Big Ten and Pac-12 Commissioners Talk Changes to College Sports

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Seismic shifts are on the horizon for college sports. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott addressed some of the more pressing concerns and challenges ahead for revenue-generating sports in the major conferences in a Q&A session at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco Wednesday.

The entire discussion airs tonight on Pac-12 Networks’ Pac-12 Presents: Inside College Football at 10 p.m. PT.

“This is a statement that the leaders of our institutions of intercollegiate athletics are reform-minded, want to do more, will do more,” Scott said.

Change is inevitable as public scrutiny deepens and Congressional intervention becomes a possibility. California Rep. Tony Cardenas is, along with Committee on Oversight and Government Reform member Elijah Cummings, spearheading a look into the NCAA from Washington.

The leading universities and conferences must take a proactive approach in the efforts to reform college sports, or, according to Scott, risk their extinction.

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A clear division between conferences in college football—the sport responsible for the vast majority of college athletics’ total revenue—makes for a clearer division in restructuring NCAA rules.

Beyond their place among this so-called “Group of Five,” the Big Ten and Pac-12 commissioners are at the forefront of the shift in college football and men’s basketball.

From the Big Ten, former Northwestern football players are leading efforts to unionize. From the Pac-12, former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon is leading an antitrust class-action suit against the NCAA for improper use of athletes’ likeness.

The first active college athletes to join O’Bannon’s suit were then-Arizona football players Jake Fischer and Jake Smith.

I asked Fischer about his involvement in the lawsuit last July at Pac-12 media day. He advocated for more assurances that student-athletes can finish their degrees and access to long-term healthcare: not a simple “pay-for-play” model.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said that he supported some changes, specifically citing an overhaul to the meal system. Rodriguez’s suggestion of unlimited meals for all athletes, scholarship or walk-on, across all sports was one change the NCAA implemented last month.

Another possible change Delany and Scott discussed Wednesday is a more modern, full cost-of-attendance scholarship policy.

After tonight’s 10 p.m. PT debut, Pac-12 Presents: Inside College Football re-airs Saturday on Pac-12 Networks 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. PT.