Q&A with Nebraska and Big Ten Administration

By NU Athletic Communications
Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On if there is an ongoing expansion plan

"With all of the changes occurred arund the country, some institutions have changed a couple fo times, many of them have changed once. Really, a conference is like a family, especially with a small conference. When a small conference comes together, it is really important to spend a lot of time getting to know each other and understand how business is done, how competition is carried out. I know that we're coming into this with a good spirit and open mind. I've always sensed that real integration of institutions takes time. I think we could do much better than a lot of us have done. I'm not criticizing anybody, I think we could have done better with Penn State by spending more time with them, with the alumni and the media markets and the various publics. I think what happened is that we got busy with our day-to-day operations, and we forgot that joining a new conference is always interesting. We could have done better. This is a pretty quick integration as integrations go. We'll gather competitive schedules for a year from September and we'll have to do a lot of work in that area. More importantly, I think it is just spending time with the people here in the state of Nebraska. We're still going to be open and aware of what is going on around us. We're going to continue to study the process. I don't think the change that is in play is going to fade anytime soon. It could be lesser change than what a lot of people speculate, maybe it will be something seismic others have speculated on. For us, we're in a great place. We're stronger today than we were yesterday. That is a result of Nebraska's application and their acceptance into the Big Ten. They have an unbelievable athletic program, and unbelievable tradition and legacy. It's going to make us better compared to who we were before they joined the Big Ten Conference. I don't have any particular time line other than we're operating at a 12-month time line. I want to go back to our presidents, I want to talk to our athletic directors, take a deep breath and see what the possibilities may be."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On if they have considered Texas

"We're not and have not, if you've followed what we've done when we've talked about an institution. Our goals from the beginning have been not to embarrass ourselves, try to avoid embarrassing anyone else. The process for us is a marriage between two competing ideas. One, transparency, we'll study it and two, confidentiality until we're sure about what we want to do. That is because not every  institution is interested in the Big Ten and the Big Ten is not interested in every institution. It has to be an academic fit, a cultural fit, a competitive fit and an idea of what our conference is about. There are some great institutions, it doesn't make anybody good, it doesn't make anybody bad, and it just has to have a fit. Penn State had it, Nebraska had it, there may be others, but I won't comment on a particular institution."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On having a conference championship game

"I presume that we will. I presume that we will, but as I said, our athletic directors have looked at the issue of a larger conference with the presumption of a championship game. The issues associated with the condition of competition and number of games are to be determined. Our presidents have made it very clear to us that they want to oversee the process, not do the process, but oversee it."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On what Nebraska brings to the conference academically

"First of all, they have a similar institutional vision. They are engaged in undergraduate education and graduate education as well as public service. They are also a member of the AAU. While that is not necessarily anything game-defining, it is a characteristic of all 11 of our institutions. It's the beginning of huge aspirations to impact the state and the region, they share that with the other institutions of the Big Ten."

Athletic Director Tom Osborne
On if there is interest in keeping Big 12 rivalries going
"I think we would be interested in playing some of the Big 12 schools. Whether they would be interested in playing us or not I don't know. I thought about that, we could play KU, K-State, maybe Oklahoma, Texas or whoever. Obviously you couldn't play a lot of them, maybe once a year. It's kind of interesting because I looked back at the previous schedule. We played Big Ten teams 42 times since I came to the university in 1962. We played Minnesota 14 times, we played Wisconsin something like six times, Penn State seven times, we've played Michigan a couple of times, Michigan State. We've played every Big Ten school at some point; of course we played Ohio State in the 1950s. I would think that it would be something similar to that with the Big 12 if they would be willing to do that. There is proximity, we don't want to neglect that."

Athletic Director Tom Osborne
On if there is a rush to integrate
"Once you make a change you'd like to do it tomorrow. I was very pleased with the way Harvey mentioned they thought they would do this in 2011. We're going to compete hard this year. It may not be a real easy year for us on the athletic field, probably to just have one year would be best."

Athletic Director Tom Osborne
On how many non-conference games they will play
"I don't think so right now, it will depend on how many schools there are to play. I'm sure every school will play at least three non-conference. The thing that may happen is that the conference shifts to more games, you may see people wanting more home games. "

Athletic Director Tom Osborne
On if travel for sports will be longer or more expensive
"It will probably be a little bit less bus travel and little more air travel. The traveling part is a small part of our budget. It's something you have to look at. Traveling to Minneapolis or Chicago is really not all that bad."

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman
On when discussion started

"As I indicated to the board, we had informal discussions prior to the Big 12 meetings. The Big 12 meeting certainly gave an ultimatum that all schools give a commitment by this Monday. It escalated the process. I called Jim and some of their members of the presidential leadership at the Big Ten. I told them the circumstances, if Nebraska was a school that the Big Ten wanted to consider, my options were very difficult. I also told them that it was my problem, not his. It turns out we were able to come to this in the time."

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman
On any penalty they will face from the Big 12
"There is a penalty in the bylaw of the Big 12 for leaving the conference. It is a difficult one to understand. I think there are many reasons why in the context of what is happening around the country that a penalty would be inappropriate. We'll obviously have to wait and see what happens. The bylaws of the conference are online; maybe you can help me understand it. They appear to be self executed about what happens when you withdraw from the conference giving a notice. We'll see what happens."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On a buy-in for Nebraska for equity sharing in the TV network
"What we were able to accomplish is really based on a couple of principles. We've been very fortunate we have a good foundation in the Big Ten. Like Nebraska, many of our schools have great crowds for football and for basketball games and out here you've got a volleyball program. Really the recent success of these programs is based on people coming to games. We've also been fortunate to have a great relationship with the Rose Bowl and this is a contributor to who we are and what we try to accomplish. Recently we established the Big Ten Network and that's been a great success. When we thought about expansion, we thought about the principles, because we believe in sharing resources equally. One of the hard things about expansion is knowing exactly quite what it means in advance because contracts need to be negotiated. So we hit on really a few principles. One is that we wanted to maintain the revenue strains that our schools have. We didn't want to have less than the larger conferences. We also wanted to make sure that if someone changed conferences that they would be made whole from where they expected to be in their other conferences. Then we wanted to get to a point where everybody was equal. That's an important principle to us. We wouldn't want anybody who didn't want equality. We wouldn't want anybody who wouldn't feel comfortable being a member of an equally sharing group. The ramp up to that is proprietary. It's not public information, but it's been agreed to by our board of directors. There'll be a point where everything is equal. In the short term, everybody will be made whole, and then we'll all be one happy, full, equal revenue-sharing group 12."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On if he's pondering a name change for the conference
"When Penn State was added, I just presumed that it would be a different group, a different name. So I was going on that presumption. I found out pretty quickly that Big Ten was a name that carried a lot of meaning to a lot of people. As a result, we kept the name and inserted the number inside the name. To be honest, we haven't had a lot of discussion about it. But there are a lot of people out there with computers who manipulate the name and the numbers. I think it's something we're just going to have to figure out over the next few months, but I don't know the answer to your question."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On if any schools made agreements in regard to scheduling issues
"Basically what we found, again because we've studied other expansions, some people would grow and then figure out later on that there's a basic notion that if you play a certain number of football games or a certain number of basketball games and you expand your membership and you don't change the number of games you play, you play everybody once. Right now our balance has been in football eight and four. We're going into this with the idea that rivalries do matter. They really do matter. But not all rivalries are equal. We have some institutions that have three rivals, some schools that maybe have a modest rivalry. We're going to go into this with the idea of appreciating and valuing those rivalries, but within the context of competitive fairness. It's sort of funny, inside the Big Ten, there aren't a lot of votes taken. Harvey was talking about 11-to-1 votes. We took a vote today that was a unanimous vote, but I can count on one hand the number of votes that I can recall in the last 10 years. People bring up ideas, they discuss them and they're reluctant to make a lot of change unless there's a strong consensus for change and they listen to each other about the different points of view."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On the influence of the improvement of Nebraska's football program
"I think Coach Osborne made a great point this morning. He said athletics can be cyclical, and it can be tough because you have good years and you have bad years. We had a great year in football this year, but we had four or five years that weren't so good preceding it. We had a pretty good year in basketball. We've had nine teams in the Final Four in the last 10 years. We've only won one championship, but we were competing at a high level. So I know that Nebraska's programs are good. I know that they've been good all the time. I can't tell you that the emergence of a particular team in any particular year would've produced a different view on our part, because it is really is about institutions. Sports success in a particular year can come and go. I tend to think that you have to look at an institution's athletic program when it's at its worst, not at its best, and then make the judgment. At its worst, Nebraska's got a great athletic program and a great institution."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On how long he's had his eye on Nebraska
"Twenty-one years (laughter). Although we couldn't get beyond 11 members because I guess we like prime numbers or something and we don't like symmetry. But everybody's been thinking we're going to go to a 12th institution and we just never did. We had some conversations with Notre Dame. We initiate; they thought they want to stay on their path. We respect that because that means that there's not a fit in that situation. It's nothing about us and it's nothing about them. It's just about fit, and that's very important to us. Our point was that we were having success, we liked the way that it was. Championship games weren't that important. We think the SEC has done a fabulous job with their championship game, and the Big 12 has done a good job with their championship game. Sometimes people lose their BCS opportunity. Sometimes it's an extra obstacle to winning a national championship. It's a great emotional device. We sort of recognize the meaning of the game as the championship game. We would have never expanded for a championship game, although some of our coaches have recognized the last few years they'd like to be playing deeper into December. But if you want to arrange that, that's arrangeable. You don't need a championship game to do that. I've always known about Nebraska. I'm not from the Midwest, but I remember the 1970s, the '71 team, Johnny Rodgers, then Tommy Frazier. We've known about Nebraska football, known they've had some great success in other sports like volleyball, baseball, wrestling. So we're very familiar with your programs."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delany
On if Nebraska broke up the Big 12 Conference
"I think you can have a conference with 10 members. You can have a conference with 11 members. We've had a conference with 10 and with 11. There's not a single departure in the Big Ten that would change the Big Ten. We would be 11 or nine, or whatever we would be. The University of Chicago left in the 40s, and we were the Big Nine. I don't buy that any one institution is responsible for anything of that dimension. I know it's a good storyline and it's a good narrative, but there are a lot of other ways to describe what is happening there."


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