As it stands now?
Once you've seen the money, engineered your existence to make the money and have positioned yourself to continue to make money, going back to nothing is not a very realistic option. Not for the infrastructure of the universities, and most certainly not for the people who have dedicated their lives to getting the big money.
The edict of "too big to fail" came into the Penn State conversation last summer as folks wondered what the NCAA was going to do, and how crippling their blow would be. This situation, reported by Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, is not much different from a dollars standpoint.
It is a novel concept, and one that academics would certainly love. The idea of big schools like Michigan and Ohio State returning to their academic roots. Cutting off the gigantic athletic funds and going to an Ivy League model that puts the emphasis, not on entertaining, but on academic achievement above all else.
However, once you get out of the idyllic world, you start looking at dollars and cents. Dollars and sense, actually, is more like it.
What Delany is essentially saying in his declaration and talk with Staples, is that if we have to share what we have with these players, then we'd rather just not have it. Sound familiar? It most certainly should, especially because it is Delany who said it, as Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel points out:
I don't believe Delany for a second. Same crew that said they'd "go back to old system" rather than football playoff.— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) March 19, 2013
In real terms, Delany is talking about cutting funding, dismantling the massive infrastructure that exists at all of his now 14-member institutions. People getting fired. Sports programs being cut. Facilities sitting vacant or being torn down.
All because the idea of sharing is unappealing.
There is still a long way to go in this case, and odds are the two sides end up settling. As it stands right now, don't believe the hype.
Winning this case and getting a solid settlement, on either side, is as about posturing and putting pressure on the opposition. Delany, and the other officials who filed similar declarations, are doing their best to threaten from a point with increasingly less power.
As things heat up, we will see what happens. Delany told Staples that this was not a bluff; if the ruling comes down on the side of Ed O'Bannon, we'll see how serious the Big Ten Commissioner is about it all.