Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is, unsurprisingly, against the idea of college athletes retaining their name and image rights and being able to get sponsorship and endorsement money.
Delany, who is retiring at the end of the year, said Wednesday at Big Ten men’s basketball media day that he didn’t see much of a difference between athletes having their own image rights and pay for play. Delany’s comments come after he was asked about California’s pending law that would allow college athletes in the state to get endorsement and sponsorship money. The NCAA’s current rules prevent students from making any money off their standing as athletes and Delany said that he’d like to see the NBA and NFL change their rules regarding draft eligibility.
The NBA makes players wait a year after high school to be eligible for the draft and NFL players must wait three years. Baseball players have the option of going to a four-year school for three seasons or entering the draft right out of high school.
“My view is that there may be some players who are ready for the professional ranks but that’s not the college ranks,” Delany said (approximately seven minutes into the video above). “And I would like to see players who are ready for the professional ranks to be able to access the professional game either through the D-League — I’d like to see the owners and the unions open up opportunities for young people as you have in baseball. Same thing about the NFL. We’re not the minor leagues, we’re involved in an enterprise that touches 100,000 players and maybe there’s one percent or two percent that may have commercial value but I would prefer that they have the choice to move that to the professional ranks because I really don’t see much difference myself between name, image and likeness payments by a corporate sponsor or pay for play. So it’s a belief system I have. I know people differ on it. I think the law of unintended consequences and the law of slippery slope apply here.”
Delany then added that “the opportunities that we have for the great many shouldn’t be sacrificed at the altar of the one percent.”
That’s an especially irony-filled way for Delany to talk about the athlete-rights movement. Delany, who made over $5 million during the 2018 fiscal year, is the one percent. The great many of the college athletes who play in Delany’s conference are sacrificing for his financial glory.
Alas, Delany knows that his time as commissioner is winding down. He’s set to be replaced by Kevin Warren atop the conference. The sweeping reforms that are about to come to the NCAA will happen as Delany is happily enjoying his retirement. Though those reforms could happen a lot sooner than we all anticipated. Politicians in numerous states have or are planning to introduce legislation similar to California’s.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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