CHICAGO — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany isn't buying talk that the nation's largest football-playing schools are about to break away from the NCAA.
Or that they need to.
“I don't see some radical separation by five conferences from the rest,'' he said Wednesday at the conclusion of two days of league meetings. “I think that would be unhealthy.''
Speculation has flared off and on for 15 years that the power conferences need to break away from the NCAA or have the NCAA create a separate division for them. Alabama coach Nick Saban added to the chatter last week by opining that the 50 or 60 biggest football schools should play games only among themselves.
Delany isn't against NCAA reform of cumbersome administrative and governance rules.
“I do think we should be in smaller groups,'' he said. “I don't think 380 people trying to make rules make a lot of sense. Maybe we could be half as large as we are.
“But I'm not looking for a football-only, monolithic grouping.''
Delany said Ivy League schools and basketball-only conferences have ideas that football powers should listen to.
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“I think you may see changes inside the NCAA in terms of governance,'' he said. “But I think the basketball tournament is going to stay just like it is with the revenue-sharing and access.
“And now we have a 12-year template set for college football with access and revenue-sharing. So those things are all behind us.''
Delany can't get through a meeting without facing an expansion question. Talk persists that the Big Ten wants to grow to 16 members. Nos. 13 and 14 — Rutgers and Maryland — come aboard July 1, 2014.
Asked if expansion is dead, Delany deadpanned: “Dead is a strong word. But I told you guys we are inactive, and that all our time is being spent on integration and consolidation (of Rutgers and Maryland).''
Many outlets write that expansion will stop because the Atlantic Coast Conference approved a broadcasting grant-of-rights deal that runs into the 2020s. As written, no team could leave the ACC and take its broadcast rights with it to a new league.
But multiple conference officials, university administrators and attorneys have said while grants of rights are another hurdle to expansion, they aren't an Iron Curtain.
Delany joked that he hears reporters say they are tired of writing about expansion, yet he gets asked about it regularly.
“I don't know which it is,'' he said. “From my perspective, we are inactive.''
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith shivers at the thought of playing the Big Ten football championship game outdoors. The first two have been at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with the retractable roof closed.
“I love Indianapolis, and I love the facility,'' said Smith, who drew a laugh by adding, “I love St. Elmo's (a famous restaurant).''
But another dome — Ford Field in Detroit — and improvements in that city's downtown interest Smith.
“I'm one of those guys who believe we have an obligation when we can to have a social conscience and economic impact in a community that suffers,'' he said. “That's why when I was on the basketball committee I thought it was important to go back to New Orleans, and I feel that way about Detroit.''
Just don't go outdoors in the first week of December.
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“The total package we have to create that time of year around our championship game calls for it to be indoors,'' Smith said. “Some of my colleagues feel differently, and that's OK.''
Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis thinks a title game at Chicago's open-air Soldier Field would be “hip and cool.''
“I think we should be looking in New York and Detroit and here in Chicago,'' he said. “The Super Bowl (suburban New York) is going to be in inclement weather potentially.
“I'm not pushing for it. But I'm also not against looking at that kind of environment.''
Bits and pieces
Big Ten officials said the 2014 and 2015 football schedules likely will be revealed by week's end. ... Hollis said he would never say never to a job as a conference commissioner or in the NCAA hierarchy, but said he is very happy at Michigan State. ... If Omaha wants to bid to host the Big Ten basketball tournament, Hollis said, it would get full consideration like any other city. ... Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips said about $70 million to $80 million has been raised toward the school's new $220 million on-campus athletic center/recreation building. ... Delany said conference basketball play will remain at 18 games. He said he thought league teams got tired toward the end of last season, and that more games against each other would exacerbate the problem. ... Over two days of interviews, no A.D. or conference official expressed interest in divisional play for basketball.
— Lee Barfknecht