Big Ten Threatens Drastic Measures If Ed O'Bannon Lawsuit Prevails

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2013

July 26, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks during the Big Ten media day at the McCormick Place Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports
Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

If college athletes are ever paid for competing, the Big Ten will not be a part of it.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany stated that he would "de-emphasize athletics" if the schools are forced to part with any of their revenue, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. He argued, "A pay-for-play model involving contracts and individual negotiations with players would not interest the schools of the Big Ten."

This is in response to an antitrust suit led by former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon against the NCAA. The motion is in an effort for the players to seek television revenues from the schools they play for. 

In January, a judge ruled that the NCAA cannot prevent the players from taking legal action, according to ESPN's Tom Farrey. On March 14, the declaration was officially filed by O'Bannon's group (h/t Sports Illustrated). 

Not surprisingly, this has not made those in charge too pleased.

Specifically, Delany responded that he would take drastic measures with his conference if the plaintiffs were to succeed in this legal matter. In a statement to Sports Illustrated, he said:

[I]t has been my longstanding belief that The Big Ten's schools would forgo the revenues in those circumstances and instead take steps to downsize the scope, breadth and activity of their athletic programs. Several alternatives to a 'pay for play' model exist, such as the Division III model.

The idea is that the conference would no longer give out any scholarships for athletics, reducing the pay-out to only academic and need-based aid. Of course, this would also reduce the amount of talent that comes to the school and, in turn, the amount of revenue that goes to the schools.

In reality, this is a very unlikely scenario for the Big Ten. A great deal of money going to the universities comes from television contracts, ticket sales and merchandise, plus donations from boosters who want to watch their team play at a high level.

According to Chris Smith of Forbes, the Big Ten was the richest conference in 2012, totaling $310 million in revenue.

With Maryland and Rutgers set to join in 2014, this number is only going to go up as the conference continues to expand both in numbers and geographically.

There is very little chance that Delany chooses to leave this type of money on the table in an effort to "focus on education." Even if the lawsuit ends up being successful and schools are forced to pay players a portion of their revenue, there is still plenty to go around to everyone involved.

That money should keep Ohio State and Michigan away from the Division III ranks for now.