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Jim Delany's $20 million bonus is smart business and terrible public relations

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is set to receive $20 million in future bonuses, as detailed in tax documents obtained by USA Today's Steve Berkowitz. The key passage:

The new return — which the conference provided Friday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports — states that in July 2015, Delany “became fully eligible for future bonus payments pursuant to his employment contract.”

As a result, the document said, the conference had to record the full amount of those future payments as an expense and a liability on the return covering its 2016 fiscal year, which ran from July 1 through June 30.

A comparison of the Big Ten’s new expense and liability amounts to those on prior years’ returns reveals the $20 million estimate.

As a private, non-profit organization, the Big Ten does not have to disclose its employment agreements, and deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia declined to provide any details about Delany’s contract, the bonus payments’ amounts or their timing.

These bonuses will come on top of the $3.1 million salary Delany already reportedly brings home.

If Nick Saban is worth the $11-plus million he'll bring home in 2017, Delany is absolutely worth $20 million in bonuses. He's made his schools fantastically rich over his 28-year tenure, and specifically over the past decade. Media research firm SNL Kagan recently valued BTN -- of which the Big Ten splits ownership with Fox -- at $1.142 billion. Delany guided the Big Ten into a contract that will see ESPN, Fox and CBS pay the league $2.64 billion over the next six years and leave the conference in prime position to capitalize on whatever media landscape awaits in the future. Annual conference income was nearly $450 million last year and rising.

"Commissioner Delany has provided invaluable leadership for Big Ten member institutions while delivering first-in-class performance during a time of great transformation in college athletics," Minnesota president and Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors chairman Eric Kaler said in a statement. He has not only successfully balanced the missions of academic achievement, student-athlete development and athletic success, he has successfully developed the resources necessary to strategically position the conference for success well into the future. His compensation is market-competitive, based on an independent third-party analysis, and reflects the value and impact of his leadership."

So, yeah, Delany is worth the money.

At the same time, this is terrible optics for college sports at a whole in a time where the public becomes less and less accepting of the current college sports economic arrangement by the day. Can't you see the headlines now? "69-year-old millionaire nets another $20 million, unpaid labor force still gets nothing." I've got one for you right here.

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Does that bother Delany? Absolutely not. This is a guy who famously bluffed he'd take the Big Ten to Division III before sharing a penny of the loot with the players. Dude does not care.

Still, the Big Ten has armed its opposition with another cannon ball to fire at the wall of the college sports establishment, another rallying cry to win over a sympathetic public. Delany is worth the money Big Ten presidents are paying him, but poor public relations is now the cost of doing this lucrative business.