July 28, 2014
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany concluded the opening session of the 2014 Big Ten Football Media Days on Monday at the Hilton Chicago by recognizing, first and foremost, the commitment to academic achievement and broad-based athletic success shared by all 14 member institutions. He also welcomed Maryland and Rutgers to the conference and discussed the 119th season of Big Ten football, including new divisions, an expanded bowl lineup and the debut of the College Football Playoff.
“We're an academic athletic association and the quantity, quality and scale of what we do is pretty much unprecedented in intercollegiate athletics today,” said Delany.
With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, the conference now features 14 world-class research institutions stretching from the Colorado border to the Atlantic Ocean. All Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago form the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), an academic consortium which is widely considered to be the model for effective and voluntary collaboration among top research universities. In 2012, CIC institutions had over $10 billion in research expenditures, $4 billion more than any other conference.
The Big Ten leads all conferences with 5.7 million alumni and more than 520,000 students. Nearly 1,600 student-athletes from Big Ten institutions have been named Academic All-Americans. Big Ten programs lead all Football Bowl Subdivision schools in Academic Progress Rate average for football and rank first among peer institutions in Graduation Success Rate in football and all sports. Of the 42 different sports offered at the 14 current Big Ten schools, seven teams earned national championships in 2013-14, marking the sixth consecutive year current member schools have recorded at least seven national titles.
“What these institutions have been able to produce now and over time is the gold standard for integrating quality educational outcomes and nationally competitive athletics,” said Delany.
Maryland and Rutgers commemorated their official entrance into the Big Ten with a series of events on the East Coast in late June and early July that featured participation from all conference members. The excitement surrounding the addition of the two new schools was evident at each stop, creating great anticipation for the upcoming academic year.
As the Big Ten has expanded into its new region, the conference has worked hard to become a part of the community. Recent announcements have included a partnership with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the addition of conference office space in New York City and Washington, D.C., the creation of the Gavitt Tipoff Games and the placement of the 2017 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
“It's been an exciting and busy year for us, as we spent a lot of time in the East Coast over the last year,” said Delany. “In addition to announcing Maryland and Rutgers two years ago, we've been busy making friends and building relationships. This is a new region for us, but we couldn't be more pleased with the fit between Maryland and Rutgers and other Big Ten institutions. They truly reflect in every way the academic and athletic commitment to their student-athletes.”
As the Big Ten opens its 119th season of football, college athletics is in a period of dynamic change and transformation. Standing on the same stage one year ago, Delany outlined a vision of reform to improve the complete educational experience of student-athletes. Every proposal Delany discussed last year was tied directly to the value of education - from cost of attendance, to time demands, to life-time guarantees. One year later, those concepts remain an important part of the national conversation.
“Our student-athletes compete in football and many other sports, but this is part of their educational experience,” said Delany. “We've heard from several conferences about their willingness to support cost of education. Why cost of education? Because it's directly tied to education. This is what the college model is about so that education and college athletics is part of the system.
“If you take a close look at the June 24 presidentially drafted Big Ten statement, you can see fairly clearly our athletic directors, our coaches and our presidents and our faculty are all in the same place. They want education to be fundamentally integrated with their athletic experience.”
Beginning this season, the Big Ten will feature the largest and most diverse postseason lineup in conference history. The Big Ten’s bowl lineup is highlighted by games against quality opponents in California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Tennessee and Texas, along with the opportunity to visit other outstanding postseason venues in Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana as part of the College Football Playoff. The College Football Playoff selection committee will choose the best four teams based on championships won, body of work, head-to-head results and strength of schedule.
“What we've tried to do is structure our conference schedule and our scheduling to deliver an opportunity for our teams if they're successful,” said Delany. “We make no predictions. We make no excuses. We will play one major intersectional game, nine conference games, a championship game and all games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.”
The Big Ten’s 2014-19 bowl lineup also features a new selection process to ensure outstanding bowl matchups and fresh postseason destinations. Each bowl partner will work with the Big Ten to create the best possible matchup based upon an agreed set of parameters, with final approval by the conference office for all team selections.
“Going forward, bowls will make selections and the conference will make approvals,” Delany said. “We're doing this to make sure that our athletes, our coaches, our teams and our fan bases have diverse experiences over a period of time.”
As the Big Ten opens its first season with 14 member institutions, the conference celebrates the same focus on academic and athletic excellence that have marked its long history.
“We've had 118 years of quality academics and athletics,” said Delany. “We're in a very dynamic period of change and transformation and I couldn't feel better about my colleagues in the Big Ten, from presidents to athletic directors, to coaches, as well as the leaders in other conferences around the country.”