Jim Delany at the football media days in July. We were there. Nobody knew what kind of horrible season awaited.
The Big Ten is about to transition into its college basketball phase of the year, and more power to the B1G for that. There are plenty of Top 25 teams in the conference (unlike in football) and even more who can make legitimate claims for NCAA tournament viability.
While that's all eminently good news for the Big Ten, especially with a good two-thirds of the conference vying for March Madness, it certainly doesn't do any favors for Big Ten football, which is still struggling through its worst season in at least a decade—especially with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the postseason.
And wouldn't you know it, OSU and PSU are up against each other this weekend.
So the Big Ten basketball media days kicked off on Thursday, and just in case there's any lingering doubt as to what kind of conference the Big Ten is at its core, per the USA Today, Jim Delany was bombarded with football questions there:
"It's a good time of the year for basketball. As far as the football is concerned, I didn't play it and I didn't coach it, so my insights into it are less. But we have programs in transition. We have new coaches at a number of institutions.…We have two institutions (Ohio State and Penn State, which play Saturday) that are not eligible for postseason play."
"If you look over the long reach in football and in basketball, we're competitive, and we're competitive with some of the best conferences in the country," Delany said. "The good news is I think we've got the resources, the population base (and) the coaches that we're going to be in the mix. Some years, we'll be up, and some we'll be down—in both sports."
Delany said that there are two times Big Ten teams can prove their worth and discover where they stack up against other teams in other conferences: non-conference play and the postseason. Football's bowl season is just two months away, and college basketball begins its non-conference season in less than two weeks.
This is every bit as much a function of the football side's ineffectiveness as it is of limiting Jim Delany's media availability. Granted, the commissioner of a conference doesn't need to splay himself at an altar on a weekly basis for the sake of a hungry press corps or anything like that, but the conference also needs to recognize that these questions were going to be asked sooner or later, and having Delany not rear his head until it's basketball season certainly qualifies as "later."
That said, historically, the Big Ten doesn't stay down in the polls for very long. Things might be different this year, of course; we're not soothsayers here. And the demographics of the Rust Belt and the rest of the country are changing. But the patterns of this season shouldn't continue long-term.
Also, maybe the basketball media days aren't the best environment to get good answers about football, from the commissioner or anyone else. That's like asking someone about their junkie son at their daughter's Sweet Sixteen birthday party. Gotta know your environment.