O'Bannon v. NCAA: Jim Delany admits Division III claim was bluff

Jason Szenes

Shockingly, some Big Ten officials might not be cool with giving up athletics revenues.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who previously said that the Big Ten would rather give up athletics revenues and move to a "need-based financial aid system" like Division III programs use than pay players, now admits that Big Ten university administrators might not be on board with that (via USA Today's Steve Berkowitz):

In their filing Thursday, the plaintiffs' lawyers' wrote that in a deposition on May 29 Delany "noted that others within the Big Ten would disagree with his view." In an excerpt of the deposition also filed Thursday, Delany said that among Big Ten school presidents and chancellors "some probably would -- may be disagreeable" with Delany's statement about how the schools would respond if they had to share considerable revenue with athletes.

Delany made his admission in deposition testimony as part of O'Bannon v. NCAA, the antitrust suit brought by former players for damages due to the NCAA's use of player likenesses. The parties to that suit face a key class certification hearing on June 20. Delany's statement, and those of a handful of other administrators, were being used by the NCAA as proof that players would be worse off in a pay-for-play system.

Delany's initial statement was met with skepticism. The Big Ten has invested heavily in its cable network BTN, holds a lucrative broadcast agreement with ABC/ESPN and is preparing for a new broadcast rights negotiation in 2016. The conference paid $25.7 million per institution last season, and expects $40-50 million per school in payouts after the new broadcast agreement is reached. The chances of broadcasters and cable providers paying nearly a billion dollars per year for non-scholarship sports were obviously slim, and apparently administrators were not on board with throwing their million-dollar baby out with the bathwater.

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