Part two of Dirk Chatelain's two-part Q&A session with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: Inviting the Huskers to join the Big Ten was Jim Delany's biggest bombshell of the past 12 months.
But it wasn't the only move affecting a Nebraska university. In March, the Big Ten announced formation of a six-team hockey league, beginning in 2013-14. Minnesota and Wisconsin are leaving the WCHA, the University of Nebraska at Omaha's home conference. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are jettisoning the CCHA.
Prompted by Penn State's decision to launch a program, the move was long rumored, but that didn't make it any more popular in some hockey hotbeds around the Midwest.
UNO coach Dean Blais voiced his opposition, saying the move could potentially ruin college hockey, dismantling old rivalries and hurting low-budget programs. What's Jim Delany's response?
Jim Delany: “I don't think anybody has been more sensitive or hands-off on college hockey than the athletic directors and coaches at Big Ten universities for the last 20 years. We had five institutions that played. They did everything they could to help hockey maintain itself. It's not a sport that's widely sponsored outside of certain regions of the country. And every time the issue came up, they said we need to do what's in the best long-term interest for hockey.
“Before Penn State announced its (hockey) membership, it really talked to the conference athletic directors and presidents about forming a hockey league if we got to the minimum of six institutions. We had a good discussion about that and decided that if we had six members, we would want a Big Ten hockey league, as we do in every sport that has six members. There were things about that that would be good for Big Ten hockey and there would be things that would help grow hockey. We may ultimately end up with more than six members doing hockey.
“But before we announced it, at least a year ago, we went to the commissioners of both hockey leagues (WCHA and CCHA). We told them we wanted to be thorough, respectful and we wanted to communicate with all the hockey schools. In fact, we spent a lot of time talking with the two commissioners about how we could put our schedules together in a way that served other hockey-member-playing institutions. We wanted to commit to them those nonconference games ... They continued to say, ‘You need to let us know what you're going to do, so we can make plans. We then said, ‘Well, give us numbers of every athletic director in every hockey school in your conference.' We wanted to communicate directly with them to see how best we could serve. They preferred that we not. I don't know why. But we had offered to do that, to work with them, to sync up schedules.
“So, I would say whether you're dealing with hockey or college football or formations of conferences, the change is natural. A: We thoroughly discussed it with our presidents, ADs and coaches; B: We reached out to the two hockey conferences in our region of the country. We have offered to collaborate and we will play them a lot, but I think once you have, in our conference, six members to play a sport, serious discussions occur about how to do that.”
Question: High-profile NCAA schools have had a rash of bad press lately. Oregon and Auburn have each been accused of violations. UConn admitted violations in its basketball program. Ohio State has had its problems the past few months. What more should the NCAA do to keep schools in line and offer a deterrent?
JD: “First of all, you've married a lot of issues together there. I don't really know what the NCAA is doing or not doing. Press reports are different than findings in an administrative hearing.
“In the case of Ohio State ... those are serious matters, no doubt about that. They'll be adjudicated. As for as coach (Jim) Calhoun is concerned, that case has been adjudicated. We know what it is and what it isn't.
“So I think the NCAA works hard, but it's without a lot of police powers. And ultimately, some of this is on universities, coaches and others to pony up to the bar and try to do the right thing. People have to be accountable for what they do and the NCAA is the sort of organization of first and last resort with regard to implementing penalties, but it's really about people doing what they're supposed to do inside of a volunteer organization.
“It's not the first spat we've had; it's a bad spat. There's been a lot that has been exposed and there's a lot that's been alleged. I really only focus on what has been proven.”
Q: You were critical of the NCAA's ruling on Cam Newton after his father sought a pay-for-play transaction. You said there should be “consequences.”
JD: “I really wasn't critical. What I was suggesting wasn't related to Cam Newton. It was that any time there was a set of circumstances of the actors or alleged actors that there be a reversal of the presumption.
“I think Auburn, the SEC and the NCAA looked at that situation closely. I don't think anybody disagreed about the facts, but the rules apparently didn't apply and the reason the rules didn't apply is because there wasn't evidence of (Cam Newton's) knowledge. I take all those things at face value. ...
“I was just saying, going forward, that you could think about those cases in a different way. Was the relationship between the individuals so close as to stand for an agent relationship? You might just enter a presumption. You have presumption of innocence; you could have a presumption of knowledge, where the person was acting for another person. ...
“There was no violation in the Cam Newton case. Maybe there should've been under a different set of rules. But there wasn't.”
Q: As an administrator who has sent teams to the Fiesta Bowl, what's your response to charges of foul play and conspiracy in Arizona?
JD: “There's been a lot written. I read the 276-page report and I was disappointed and saddened and really surprised on some of the issues. We've sent a lot of teams there, from the Fiesta Bowl to the national championship game. It was very much a surprise.
“They do a wonderful job at the Fiesta Bowl of bringing our coaches and ADs together (for a spring retreat). I would say it's the most important non-football-playing gathering in the country, because there is no place where everybody comes together for 1 days in a social way. That was a phenomenal thing. I'll always be thankful to them for extending hospitality to our coaches and athletic directors. ...
“We've had five or six summits to introduce minority coaches to our ADs. We've had business there, we've had good social interaction there. ... To be honest, until the task force headed by (Penn State President) Graham Spanier and a variety of other people reviews the report, it would be inappropriate for me to say anything in detail about it.”
Q: Are you concerned that other bowls are misusing resources in similar ways?
JD: “You never know. I would be very surprised if other bowls, I only know one bowl intimately (Rose Bowl) and I know there are no issues there. They run a tight ship with a lot of oversight by both conferences. ... I would be surprised if there's anything like that at other places. But you can never be sure.”
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