COMMISSIONERS SOMETIMES HAVE BAD IDEAS BUT HOOBOY IS THIS A GRANDIOSELY BAD ONE
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced his eventual retirement this week. Better people won’t say anything about it, and would just let it pass without note.
But: since we never said we were better, here goes. Jim Delany’s legacy is that he made money for his schools, but not for the athletes, and in doing so will take something like $20 million in bonuses before he leaves his job. He brought Rutgers and Maryland into the Big Ten for some reason, and started a conference cable network that printed money for the conference’s schools.
There’s more. He occasionally lobbied passive-aggressive shots at less academically prestigious conferences with “different priorities,” all while watching Big Ten Football Teams fall out of competition for national titles, and their schools erupt in a series of athletic department scandals as bad as any in memory. He thought “Leaders and legends” was a legitimate name for football divisions, and blocked the development of a playoff at every turn. He lost the battle against a playoff, and trashed “Leaders and legends” for the more palatable “East and West”.
Ultimately, Jim Delany’s great talent was selling the same product as before, but now at higher prices. Someone will think he’s a hero or remarkable for that, but that person does not have to be you.
Counterpoint: At least Jim Delany is not Larry Scott.
Larry Scott, the PAC-12 commissioner fond of expensive real estate and getting the People’s Republic of China hooked on PAC-12 volleyball, may still be beyond Delany in a lot of ways. Jim Delany, for instance, didn’t decide to build their network in the most expensive real estate in America, or have a remote officiating replay scandal where a lawyer with no officiating experience overruled actual refs on the field. Jim Delany makes money — some $2.4 million a year — but not Scott’s eye-popping $4.8 million a year complete with private jet travel.
Unlike Scott’s conference, Big Ten football teams sometimes win big games on the national stage.
Jim Delany also doesn’t have what may be the worst single idea in the history of college athletics: Asking for investment from venture capital. Scott has said he wants around $500 million from venture capital to fuel the conference’s development plans.
At a $5 billion valuation as a conference, that’s not a massive claim on the PAC-12’s soul. Yet, given the pillaging venture capital can do on a company’s assets, that’s enough to set up the PAC-12 as the first conference to ever have layoffs.
Here’s how it would work.
The PAC-12 takes the money. The easy part, and the first mistake! Blow it on Herman Miller chairs for the office, a pointless and doomed expansion of the Pac-12 Network in India and China, or Larry Scott’s entirely necessary suborbital space station/corporate space retreat. The space station will fall from orbit and burn up in the atmosphere three months after launch. The PAC-12 Network’s Indo-Chinese campaign will end after six months with no agreements because a conference that can barely get some major American cable companies to carry them stands no chance with like, CCTV.
The chairs will be great. Honestly, the best. No complaints with the chairs whatsoever, y’all.
The returns on investment will be less than expected. Will this be the PAC-12’s fault? Maybe, but even then it won’t entirely be theirs. Venture capital usually has deranged profit expectations, and in college athletics VC won’t find the massive margins they need to begin with, much less from a network dependent on PAC-12 track and field to carry it through the offseason.
Will this be considered? No, not at all, lol, nope. In fact, the PAC-12 could go back and ask for more money because “Current market conditions and inclement economic weather have clouded the short-term yields on our product, however with further investment the long-run returns of [COMPLETELY FICTIONAL NUMBER] are still possible.” Then, they’d get deeper in hock to people who foolishly expected this respectable house cat of a conference to become a lion simply through the miracle of investment.
Either way: The piper must be paid, because when they give you $500 million, they expect it back plus some. Yes, even if you blew it all on space hotels and broadcasting the Pac-12 Wrestling Championships in HD to twenty-seven viewers in Hyderabad. (Again, the office chairs were fine, 10/10, would purchase again.)
The PAC-12 reduces costs and sells assets to boost the bottom line, and becomes the first conference to ever layoff entire athletic programs
This money’s not gonna pay itself back, after all. Is it reasonable? Not at all. Will it make sense as anything but a theatrical bloodletting for theatrics’ sake? Barely, if at all, but that’s not what this is about.
What it’s about is figuring out how to save money by reducing the payouts to underperforming schools, i.e. schools we can cut without too much fuss from anyone that matters in the financial sense.
The two least profitable schools in the Pac-12? That’d be Utah and Oregon State, though they might not be the two cut for a few reasons. Utah has Salt Lake City, which is not a huge television market, but still bigger than say, Pullman’s. Also Utah has not recently had an athletic director talk all the mess about the Pac-12’s commissioner, as Washington State’s has, and continues to do from his new post in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Bill Moos! He really doesn’t think Larry Scott is doing a good job!)
It’d be Washington State and Oregon State. Sorry, rent’s due, and the note on this space station is just killing us. Move the headquarters to someplace that isn’t the middle of San Francisco? What? Sorry? This connection is breaking up. We’ll call you when we get off this jet.
This extremely private jet.