Jim Delany is playing hardball in the pay-for-play discussion.
His opinion makes a lot of sense.
Essentially, the Big Ten commissioner puts the onus on the athletes.
Speaking to a small group of reporters just outside the Big Ten's new offices near Chicago O'Hare International Airport, the commish said players who want to "professionalize themselves" shouldn't attend NCAA schools, but instead should seek other avenues -- whether minor leagues (like in baseball or the NBA's D-League), training programs funded by agents or the like.
"They can get as strong and fast in that environment as they can in this (college) environment," said Delany. "Plus they don't have to go to school. They can sell their likeness and do whatever they want to do. We don't want to do that. We want to do what we've been doing for 100 years."
Delany, of course, understands the NFL doesn't want to start a minor-league system. However, "I think they should," he said. "It takes pressure off of us. It lets us be who we are."
He continued, "If (athletes are) not comfortable on campus and they want to monetize, then let the minor leagues flourish. Or go to IMG. Train at IMG. Get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say you want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000. Go to the (NBA) D-League and get it. Go to the NBA and get it. Go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us to change what we're doing, because we think there are a lot of good things to preserve."
Bravo, Mr. Delany.
I couldn't agree more.
(See a full report on his comments in this USA Today article).
Bottom line: Why is it the job of major colleges to serve as minor leagues for the NBA and NFL?
If an athlete is uninterested in the college experience -- or thinks he should be paid as a college athlete -- he should go a different route. Nothing wrong with putting the onus on those athletes. They have a choice. But they shouldn't expect to drastically change the way universities have done business for decades.
I don't think Delany's remarks are driven by greed. I think his remarks are driven by his passion for college sports and the "university experience."
Delany, by the way, has strong opinions for how the NCAA should change its governance structure.
His comments Wednesday, as reported by USA Today, reflect a theme sounded by several commissioners of the NCAA's wealthiest, highest-profile conferences. His preferred model would include the ability for those conferences to have the autonomy to legislate their own rules without -- or with much less regard for -- the concept of an artificially "level playing field" for schools with fewer resources. The wealthier schools would be able to provide more benefits to athletes, such as stipends to help cover full cost of attendance and miscellaneous expenses. Delany also suggested as examples expanded educational opportunities and allowing schools to pay expenses of players' parents on road trips.
"There are things we can do to prioritize their experience," he said. "But I feel as strongly as I did 20 years ago it's not pay-for-play."