July 31, 2007
"We're staring down the 112th college football season, which is tremendously exciting. Before I start, I'd like to take a moment to mention the three coaches in the past 14 months that have passed away from our lives into the next set of challenges. Those are three coaches that represent what is best not only about Big Ten football or Mid-American football, but all the things that are great about the sport. All three guys were great leaders and great people and we're going to miss them a lot."
Overview of conference's competitive strengths:
"The Big Ten intercollegiate athletics are in a very healthy state, in particular, the sport of football. We've had teams that can not only compete on the national basis as we've had two teams win a national championship in the past 10 years and competing for several more, but also within the conference. We've had eight different champions or co-champions in the past decade. Over the past 19 years, we've raised average attendance from 57,000 to an average of over 70,000 per game. "
"When you have the Big Ten Network, you have more hours to produce games, more room for content and more room for a broader base to distribute this network. From the quotes out there, you might think the Big Ten is about to expand when that is not the case. What I said was, every three to five years we look at expansion and we will continue to look at it. We haven't looked at the issue since we had the conversation with Notre Dame. It is not a front-burner issue. Since those talks, we have not had conversations with anyone, nor do we plan on having those conversations with anyone."
On the Big Ten Network:
"It's a tremendously exciting time for us. About three years ago we sat down with ESPN to see where we were going with them and there were a couple things that were pretty obvious. One was that the overall value of the package was pretty stable. We didn't see growth there and neither did they. Another was that the syndication of programming was not vibrant or growing like we hoped it would. We were seeing more games migrate to ESPNU and ESPN 360. That wasn't new because we saw lots of programs migrate to ESPN2 and ESPNNews when those started. We thought it was time to look at another way of getting more events and more university content out to our fans. In 1990, we had 19 games on television. In 2007, we had 70 on television. It was our goal to take what we had, make it national, grow it locally and to expand to opportunities not only for our football teams but other sports as well."
"We are dealing with the gambling issue and that is an ongoing challenge. I've always said that if there's one issue that could bring intercollegiate athletics to its knees, it's the gambling issue because it goes right to the integrity of the game. For the last three years, we've had a program in place to do background checks of football and basketball officials. We have secondary in depth review if we find anything that is of concern and we also opened up lines of communication with the FBI and monitoring lines in Vegas. The issues are there and for us to deny they are there would be naïve. We've got young 18 or 19-year-old athletes and they need guidance. They need information."
On banned substances:
"Another challenge we have is related to banned substances. The Olympic movement has done a great job in challenging that area. The U.S. has taken that more seriously in the past few years. There are two levels where drug testing occurs: one at the NCAA level and this year, our athletic directors and presidents unanimously approved a conference drug-testing program that will hit about 10 percent of our athletes annually. That's an area now where we have three lines of defense."