Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the media Tuesday at his conference's media days he didn't plan to be around when the league's television contracts -- which expire in six years and will pay his bosses a fortune -- expire in six years. It appears he wasn't kidding.
Nicole Auerbach of USA Todayreported Tuesday afternoon Delany indeed plans to retire in 2020. The report did not state when exactly in the year 2020 Delany will step down, but if the move happens at the end of the academic year it means 2019 would be his last football season in charge. It would also mean Delany signs another contract extension; his current deal expires in 2018.
While it's too early to officially handicap the horse race for Delany's successor, industry speculation places Northwestern AD Jim Phillips as the heavy favorite.
A former player in Dean Smith's North Carolina basketball program who parlayed a career in the North Carolina Justice Department into a job in the NCAA's enforcement arm and, later, as commissioner of the Ohio Valley and Big Ten, Delany has reshaped the college sports landscape more than any one figure during his 27-year tenure.
- The Big Ten added Penn State in 1990, a year after his hiring, beginning a round of realignment that saw the SEC grow to 12 teams and create the conference championship game and the merger of the Big 8 and Southwest conferences.
- A decade later, Delany's additions of Nebraska and later Maryland and Rutgers sparked another land grab that touched every FBS conference.
- His was the first conference to start its own television network. Recently, Delany negotiated deals with Fox and ESPN to ensure his conference earned more for its television rights than any other conference.
- He was instrumental in creating both the BCS and College Football Playoff while keeping the Rose Bowl (mostly) in its traditional New Year's Day afternoon time slot. Under Delany's leadership, the Big Ten played more bowl games in more desirable locations and time slots than any other conference.
- He also famously and hilariously threatened to take his conference to Division III if student-athletes ever got paid, a natural outgrowth of the system he helped create.
For better and for worse, Delany's bald-headed shadow will remain over big-time college sports long after he's gone.