Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who helped orchestrate Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to its new league in 2011, is retiring after the 2019-2020 sports season.
The league announced Monday that Delany would retire at the end of his current contract, which expires June 30, 2020. The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors has already begun a search for Delany’s replacement.
“Jim has had an extraordinary impact on the Big Ten Conference, its member institutions, administrators, students and coaches since 1989,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, chair of the Council. “He has been a forward-thinking, collaborative and decisive leader in every aspect of conference proceedings. We thank him for his dedicated service to date and look forward to working with him through the conclusion of his contract.”
“It’s been an amazing opportunity to serve and lead these preeminent institutions, presidents, administrators, coaches and students,” Delany said. “It is incredibly fulfilling to support the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been afforded an opportunity to obtain best-in-class educations as a result of the invaluable, one-of-a-kind lessons learned through the unique combination of athletic and classroom competition. I would like to recognize and thank each of my colleagues for being such invaluable members of, and contributors to, the Big Ten Conference team, while acknowledging that there is still plenty of work to be done. I look forward to continuing that work through the balance of my term.”
Delany had been in the commissioner’s role since 1989. Since then, he’s added four teams to the league — Penn State in 1993, Nebraska in 2011 and Rutgers and Maryland in 2014 — and launched Big Ten Network, a profitable channel that features league sports and helped bring more than $50 million in revenue per school last year. He’s generally considered one of the most powerful voices in collegiate sports.
It was the Big Ten, with its interest in expansion in 2010, that kicked off a massive round of conference realignment. The league eventually settled on Nebraska becoming the 12th school.
The Big Ten has taken some significant hits to its reputation, however, in the past eight years, starting in 2011 with the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State — for which the Nittany Lions’ athletic department was harshly punished — and continuing with the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal at Michigan State in recent years. In the span of a decade, the league’s preeminent football power, Ohio State, is on its fourth head coach. Michigan and Nebraska football are on their third.