Big 10 (Plus 2) AD Is The Best

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - September 08, 2010
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Ohio State coach Jim Tressell and Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez in 2009

Can The Big Game get any bigger? We are about to find out.

The soon to be 12-team Big Ten will be split for the 2011 football season with Michigan and Ohio State leading the two yet unnamed divisions.

If things play out as hoped, the two schools with a historical disdain for each other could meet twice a season. It’s the rematch Wolverine fans have wanted since 2006 when No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39 leaving the Michigan Mafia without tickets to a national championship game rematch, which they believed was earned.

The idea at first worried conference bean counters, who feared a possible split would turn the once hard-fought and hugely profitable game into a bi-annual contest with little resemblance to the 10-Year War that brought the rivalry into the modern age and made everyone much wealthier.

Enter Jim Delany. The conference commissioner made sure Woody and Bo would remain at rest while adding even more money to the overflowing conference coffers. He kept the rivalries alive, created two balanced divisions and furthered the fact that their commissioner is better than your commissioner.

Love him or hate him, you have to respect the guy with stones of Van Wilder’s dog and the look and tricky brilliance of Robert Duval circa Days of Thunder.

Delany just out-works, out-thinks and out-maneuvers everyone. As commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference, he convinced the schools to pay ESPN for airtime. The midnight tipoffs and fans in pajamas brought unprecedented coverage to the conference. Now, he’s pro Big Ten, even to the detriment of others.

Dare to complain he is ruining college football and he’ll calmly tell you he doesn’t work for college football, just the Big Ten. A popular president pushes for a college football playoff and Delany is respectful, but says Obama doesn’t understand the complexities of the issue.

Delany understands. He helped create the Bowl Championship Series - the plan specifically designed to not only maintain but enhance college athletics caste system.

And if you’re wondering how the NCAA got the idea of delaying the start of the college baseball season, therefore pushing the College World Series to the summer months, it was Delany.

Delany gets his juice from his relationships with university presidents, whom he has wined, dined and cajoled until chain of command seems reversed, and the fact that his conference occupies nearly a quarter of all television households.

So clear is his power, Delany can move at his own pace. While everyone expected the Big Ten to raid the Big East and Big 12 for as many as five schools in a whirlwind of greed that would rip apart conferences and leave others to disintegrate under their own ineptitude, Delany moved slow, pulling in only Nebraska. As they say, when an average man hooks up with a hottie, nice pull.

The Cornhuskers not only added a nice geographic rival for Iowa, and Kansas or Missouri should Delany decide to offer an invitation, but an entire state of viewers, widespread alumni and, most important to the image of the conference, membership in the Association of American Universities - an organization of 63 elite research universities whose membership is by invite only. Kansas and Missouri also are members.

Delany’s conference realignment makes sense. One division will boast Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern, while the other Ohio State, Penn

State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana. If we assume Michigan will shortly resume its traditional spot in the conference, each side has a school to counterbalance the other. Michigan-Ohio State, check. Nebraska-Penn State, check. Iowa-Wisconsin, check. Michigan State-Illinois, check with the edge to Sparty. The other four hardly matter.

So, everyone is happy - minus Cornhusker fans who were hoping to avoid any first-year hazing. Nebraska begins year one in the conference with the opener at Wisconsin. They get Ohio State at home then go on the road to Minnesota. Michigan State and Northwestern come for a visit before the Huskers travel to Penn State and Michigan before ending the season at home against Iowa.

Delany didn’t do the new kid any favors, but $25 million in annual TV money should help heal any wounds in Lincoln.

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