CHICAGO — Before the Big Ten Conference football coaches met the media, commissioner Jim Delany called them into a room for a heart-to-heart talk Thursday. The message was simple: no more problems with the NCAA because they’ve embarrassed the league.
CHICAGO — Before the Big Ten Conference football coaches met the media, commissioner Jim Delany called them into a room for a heart-to-heart talk Thursday.
The message was simple: no more problems with the NCAA because they’ve embarrassed the league.
With Ohio State going before the NCAA committee on infractions on Aug. 12 and Michigan less than nine months removed from an investigation that found the Wolverines violated rules regarding offseason workouts, the Big Ten’s reputation as a clean league — a big deal for a proud league taking some lumps inside the painted lines — took a big hit.
“I spent an hour with 12 football coaches,” Delany said during the first of two Big Ten media days. “They had an opportunity to hear my comments. I had an opportunity to look them in the eye. I wanted to call them together today and speak to them candidly and from the heart.
“In my view, we’ve been hurt as a conference by two institutions that have been involved with NCAA allegations and findings. I wanted to let them know I expect them to lead programs and not put us in that circumstance again.”
A former NCAA enforcement director who has a law degree, Delany is known for playing within the rules, although he unknowingly became involved with the scandal at Ohio State. The Big Ten lobbied for the suspensions of five players be pushed back to this season. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four teammates were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl despite improper benefits.
A month later, an internal Ohio State probe found coach Jim Tressel lied about his knowledge of the violations. He was forced out in May.
“I always had confidence in the coaches,” Delany said. “Coach Tressel made a mistake. He paid dearly for the mistake. Michigan had a problem with out-of-season practice. That was embarrassing. It reflected poorly on us.
“I can’t remember a time where there’s questions over various programs (nationally), whether it’s about agents, recruitment or the academic side. We had two of them in our conference. That’s two too many.”
Delany reminded his coaches to report any issues within the proper chain of command, the rules violation allegedly committed by Tressel.
“They understand that,” Delany said. “I think they have all understood it.”
Although the Big Ten hasn’t yet made it a rule, a team ineligible to play in a bowl game shouldn’t be allowed to play in the Big Ten championship game between the league’s two football divisions, Delany said.
The majority of the league’s coaches didn’t come to the defense of Tressel, whose Buckeyes have won or shared the past six Big Ten titles. Illinois coach Ron Zook said the coaches must “respect” the game.
“It’s on us as stewards of the game to move forward,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema didn’t name any names … as if he really needed to.
“If someone willingly and knowingly violates a rule, I don’t see anything wrong with a substantial penalty,” Bielema said. “Get rid of people. Hammer the guys that don’t do things right.”
Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell, a former Buckeye nose guard who was co-defensive coordinator last season, said he’s not been told by the school administration to stay away from Tressel. At various times, he’s talked with Tressel, who still supports Ohio State, Fickell said.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, another former Ohio State assistant under Tressel, pushed his praise for Tressel even further.
“He’s become a tragic hero in my view,” Dantonio said.
If coaches break rules like Tressel, it will be a tragedy for the Big Ten, Delany warned.
John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.
More notes from Big Ten media day:
* Commissioner Jim Delany said the Big Ten Network won’t televise high school sports. The Longhorn Network stirred college sports by announcing it would televise prep games. Even if the decision is deemed allowable by NCAA rules, it won’t be done by BTN in the next year or two, he said.
* Delany isn’t in favor of paying players more than the cost of an education, including tuition, fees and regular college expenses.
* BTN is in more than 80 million households. More than half of the subscriptions come from outside of Big Ten country, network president Mark Silverman said.
* Delany is in favor of a minimum academic standard before teams can play in postseason.
* An excessive celebration penalty called during a live play can now result in taking away a score. Big Ten supervisor of officials Bill Carollo admitted there might be some controversy.
* Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 84, wise-cracked with the media and looked much better than a year ago, when he had health issues.