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Big Ten supports greater autonomy for power leagues

07/29/2014, 12:00am EDT


CHICAGO — A week after Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby sent out a warning call regarding cheating in Division I college sports, Bowlsby’s Big Ten counterpart also addressed the topic Monday.

“Bob was a little more colorful in his language but I will keep my words where they are right now,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.

Bowlsby told reporters at the Big 12 media days last week in Dallas that “cheating pays.”

“I think the vast majority of people in intercollegiate athletics are of high integrity, they're doing it for the right reasons,” Bowlsby said. “But right now, if you want to cheat, you can do it and you can get away with it. And there are benefits for doing that. And that needs to change.”

Delany believes that a consortium of conferences would help strengthen enforcement.

“My hope is that over the next year to 18 months, the major conferences can come together and we can find ways and processes and procedures that fit with what we’re trying to achieve: a level of deterrence, compliance, and punishment if it’s earned,” Delany said.

“We need a system that works. There’s no doubt NCAA enforcement has struggled over the past few years.”

That segued into discussion of a move towards autonomy for the Southeastern Conference, the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the ACC, and the Big 12 — big-budget conferences who want greater authority over their own spending decisions through the money they earn as it pertains to scholarships, continuing education, medical care, insurance, and expenses.

“Do we try to make the playing field as level as possible, and take a school with an operating budget of $10 million and apply rules to make it exactly the same for a school like Michigan with an operating budget of $150 million?” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told reporters.

“The evolution of this group of five is really an attempt for the first time to say, ‘here are 65 schools that have big stadiums, earn significant amounts of revenue.’ We’ve got to create some rules and some standards and some programs that are specific to this. That’s the fight that’s going on with the NCAA. The group of five says, we can afford do these things, we’re competitive to do these things, we’re compelled to do these things and show us a way within the NCAA that this will be allowed.”

The NCAA’s board of directors will vote on the “big five” proposal Aug. 7, and that vote has to be ratified by the NCAA membership. Delany predicted the outcome of the vote.

“I do anticipate it will capture autonomy issues that are important to us for assisting our student-athletes in a way that makes sense,” Delany said. “I would be very surprised if it doesn’t pass.”

UNIFYING MOVEMENT: A union movement that threatened to fracture the Northwestern football program may have done just the opposite.

“I'm proud of the maturity our guys demonstrated throughout the whole process that we went through this offseason,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose Wildcats went 5-7 last season. “I believe there's no more unified football program in the country. We've been through more since probably January than most, and it's been nothing but a positive and nothing but unifying in our locker room.”

Players at Northwestern voted in April on whether to exercise their right to form a union. The landmark vote will not be counted until — and if — the National Labor Relations Board upholds a previous ruling that the athletes are university employees.

BECKMAN CONFIDENT: Illinois coach Tim Beckman begins his third season in Champaign with a hot seat and a frigid wife.

That's because the Illini have yet to make a bowl game under Beckman.

His first two Illinois teams went 6-24 and 1-15 in the Big Ten.

“My wife locks the door on me in December because she would like to be somewhere a little warmer,” he said with a laugh.

If Beckman is interested in keeping his job, he would be wise to keep her happy this winter. The former University of Toledo coach acknowledged the heat is on.

“You know, that's the life of a football coach,” he said. “If you're not going to have that life, then you shouldn't be in this profession. So it's just a part of it.”

Beckman remains relentlessly confident, though, calling his team “young but experienced.” Counting specialists, the Illini return 40 players from their two-deep roster last season.

“We're very, very excited,” he said.

SHAKEN BUT OK: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer confirmed Devin Smith is fine after the big-play senior wide receiver was involved in a serious car accident last month.

According to the Canton Repository, Smith lost control of his car and flipped into a utility pole at 8:30 a.m. on June 29. Smith was reportedly cited by Canton police for failure to control.

HOT SEAT? Michigan coach Brady Hoke is likely aware of the pressure that faces him as he begins his fourth season, but downplayed it.

“To worry about what other people think? I’ve never worried about what other people think,” Hoke said.

Frank Clark made light of the fact that many believe Hoke could be coaching for his job this season.

“Who isn’t on the hot seat?” the defensive end said. “He is always sweating and looks nervous.”

But quarterback Devin Gardner took some responsibility upon himself.

“My job is to make sure he’s not on the hot seat,” Gardner said. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

STILL IN THE AIR: Hoke was asked about the status of the hardship waiver filed on behalf of running back Ty Isaac, who transferred from Southern California to Michigan in order to be closer to his family.

“We don't know of anything,” Hoke said. “We expect Ty to report on August 3rd, and we're still going through the hardship with compliance and all those things.”

The NCAA typically grants hardship waivers if a player transfers to a school within 100 miles of his hometown. Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is more than 250 miles east of Isaac’s hometown of Joliet, Ill.

BIG BOY: Big things are happening at Purdue.

Coach Darrell Hazell said new offensive guard Corey Clements — a junior college transfer from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College — checked in at 6-foot-8, 400 pounds.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

Contact David Briggs at:, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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