Big Ten commissioner talks hoops, football
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Big Ten basketball media day falls each year in late October. The respite from college football season often comes just as a winter chill starts to settle over Chicago.
Thursday’s media day was a bit usual — the weather was unseasonably warm, and there were questions about college football for conference Commissioner Jim Delany.
Reporters were curious about the stark contrast between the poor play of the Big Ten football programs and the optimism surrounding men’s basketball. The Big Ten had five teams ranked in the USA TODAY Sports preseason coaches poll — including Indiana at No. 1, Ohio State at No. 4 and Michigan at No. 5 — and is widely considered to be the best hoops conference in the nation.
“We’ve got a lot of (basketball) programs in good shape, got a lot of returning players,” said Delany, who played basketball at North Carolina in the late 1960s. “I would say this is kind of a culmination of a build. We’ve been pretty good over the last three or four years.
“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.”
Big Ten football teams have struggled both during non-conference play — think Michigan vs. Alabama, Iowa vs. Central Michigan and Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech — and within the conference — think Michigan State losing to Iowa. Michigan is 22nd in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, and that’s the best ranking of any Big Ten team.
And let’s not forget that the conference hasn’t fared well in bowl games the past few years, particularly against teams from the Southeastern Conference.
“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 … [For more on Big Ten commissioner talks strong hoops, weak football, click here.]