Jim Delany's Testimony, the NCAA, and the Big Ten

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Was it as bad as it sounded?

The NCAA is a body that, even for those in the "Players should be happy that they get a free 4-year education" camp, profits disproportionately off those players' likenesses. If this statement is an inconvenient truth for you, I would recommend you stop reading now. You aren't going to like the conclusions at the bottom of this, even if they aren't in the camp of "Pay the players; disband the NCAA."

NCAA athletes do, regardless of pay, receive (if they so choose) a world-class education (unless they go to Nebraska lol amirite). If that statement isn't sufficient for you, perhaps you might have a conversation with reality and get back to us.

Neither of those two sides, outright, is going to win. There must be some middle ground on which the two sides can compromise.

In the ongoing O'Bannon trial (and do follow SBNation's ongoing coverage for updates), Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was called to the stand on Friday to testify on behalf of the NCAA. Reception of his testimony has, uh, not been positive.

O'Bannon trial: In defending NCAA, Jim Delany also helps plaintiffs

Mark Schlabach: Big 10's Delany hurts NCAA's case

Kevin Trahan: Big Ten's Jim Delany ends up hurting NCAA in O'Bannon trial

Is this, though, the case?

Setting aside our feelings about the NCAA (seriously, just grab a beer and try it. It feels nice), let's try and think about what Delany's comments might mean for the Big Ten as a conference, not as a member of the NCAA, from a few tweets and quotes from the event.

Demanding that NCAA student-athletes be student-athletes?! Unpossible. Even if the designation "student-athlete" is arbitrary and invented for the NCAA, a commissioner demanding that his players perhaps live up to that moniker would be a welcome victory for the Big Ten model, if it were in some manner applied to the rest of the country.

If the PAC-12 pays players and the Big Ten doesn't, Delany isn't going to be foolish enough to send his teams to a venue in which they would not only be playing on the turf of the opponent, but also in the bastion of money from which those teams operate. It certainly smells of sour grapes to those wishing to vilify Delany or the Big Ten model, but it's sensible. Delany has his eye on the brand, and the brand only succeeds if it keeps the other brands in check. If Delany uses the NCAA to do it, the Big Ten profits. If Delany uses an anti-NCAA O'Bannon ruling to do it, the athletes (may) profit, and it keeps other conferences from running away with liberties like rampant benefits provided to athletes.

On paying athletes and money: wouldn't the Big Ten model, in which revenue is distributed equally, better allow teams to remain competitive? Even by just providing money to students to cover cost-of-attendance for all four years, the Big Ten is then equipped on the best level of any Big Five conference to help its student-athletes cover their entire time at school. Again, conferences like the SEC and PAC-12 would have to play catch-up against the Big Ten if they would share revenues. Delany, I believe, is subtly pushing for a middle model, in which schools take care of their players' education for all four years, guaranteed, while coopting the O'Bannon side's desire for payment and greater compensation for athletes.

And there's the rub. Jim Delany, as I read it, is yet again positioning himself as a maverick within the NCAA. A more brash person than myself might say he is outright accusing the NCAA and SEC of being in bed together, allowing greyshirting and flagrant abuse of recruiting rules. Regardless, he has cleverly placed himself in the camp of promoting student athletes' rights to be students during their out-of-season times at school. Students, under whatever this nebulous "Delany Model" might be, still operate under the visage of the NCAA, but are allowed to have lives, be students, and not be so exploited by universities who profit off their likenesses.

It is not a perfect model, to be sure. Resolution of the O'Bannon case will add a layer of complexity to Delany's model, especially if profits must be returned in some way to the players. The resolution will require Delany to reconcile the Big Ten model with the details required of the arbitration. However, as Delany alluded to in his testimony, the Big Ten is possibly best equipped of any conference to deal with these outcomes. An equal revenue-sharing model promoted by the Big Ten Network deal (and, according to Delany, in place since '55) shows a strong commitment in the Midwest to actually handling money responsibly and with the entire conference in mind. That model, I believe, would extend to athletes should the O'Bannon ruling favor them.

Jim Delany is not perfect, nor is he absolutely prescient of the outcome of this case. That said, Delany, taking the stand, railed against the competitive disadvantage which has plagued the Big Ten in its (mostly perceived) competition against the SEC. Jim Delany is naturally a "loser" as far as the NCAA's case is concerned, especially for national presses like the USA Today and (especially) ESPN. As far as the Big Ten long game is concerned, though, Delany's testimony serves more as an attack on the professionalization of college football and athletics writ large in college sports (including the B1G). These quotes, while not helpful for the NCAA, may in fact be helpful for the B1G in the long term, forcing others to play by the Big Ten's model of sharing revenue. Such a model would at least require the other Big Five conferences to catch up to the revenue model of the Big Ten, if not change their outlook on college athletics and perhaps even majorly reform their individual programs. The Big Ten, should Delany's testimony serve as some impetus for moderates in this debate, could profit handsomely from a reformed NCAA model. Now if we could do something about the weather.

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