IOWA CITY – Beyond stops at football camps at Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, Jim Delany covered a lot of territory Thursday.
The Big Ten commissioner, who has overseen unprecedented growth in intercollegiate athletics during his 25 years on the job, shared his vision for how an expanded 14-team conference will continue to maximize exposure while not taking anything for granted.
“We have had 10 years of really good growth, but whether it continues is to be determined,’’ Delany said following a visit to the Hawkeyes’ preseason camp. “Nothing goes up in a straight line. Technology can change. Law could change. We don’t prepare budgets on everlasting upward trajectories. There are limitations. There are parameters.’’
Yet, Delany sees room for growth as Rutgers and Maryland bring new Eastern markets to the conference.
The decision to play a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016 and the realignment of two seven-team divisions increase the league’s value to television rights holders.
Delany said the league is now open to the possibility of playing conference football games at night in November, something it discouraged in the past, and will likely experiment in that area over the next three seasons.
He does not envision Big Ten games being played on Thursday or Friday nights although he said it is likely several season-opening nonconference games on those nights will continue to be scheduled and he believes there is a place for a Big Ten game to be played on the Friday after Thanksgiving each year.
Iowa and Nebraska will play for the third straight year on that date this season and through 2017, but Delany left open the option for other conference games to be moved to that high-visibility television window in the future.
“We appreciate that Iowa and Nebraska have been willing to do it, and I hope they continue to stay open and flexible on it,’’ Delany said.
Delany called the winds of conference expansion “pretty calm’’ at the present time, believing that conferences are all working to integrate new members.
He also is concerned about the potential for overexposure as the number of bowl games grows to 38 beginning in 2014.
“Obviously, there’s a greater demand for games today than there were 25 years ago, but part of that supply-demand can get excessive,’’ said Delany, who is a proponent of requiring teams to win seven games to be bowl eligible.
“I think when people are moving games to Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to get on TV, that creates one set of issues. When they create games and don’t have winning teams or at least .500 teams to fill it, that’s another problem … I don’t always think more is better.’’
Delany’s comments came during the 10th stop on a tour of preseason football camps on all 12 Big Ten campuses during the month of August.
In addition to watching a brief portion of a practice, Delany spoke to the Iowa team.
He encouraged the Hawkeyes to make smart decisions off the field and wished them well both during the season and in the new academic term.
In recognition of his 25th anniversary as commissioner, Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta presented Delany with a captain’s chair. A brass plaque affixed to the back included the message, “25 B1G YEARS, Congratulations from your many friends at the University of Iowa.’’