s really where the market was for us. Were there entities that would go longer, fine. But it’s a balance between security and the dollars that can be generated in the short term.
“We’ve done 20-year deals in a joint venture. We’ve done 10-year deals. But in this case we thought six provided us some midterm security and the opportunity, and we have the confidence in what we have to be out there again. Things are changing, as you know, and they’ll continue to change. But we thought six years for us was the right place to be.”
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