CHICAGO — Jim Delany wanted to say thank you and goodbye.
One of the dominant voices in college athletics, the Big Ten commissioner was speaking at his final league media days. The setting — a basement ballroom of the Chicago Hilton — was more fitting for a blue-collar convention.
And after Delany’s opening statement — dedicated to thanking his family, staff and various partners of the league — reporters had plenty of blue-collar, bottom-line questions for the commish. No rosy recollections this Thursday.
More like talk about the College Football Playoff.
The league has missed the past two four-team events — last season, one-loss Big Ten champ Ohio State even finished behind two-loss SEC runner-up Georgia in the standings — and the conference champ hasn’t been on the biggest stage since 2015. The Big Ten hasn’t scored a point at all since OSU won the national title in 2014.
So Delany — whose last day will be Jan. 1, 2020, after which he’ll be succeeded by Minnesota Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren — nibbled around the edges of several questions, projecting a positive future for Big Ten football, which he believes is built “to win championships.”
“I wouldn’t be shocked to see more of a dominating presence from Big Ten football over the next decade, half-decade,” Delany said. “We are a special brand in America in regards to college football.”
Just one that hasn’t been among the committee’s top four teams in the past two years. And Delany has found, in the playoff era, not making it is more of a psychological hit than not making the BCS national title game.
“We’ve doubled the access but more than doubled the feeling of exclusion when you’re not in,” Delany said. “But we try to not let that define us.”
Delany said, in recent years, he wasn’t sure the committee had adhered to its rules that strength of schedule and conference titles be used as a tiebreaker when teams were otherwise equal. And while Clemson and Alabama “have separated themselves,” Delany said, the conference title “has not been adequately rewarded.”
“I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders,” Delany said of the CFP’s original architects.
More notes from Delany’s talk:
Warren will start working with Delany on Sept. 16, and will become the league’s official commissioner in the late afternoon of Jan. 1. Delany said Warren, who has worked for years as the Vikings’ chief operating officer, is a “smart, experienced executive” with “lots of NFL and legal experience” who will be a “great leader” for the Big Ten.
“We’ve got a plan,” Delany said. Warren and Delany met June 6 for a full day and have talked on the phone “on three or four occasions.” Warren will attend conference commissioner meetings and league meetings and have a Q&A with the league’s “external partners” and BTN.
“I don’t think it’ll be awkward at all,” Delany said. “We’ve got a nice way with each other.”
Delany’s idea to create an injury-availability report fell flat with the NCAA.
Because there’s so much competition for audiences in prime-time games, Delany said Fox was “thinking creatively” to put its best game each week at noon.
Delany agreed with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby that the College Football Playoff should require a team face at least 10 Power Five teams to be eligible for the CFP. But Delany noted that neither he nor Bowlsby is a football czar.
“You don’t vote for czars,” Delany quipped. “Czars are just czars.”
The Big Ten doesn’t plan on changing its nine-game scheduling model.
Delany doesn’t think individual CFP committee members should have to explain their votes because it works against the “human element.”
“People have to have a certain amount of confidentiality to disagree with each other,” Delany said.
“Great challenges” await collegiate athletics, Delany said, including the health and safety of student-athletes. Delany said the Big Ten has been a leader in concussion research after completing its seventh summit.