CHICAGO — As the Big Ten Conference media day event kicks off today, we’ll be hearing plenty about Ohio State’s quest to end the SEC’s national championship run and Tim Beckman’s dubious place on Sports Illustrated’s list of the five worst coaches in college football.
Because it’s the University of Illinois, Beckman’s ability to smile while drowning in a tidal wave of negativity is sure to be an oddly compelling story for those of us here in Central Illinois.
But while the 12 head coaches take turns spinning positive story lines on the main stage, warming up in the background will be the man everyone is curious to hear from.
Sure to expand on a storyline that has already emanated from the commissioners at media days in the SEC and Big 12, it will be Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s turn to let the world know that big bucks football is not happy with the NCAA.
In fact, league after league is using these July media day events to put the NCAA on notice and perhaps the only thing stopping the big money conferences from instituting immediate changes are the cautious inclinations of the university presidents.
Changes are coming and, while I don’t expect a full-scale revolt and complete retreat from the NCAA, the status quo — in which schools with a $3 million athletic department budget have the same say-so as a school with a $160 million budget — is about to end.
That’s why the tenor of Delany’s voice will be so interesting.
This is not a reactionary man. This is not a fire bomb-throwing kid who tips over a squad car to ignite a civic riot.
This is strong and opinionated but even-tempered leader who thinks long and hard before he speaks and measures his words with common sense and thoughtful catch phrases.
I still remember the way he spoke so eloquently at last year’s Big Ten kickoff meetings in the wake of the upheaval at Penn State.
When he talked about “brightening the lines” between the power a long-time legendary coach wields and the authority that should serve as a check and balance administratively, it marked the first time a commissioner had warned there’s something significant to worry about when icons walk the sideline, whether it’s Bobby Knight, Woody Hayes or Joe Paterno.
He gave us something to think about.
I expect nothing less from him this week in Chicago.
Former University of Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby is now the commissioner of the Big 12 and he used his league’s media day to issue a stern warning that changes are coming.
The mega-leagues are no longer interested in sharing money they generate with the have-nots and if these leagues are serious in devising a plan to pay athletes beyond the parameters of tuition, board and books, they’re ready to start claiming money they already believe in theirs.
And it isn’t likely to stop with football. A redistribution of the huge pile of money generated by the NCAA basketball tournament has their attention, too.
Futhermore, this discussion comes at a time when the NCAA has looked wobbly and woeful in its clumsy enforcement and compliance strategy. The major conferences have ideas for change there, too.
The big-money leagues want more say-so in rules that make sense for them and they’re done car-ing whether or not those rules are fair for Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Change is coming because it’s time to separate the apples from the oranges.
The mega-conference commissioners have already met privately and are on the same page. They are using these late-summer meetings to unleash their rhetoric and advance the discussion.
Knowing Delany, he has kept his Big Ten presidents well informed. Nothing he says this week will surprise them.
Tim Beckman should be grateful there are stories that will take the spotlight off his problems.