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Big Ten's Jim Delany suggests NFL minor league amid pay-for-play debate

The Big Ten commissioner implies players should be able to jump straight from high school to the pros.


Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has some strong opinions on compensation for college athletes and the NCAA. Delany doesn't want to pay athletes, but he does think establishing some sort of separate minor leagues for football and basketball would give players an opportunity to get paid directly out of high school.

The NBA Developmental League already exists, but the NFL doesn't have a true minor-league system. While there are lower-tier professional football leagues -- the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League, to name a couple -- they do not have direct affiliation with the NFL.

With illicit-benefit scandals cropping up at major schools every year, mostly involving seedy boosters or agents, many believe some sort of compensation for college players would alleviate that issue. Delany isn't on board with that idea. He believes college athletics should retain their amateurism -- whatever that means at this point -- and points to the success of minor league baseball as evidence that his plan would work. He discussed his plan with the media on Wednesday.

"Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us what we've been doing."

"You don't have to play for the Redskins or the Bears at 17, but you could develop IMG. My gosh, there are lots of trainers out there. There are quarterback coaches teaching passing skills, guys lifting weights, guys training and running. They can get as strong and as fast in that environment as they can in this environment. Plus, they don't have to go to school. Plus, they can sell their likeness and do whatever they want to do. We don't want to do that. What we want to do is do what we've been doing for 100 years."

Obviously, Delany believes the NCAA needs a major overhaul. At this point, most college athletic directors and presidents agree in general, but do not want an overhaul to include paying players. The National Association of College Athletic Directors released a statement on Wednesday, September 25, denouncing the idea of "pay-for-play." Many college football players -- you know, the ones doing the playing -- showed solidarity against such a bar during their games last Saturday by wearing "APU" markers. APU apparently stands for "All Players United," and it's meant to be a rallying cry for athletes whom believe they are being abused by the NCAA.

Whatever the outcome, big changes appear to be coming for the NCAA. Mark Emmert, president of college athletics' governing body, has acknowledged as much and he has made it clear that he is open to adjusting the model. Whether or not Delany's plan for more established minor leagues is viable remains to be seen. His idealism and sentimentality for true amateurism in college sports may be a little trite and outdated at this point, but at least the commissioner is bringing something to the table.

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