Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany plans to step down at the conclusion of his contract in June 2020.
A search for a new commissioner already is underway and is being led by Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro, the conference announced in a press release Monday. Consulting firm Korn Ferry was retained to assist in the search.
“Jim has had an extraordinary impact on the Big Ten Conference, its member institutions, administrators, students and coaches since 1989,” Schapiro said. “He has been a forward-thinking, collaborative and decisive leader in every aspect of conference proceedings. We thank him for his dedicated service to date and look forward to working with him through the conclusion of his contract.”
Delany was named commissioner of the Big Ten in 1989 at age 41. Delany said he is not retiring, but leaving the league, and is willing to step down ahead of schedule if the board of presidents that employs him opts for an earlier start date for the next commissioner.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity to serve and lead these preeminent institutions, presidents, administrators, coaches and students,” Delany said. “It is incredibly fulfilling to support the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been afforded an opportunity to obtain best-in-class educations as a result of the invaluable, one-of-a-kind lessons learned through the unique combination of athletic and classroom competition. I would like to recognize and thank each of my colleagues for being such invaluable members of, and contributors to, the Big Ten Conference team, while acknowledging that there is still plenty of work to be done. I look forward to continuing that work through the balance of my term.”
Delany helped shift conference affiliations when the Big Ten added Penn State as an 11th member, and later brought in Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, just as Delany helped launch the still-successful Big Ten Network.
He previously was commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference and played basketball at North Carolina for legendary coach Dean Smith.
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After attaining a law degree, Delany worked on NCAA investigations and became commissioner of the OVC at age 31.