Since 1989, Jim Delany has been the Big Ten Conference commissioner. In that time he has done a great many things:

  • Delany developed the Big Ten Network, making the Big Ten to be the first conference with a dedicated tv network for coverage of all sports for all schools in the conference
  • Delany negotiated with CBS for a huge 11 year contract to broadcast the NCAA tournament games
  • Delany expanded the conference to include Penn State, U of Nebraska, U of Maryland and Rutgers
  • Delany was involved in developing and implementing an instant replay system for college football

Delany has been instrumental in bringing the Big  Ten, as well as the rest of collegiate sports, into the modern era. However, whether it his old age or cynicism in the Big Ten fan base, Jim Delany is not currently being held in very high esteem.

During the Michigan-Ohio State football game on November 30, 2013, athletes from both teams participated in an on-field fight. Both teams had athletes pushing and shoving, and both teams had players disqualified. Michigan had wide receiver Michael Thomas ejected from the game while Ohio State had starting offensive lineman Marcus Hall and running back Dontre Wilson ejected. On his way out, Marcus Hall chucked his helmet to the ground, kicked a bench and walked into the tunnel holding the middle fingers of both hands held high in the air.

Monday evening, Jim Delany reviewed footage of the fight and announced that he will reprimanded certain players from Ohio State but will not further punish any player by suspending them for any amount of time. This is bothersome to me as it contradicts Delany’s action in 2011 when he rightfully suspended Michigan State defensive lineman William Gholston for a game after punching another player during the MSU-Michigan game. Delany also contradicts NCAA rule 9, section 5, article C which says “during either half, coaches or substitutes shall  not leave their team area to participate in a fight, nor shall they participate in a fight in their team area.” The penalty is, according to the rules, disqualification of the player for the remainder of the game and half the next.

Watching footage of the fight, multiple players from both leave their team areas to join in the fray. Members of both teams jump in to push around other players as well as pull away their own players. Because of the video’s angle, I watched numerous OSU players rushes the field to try and break up the fight, including starting quarterback Braxton Miller and various coaches. However, Marcus Hall’s actions were the most egregious; he ran to the fight, landed a punch or two, and then embarrassed himself, his team and the conference on his way out of the Big House.

This unfortunately is not the first time Jim Delany has withheld penalties from Ohio State. In November of 2010, 5 Ohio State players including starters QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, OT Mike Adams, and back up DE Solomon Thomas were caught selling off championship rings, various awards, game jerseys, game shoes, and the Golden Pants pendant they received from the school for defeating Michigan, in order to pay for a receive discounted tattoos. This is explicitly against NCAA rules about players getting preferential treatment and payment for work not performed.

The NCAA determined the players were to be suspended for 5 games. Jim Delany decided to delay the suspensions until after the bowl game if each player pledged they would return for next season. Ohio State would allow their star players to play in a bowl, which made them a more attractive candidate for a bowl and were offered to bid to play in the Sugar Bowl as a result of the lobbying of Jim Delany.

It seems that Delany has a soft spot for Ohio State. I can understand as conference commissioner, his pride is tied to winning national titles. I understand the Big Ten hasn’t played for a National Title since 2007, nor has it won one since 2002. Worse yet, Delany has only seen the Big 10 win 2 titles in his tenure as Big Ten Commissioner. Maybe he is feeling the itch and believes Ohio State needs to be at full power to win the Big Ten Championship in order to earn a bid to the National Championship.

All conference commissioners should have a desire to see all their programs to succeed. However, Delany has a track record of stretching rules and withholding penalties from a specific program or programs, so he shouldn’t be surprised that he is drawing the criticism from fans of the other programs as well as various media outlets across the nation. This was an opportunity for Jim Delany to show the nation that the Big Ten, as they so often believe, is a cut above the rest. Delany could have told the nation that we will not accept fighting on the field, nor lashing out when you lose your composure. He had the chance to say that the Big Ten is committed to doing the right thing, no matter what the consequence. Instead, Delany favors the cash cow, because everybody knows college football isn’t for principal, it’s for profit.