Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Closer: Big 10 could be the newest Division-III "powerhouse" conference

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it is what Big 10 Commissioner, Jim Delany, is saying may happen if the ongoing Ed O'Bannon vs. NCAA case ends in favor of the plaintiff(s). Ed O'Bannon, former UCLA basketball player, along with many other former college basketball and football players, are suing the NCAA seeking the right for athletes to share in the television revenues.

The Big 10 conference signed a 10-year deal with ESPN and ABC in 2006 for the rights to broadcast on BTN (Big 10 network). Although the financials of the deal were not released, it is rumored that the BTN generates over $20 million per year per school; that is $240 million per year JUST in TV money. When you then take into consideration the money the schools are receiving from bowl games and post-season tournaments (this year the Big 10 has 7 of its 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament), these schools and the conference as a whole is profiting nicely from the success of the players.

This fact is what makes the statement made by Delany last week that much more upsetting. As written on on Monday, "Delany wrote in a declaration filed in court last week and revealed by's Andy Staples that he envisions his league dropping back to a Division III non-scholarship model if the court sides with the plaintiffs." As is tradition, Delany hid behind the "Big Ten's philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes." Could the Big 10 really just be too cheap to pay the people that are earning their administrators their fancy cars?

Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany
The average Athletic Director in the Big 10 makes $765,755 and Commish Delany brought in nearly $1.8 million in 2010 (it is estimated that he makes 9% more every year, making his 2013 salary close to $2.3 million) according to this 2013 study done by the USA Today. Yet, the average scholarship shortfall, as defined by Drexel University Sport Management Professor Dr. Ellen Staurowsky in a study conducted alongside the National College Players Association, for a football player at the University of Michigan is $2,054 per year.

So, why is every Athletic Director and the Commissioner in the Big 10 making six or seven figure salaries when there are players shelling thousands of dollars out of pocket? Not only is the Big 10 "gold-plating" it's executives, they are truly down-playing what their student athletes do for them. Moving to a Division-III model just to avoid covering extra expenses and allowing the athletes access to the money that they earned is the immature and inconsiderate way out. If the plaintiffs do win the O'Bannon case, I hope that the Big 10 and the other power conferences recognize and reward their athletes for the work they do.


Kevin Murray is a sophomore Sport Management Major at Drexel University. He is originally from Havertown, PA, a small suburb of Philadelphia. He worked in the Drexel Sport Management Department as a Research Assistant focusing on the Penn State scandal, equity in collegiate sports, and Title IX.  Currently, Kevin is the SMTSU Treasurer and Drexel Athletics Marketing Intern.   You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinj_murray.
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