Big Ten Football: Giving Jim Delany Firing Power Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

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Big Ten Football: Giving Jim Delany Firing Power Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

In the wake of the Penn State scandal, the Big Ten is considering a number of sweeping reforms. One of the most jarring is a consolidation of power that would ultimately result in commissioner Jim Delany being given the power to fire coaches. Seriously.

Here's more from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The proposal, part of a plan being circulated among Big Ten leaders, would give James E. Delany, who has overseen the league since 1989, and a powerful committee of conference presidents the ability to penalize individual members of an institution, should their actions significantly harm the league’s reputation.

The sanctions, spelled out in a document obtained by The Chronicle, could include financial penalties, suspension, or termination of employment.

The proposal, which has not been approved, is part of an 18-page plan prompted by problems at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach repeatedly molested children on campus property while university leaders turned a blind eye.

The ideas are designed in part to root out problems that could include coaches or athletic officials who interfere with normal admissions, compliance hiring, or disciplinary processes, the document says.


There is one glaring fault here: There has basically never been an instance in major college football where a school refused to fire its head coach over compliance or disciplinary issues despite pressure from its conference and its members. Jim Tressel stuck around for a month or two more than was necessary, but that was in the spring, and he was under some form of discipline from Ohio State the entire time anyway.

So then, giving Jim Delany firing power fixes what problem exactly? If Joe Paterno himself doesn't last another game after the Penn State allegations come out—not even the Freeh report, but just what we knew in the few days after Jerry Sandusky's arrest—how could there possibly be a scenario in which a football coach is so untouchable that it's up to the commissioner to fire him?

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In fact, the moment that power is actually enforced—when the Big Ten fires a coach that the school doesn't want to fire—there will be a PR crapstorm of mammoth proportions on the Big Ten's hands and the power overreach will be seen for exactly what it is.

That's not to say the rest of the proposal is also terrible. Giving the Big Ten suspension power over coaches is a fine idea—especially if it's enforced rigidly and fairly, with more weight given to precedent than seen in the NCAA's Committee on Infractions' work. Fines are also, well, fine.

But let's be honest about what's going on here. This is a massive power grab and one that isn't necessary. If these reforms had been in place 10 years ago, the Penn State scandal still would have happened. The Big Ten couldn't have prevented it, no matter how high a throne Jim Delany sat on.

So if these reforms are a proximate result of the Penn State scandal but they don't give the Big Ten the power to prevent another such scandal, then the Big Ten members who are going to vote on this proposal need to give a lot of thought to what kind of change they're actually effecting here.

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