The first session of Big Ten Media Days was largely a dud, with coaches avoiding anything but the company line on a near-religious basis. That changed with the last interview session of the day, and ironically enough, that was with the company man himself, Jim Delany.
Speaking to reporters at the Big Ten's annual preseason news conference, Delany offered some of the strongest support from any college athletics brass yet for the NCAA's punishments. Moreover, what he offered was essentially a direct challenge to those in Happy Valley who questioned the very merit of the NCAA's sanctions at all.
"A lot of people want to debate about NCAA penalties or Big Ten penalties, and those debates are fine," Delany said. "But to me they miss the point very much."
"Justice can never be served in this case, because the victims can never receive justice, and that's just a sad fact of the case."
Did the NCAA have the authority to levy those punishments?
In fact, Delany believed the NCAA was absolutely right in its actions, regardless of whether it was the sort of thing the organization is, well, supposed to do.
"A lot of people worry and wonder about whether or not what the NCAA did is a precedent," Delany said. "I don't really care if it's a precedent. I don't really care about whether or not they had jurisdiction or whether or not there was an underlying NCAA violation."
"You can debate them all you want, but in my view [the NCAA] had moral authority and responsibility to act as did the Big Ten," Delany continued.
Action was a central theme of Delany's comments. He also brought up the firing power issue that had been explored in the aftermath of the Penn State carnage, and while he acknowledged it was an option that was off the board according to Big Ten presidents, he also mentioned why he felt it was a necessary issue to explore.
And while it's obviously concerning that morality would cause such an intercession by governing bodies that previously regulated much smaller issues, Delany said the unique nature of the Penn State situation necessitated such unusually strong responses.
"My question at that juncture was with a president who had either resigned or been terminated, with an athletic director who had been indicted and a football coach that was telling the Board of Trustees that they should get on with other business, what this would say to the NCAA, to the Big Ten or anybody else who was interested, about where we were at that moment in time," said Delany.
"So I asked our lawyers what authority do I have to act," Delany said. "The answer was 'None. Your authority is limited to unsportsmanlike conduct.'"
"It was obvious to me that one area that the conference ought to consider with very close oversight and scrutiny is its power to act by the commissioner in an emergency situation could be suspension or termination, subject to immediate review as soon as the board of directors could get together," Delany said.
If nothing else, Delany has decided that this is going to be his fight, and that clearly wasn't a rash decision. As he pointed out, it's based on the Freeh Report, and for all the consternation that some Penn State partisans have toward that report, it's something that the school has adopted and the NCAA and conference worked off of in formulating their punishments.
And since Penn State signed the consent decree and waived its right to appeal, who's left to question the report's validity—or the Big Ten's decision to assert its authority based on that report?
If Penn State fans find that unsettling, well, that's understandable, as Delany has just explicitly asserted that the NCAA and Big Ten's desire to punish Penn State on grounds of morality supersede the authority that their bylaws give them.
And regardless of whether Delany says precedent is important to him in instances like this, it still is a new precedent—and one that opens the door to individual schools getting railroaded by the conference whenever the commissioner sees fit. Scary stuff, that.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.