I'll just leave this right here.

builderofcoalitions's picture
March 19, 2013 at 2:01p

In today's Skull Session, Nicholas reported on Jim Delany's idle threat to move the entire Big Ten to Division III. I agree with Nicholas that it is a ridiculous proposition. He makes several points - bulleted, in fact...

Here are a few other problems with the supposed voluntary transition.

  • Big-time college athletics improves a school's visibility and applicant test scores too. Without them, a school's academic reputation suffers.
  • Schools with 100,000 seat stadiums are now stuck with them and whatever debt from them, with no way to make up the money.
  • There would be just a few livid fans and donors if Ohio State administrators decided to deemphasize athletics. Ditto elsewhere.
  • Even if the Big Ten Network isn't hamstrung by cable company charging changes, who's going to watch the equivalent of Oberlin vs. Wisconsin Whitewater each week?
  • This would preclude any university that wants to stay Division I from joining the conference.


Four of those points make a lot of sense and generally shared by most college athletic fans. It creates a lot of troubling scenarios for large athletic departments like Ohio State's. These departments have debts to settle and leaving Division I would devastate AD budgets everywhere. Fans and donors would certainly be angry. It's just plain messy to imagine.

However, the first point misses a bit. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but improved visibility and academic reputations suggests a university would also take a big financial and academic hit due to lower admissions if they dropped out of D-I. I've heard this and similar arguments before in regards to Division I athletics - particularly football and men's basketball. These sports supposedly do so much for a university's reputation and income. The trouble is that this isn't true.

Before I continue to develop my thesis that will surely get me down-voted off the site or accused of trolling, you should know that I love Ohio State. I grew up in Ohio and lived for football season until it was over and I could cheer on the basketball Buckeyes. Since moving to Missouri for my wife's academic job, I have only grown into more of a die-hard Buckeye fan - even tattooing the great state of Ohio on my forearm. Although I don't comment as often on 11W these days, I still read it religiously. I'm a Buckeye, just like the rest of you.

Still, it is troubling how much major college athletics cost our beloved universities. In an age when education suffers financially at every turn, university athletic departments continue to grow at astronomical rates. Here in Missouri, the university is trying to keep up with the rest of the SEC and is struggling to find the funds. In the meantime, faculty salaries rank near the bottom of AAU universities while Gary Pinkel gets large raises for making second-rate bowl games and Frank Haith does the same for bowing out of the NCAA in the first round to a 15-seed. Missouri may not even be in the AAU in a year as they just aren't producing as much research or researchers as they used to. Still, the town, state, and university are wrapped up in SEC fever, talking expansion of the stadium instead of the academic programs.

Some will point to the millions of dollars that universities like Ohio State take in from TV deals or the fact that admissions are up everywhere. However, we are ignoring the cost to achieve these milestones and how disproportionate it is to the supposed profits.

Take the case of all those universities that lose money when they go to a bowl game. Consider the ever-increasing ticket prices. Why does tuition have to rise just to keep a university rolling in athletic profits from folding?

The fact is that big-time college athletics do very little for universities in regards to their primary function: educating the populace. 

I titled this post "I'll just leave this right here." because I wanted to leave a couple of studies we should all read. I'm not telling anyone how to think. I'm not suggesting we should quit being Ohio State fans. And I really don't want to get into an argument. I just think we should all be aware that there are different perspectives on collegiate athletics that don't match our own. The purpose is to have some dialog with people that actually care about collegiate athletics. I hang with a lot of academics who don't care about sports, particularly collegiate sports. I'd rather have this conversation with people who actually care.

The above are just a few reports and articles on the subject, but you can find many more articles within their references.

Again, I am not trying to start and argument. I just think we should be honest with what collegiate athletics means to universities and to our priorities as a country.

Comments Show All Comments

Oakland Buckeye's picture

Nicely researched post - and it is certianly not Trollish, (no down vote from me) but Nicholas missed the boat on Delaneys' statement  - read deeper, no way does Delaney advocate moving to d3 - I think it more probable that he move to disband the NCaa & start a new association, just as he opened the door to leagues having their own network... dude is an outside the box pioneer.

AndyVance's picture

It's going to take me some time (off the clock) to read this entire post, which appears to be exactly as you said: well written and well researched.
I do want to chime in right away to back up your more important point, that Nicholas missed the boat entirely with his analysis of Delaney's statement to the court. I don't want to be overly harsh, but that section of the Skully was probably the most off-point piece of writing I've seen by a staffer since I joined 11W, if I'm being bluntly honest.
What Delaney said was on point, and as Gene Smith said on Bishop & Rothman this afternoon, was "100% correct." Almost everything Nicholas said in reaction was either wildly out of context or just completely missed the mark.

builderofcoalitions's picture

Yeah, I agree. I think the NCAA's days are numbered. 

Because we couldn't go for three.

Bucks43201's picture

I like your user name

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

builderofcoalitions's picture

It was an old blog thing I was doing. I tried to change it to something more Buckeye-centric, but it meant that I had to start my account over and delete old posts. Maybe that's changed, but I'll probably keep it.

Because we couldn't go for three.

Earle's picture

Or you could just change your icon....

Snarkies gonna snark. 

builderofcoalitions's picture


Because we couldn't go for three.

Earle's picture

Well, it would be hard to improve on Archie.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

steensn's picture

Plus, then no one would know who he is unless he informed everyone in a separate thread so no one freaked out. Imagine what would happen to this site if people just changed their icons without telling people... anarchy!!!

Maestro's picture

Nice Earle

vacuuming sucks

BucksfanXC's picture

When Delany talks, it usually is for purposes that only later do you realize them all. He is working angles and setting up some negotiation later down the line or currently going on behind the scenes.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

20sider's picture

Thank you for this post. I wanted to say something in a similar tone and point, just lacked the proper backing to bring it to the site in a constructive way.
In addition... AndyVance is spot on.


MaliBuckeye's picture

Great article, and great question... as someone who works in Higher Ed, I've been trying to figure out the answer to this one for a while-
How does "big time" college athletics help the University meet its academic mission?
Granted, you can also ask this question about the "research/publish" wing of the academy, but there aren't a whole lot of blogs about that element.
Our Big Ten brethren at the University of Chicago did away with athletics a long time ago (they're back now, as D3 programs), and it didn't ding their academics much, if at all. I'm not saying schools should go that far, particularly given the current money and so forth involved.
Another thought- Could Delaney's comments re: D3 also be pointing to an eventual "split" with "big time" football and basketball becoming disassociated with their "host" universities?
Again, great work.

"Sarcastically, I'm in charge."


northcampus's picture

I would argue that college athletic programs influence the majority of any university's image (both good and bad) a great deal;.  No matter how reputable the academic rigor is at Ohio State or Michigan (or any other school), a significant amount of applicants/accepted students are a direct result of the university's athletic reputation.  You will have your outliers at elite institutions (Ivy League, Chicago, Stanford, etc.).  However, if Ohio State completely did away with their entire athletic program tomorrow, within 7-10 years (at the latest), the undergraduate student body would be reduced by probably 40-50%.  The passion and loyalty tied into big-time D-I athletics are second to none.  The impact on athletic success at any traditional powerhouse should not taken for granted.  Football and basketball are the faces of our beloved institutions.

Phutatorius's picture

As I understand the O'Bannon case, the former players are much better positioned than the current players are, because the current players sign a waiver of their rights of publicity, as a condition of playing.  The former players didn't.
The effect of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in O'Bannon wouldn't necessarily mean that the NCAA (and participating schools, both through their own licensing arrangements and through the NCAA) couldn't continue to exploit college players without cutting them a piece of the pie.  They'd just have to rely on the waivers they're getting.
The waivers might be suspect, on a theory that college players have no other meaningful option to sign them.  This is the antitrust theory.  If you want to go to college and play football, you have to accept the terms of the NCAA-managed monopoly.  I.e., you have to sign the waiver.  But I don't see this argument as a winner.  In fact, the NCAA has won a number of antitrust cases already, if not on this particular theory.  You can play football in Canada, in the arena leagues, etc., and /or you can go to college.
So the sky-would-fall scenario that Delaney posits would only kick in if the court ruled broadly that the NCAA can't enforce these waivers.  I'd be surprised if we ever got there.
More to the point, though, why is Delaney operating in this space, taking these positions?  It might be that he simply wants to curry favor with the NCAA, which has hammered one of his marquee schools over extra benefits.  Maybe he wants to keep the NCAA close, so they'll think of his conference as fully committed to NCAA-style extra-benefits tyranny?
That seems pretty short-sighted, and to my mind inconsistent with where he was heading when he announced that the B1G would pay kids a stipend.  To be sure, a uniform stipend for all players on top of the scholarship is well short of the bidding war for players that Delaney says he fears is coming.  But I saw the conference starting to acknowledge how unfairly the athletes are treated (at least financially), and now it looks like he's backtracking.
My dream has been that we have outright Conference Armageddon, and the surviving major conferences, led by Delaney, simply opt out of the NCAA, which has no leverage over them other than that they organize the various non-football postseasons.  Thing is, if a critical mass of conferences leave the NCAA behind, they'll be content hosting a March Madness of their own.  Every big-time football school has to look at the recent infractions cases and think, "there but for the grace of God go I."  Why do they want this grief?  Why do they need these soul-sucking regulators telling them whether or not they can offer bagels AND cream cheese to recruits?  They have to be wondering if there's a reason to subject themselves to a whimsical, inconsistent, arbitrary governor, when they could push the NCAA aside, establish their own rules, and govern themselves.
To be sure, that's what the NCAA once was: a membership organization designed to manage shared interests, including the establishment and enforcement of common rules of competition.  Over time, though, it's become a bungling, ham-handed, self-interested organization.  I saw the PSU sanctions as a last-ditch bid to establish NCAA legitimacy: they took the one case in which they could swing their biggest hammer and not be criticized for it, and they swung the hammer.  At this point everybody loved that they had the hammer, and if anything, many of us wanted to hand them a bigger hammer.  This was a big victory for them, and it bought them, I dunno, a couple more years of life.
If in the end Delaney, Slive, and the rest of the gang break off from the NCAA and establish their own arms-length governance organization -- and maybe that's what Delaney wants to preserve here, with his affidavit and supporting interview: the ability to do just that -- let's hope they build in sufficient league oversight to keep that organization from morphing into NCAA 2.0.

Heartofohio's picture

Ohio would still dominate division III. We'd be the new Mount Union though.

Poison nuts's picture

I've been very vocal all over here today in saying that if Delaney was suggesting OSU & the B1G could just move to D3, that's no good & a bad suggestion. However, I will say that if the end game is to take the B1G & then convince all the other conferences to leave the NCAA to start something new without the clusterf*ck that is the NCAA, I'm not opposed to that at all - in fact I'm quite for it...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Poison, we exchanged a couple of comments on this in yesterday's Skull Session. I don't know if this was linked to in the Skully but Andy Staples actually talked to Delany about his testimony. Here's the piece -- Jim Delany: Big Ten could de-emphasize athletics if O'Bannon plaintiffs win.
I'm no fan of Andy Staples. First because he's an SEC homer who isn't shy about his love for everything SEC (he played for the Gators). But also because he never just tries to report the facts like a Bruce Feldman. He also inserts his opinions into all of his pieces. As he does here. He's been a long-time proponent of the Olympic-model (which SEC boosters would love, love, love).
Anyways, interspersed between Staples inflated opinion are some pretty meaningful quotes from Delany. It's basically a lot of what was discussed in yesterday's Skull Session comments.
Basically, Delany says if the O'Bannon suit is successful he's pretty sure that will be the end of Big Ten athletics in its current form. Specifically because of Title IX, he can't envision any of the Big Ten presidents getting onboard with negotiated salaries for athletes. He does mention D-III but as a vague model of a possible outcome.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Not to be the guy who replies to his own comments...
You know what I think gets lost on guys like Staples... They don't realize that the average Big Ten fan will watch Big Ten sports regardless of the level because this is our school, our state, our conference. What's the saying? Buckeye and Wolverine fans would watch a game of tiddly-winks between the two schools.
Anyways, if we have to go to a D-III or FCS model in order to continue the amateur status of our college atheltics, I'm good with it. I'll still watch. And I think a lot of other people will too.

Poison nuts's picture

NC, As a response to your statement that people would still watch a D3 OSU is this: I could never not be a fan of Ohio State, but there would be something sorely lacking from a Ohio State who could not participate in the D1 national championship in football, basketball or any other sport. The Archie Griffins, the Braxton Millers, the Evan Turners would no longer be coming to Ohio State. The tradition of OSU being a national power in collegiate athletics goes away if it is unable to compete at the highest level with the best competition outside the conference...& I like that stuff. I want to see OSU go head to head with the Alabamas, Oregons, UFs, etc...Sounds like all of this is posturing by Delaney or a game of chicken as I eluded to yesterday & I doubt highly that the D3 option is a real option at all. I just don't think it will happen. But hypothetically speaking, if it ever came to light, I would still love OSU, but it would be not be what it was & as sports fans, I believe everyone of us would feel as though we lost at least a part of something we once loved.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

NC_Buckeye's picture

I get what you're saying Poison. And based on what Delany had to say about the "full cost-of-attendance" stipend proposal, I don't think he and the B1G presidents are against revenue-players receiving stipends. I think it has more to do with the "50% of broadcast revenues" settlement offer that has leaked out of the O'Bannon lawsuit (that is about to become a class-action suit BTW).
Should that occur, the Athletic Depts of Ohio State and most of the Big Ten schools most likely will be whittled down to football, basketball, another men's sport, and three women's sports (Title IX)... and that's it. That's all that the school would be able to afford and still operate in the black. Half of their revenue would be going to football and basketball players.
In that scenario, BTN probably goes away because there's not enough content to fill 24-hour operations which would further restrict AD's financial budgets. At that time the B1G presidents would probably deliberate on the purpose of college athletics in their institutions. And Delany stated he wouldn't be surprised if they (the B1G presidents) decided to de-empathize college athletics in the Big Ten. This is the point that Delany was trying to make to Staples. What everyone else viewed as "the Delany-threatens-to-go-D-III bluff", I perceived as Delany laying out the probable outcome of a "50% of broadcast revenues" settlement.
THAT OUTCOME WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE B1G PRESIDENTS, NOT JIM DELANY. Again, he clearly stated this but every media outlet that reported on it ignored this because it's easier to shoot darts at the messenger (who happens to be the genius behind the Big Ten's resurgence).
Also, please don't take this post as an attack on your position Poison. I think I'm more responding to all the media reports that have lambasted Delany for trying to intelligently discuss the probable outcome of this lawsuit.

Poison nuts's picture

I don't take it as an attack at all. I like having talks/debates here & this is a worthwhile one. I've learned a few things since just a few days back & feel a bit differently than I did about Delaney's comments initially. I tend to think it was not as dumb or thoughtless of him as I initially had. 
As you know, the whole subject of paying players & this O'Bannon lawsuit is a touchy one. There are plenty of opinions out there. I don't want college sports to be like diet pro sports but there are kids out there who generate millions for their school so I am for something that rewards their value. For me, it all comes down to this: I like college football & love OSU. Anything that threatens that which I hold sacred, is bound to give me the willys & cause my stomach to jump. I don't even like the pro game much at all... I really just hope in 10-20 years, I can root for OSU to beat UM, then eventually go to the NC game. I hope neither this lawsuit or any other thing gets in the way of that.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

NC_Buckeye's picture

I really just hope in 10-20 years, I can root for OSU to beat UM, then eventually go to the NC game. I hope neither this lawsuit or any other thing gets in the way of that.


Phutatorius's picture

I've tweeted at Staples a few times on matters relating to OSU, and I've found him to be pretty fair-minded and engaged (and for that matter, responsive).  Contrast Dennis Dodd, who is thoughtless AND unaccountable.
Plus he's a columnist.  Reporting isn't really his gig.  He writes opinion pieces and does Power Rankings.  You might not agree with a lot of what he writes, but I don't see him as an SEC shill. At least, not as against any other national writer.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Agree to disagree Phutatorius. I've read a lot of Staples articles. In almost everyone he comes off as anti-B1G and pro-SEC. I don't follow twitter.
Plus I think Staples role at SI is reporter/columnist. I'd like to see more reporter and less columnist. Staples counter-part at SI, Stewart Mandel, does this more successfully.

Poison nuts's picture

Thanks for the info NC, appreciate it...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Buckeyeneer's picture

While I like our players and I want them to be treated fairly, college football is a place where I find myself being a little selfish. I love college football and anything that could bring it to ruin gets me amped up. While I am not sure what the right answer is, I think I tend to fall on the side that a college education is worth something and even though the university and NCAA is making money (and lots of it) I find myself not getting very worked up about paying players. Perhaps its because they are outside of my Monkeysphere that I care more about being entertained than giving athletes fair market value; but getting an education and getting to live out the dreams of millions of high school athletes who weren't good enough by playing college ball is worth something isn't it? I know the topic of paying athletes can be heated and I am still formulating an opinion on this, so what say you?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

WC Buckeye's picture

I think the answer is to give the NCAA some skin in the game. As opposed to letting them be a bunch of fatuous, disconnected bureaucrats, make them earn the keep that the member institutions keep pouring on them like golden sunshine - make them administer all of the funds for all student-athletes. This would include disbursements to the member institutions for their tuition, room and board, books, and (maybe) directly to the student-athletes for their stipends, whatever that may eventually be. As it is, the NCAA has all of the authority and zero accountability. That's never a good place to be on the fairness spectrum, just like the institutions who have almost all of the accountability and little authority. Bring them both into the center.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.