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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany backs changes to NCAA with concerns

Photo: M. Spencer Green/AP

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been one of the aggressive conference heads during realignment.

CHICAGO (AP) Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany knows change is coming to the NCAA, major developments that will alter the landscape of college sports.

He just wants to make sure it's done right.

Speaking Wednesday at the league's media days in a Chicago hotel, Delany echoed the chorus of major conference commissioners calling for a new model when it comes to the governing body of college athletics. But he said it's important to address the issues at the center of their concerns.

"I'm in favor of whatever restructuring that will lead to what I would consider to be resolving or improving certain areas where I think we're weak," he said. "If we restructure the NCAA and don't address some of the substantive concerns, I wonder why we have restructured."

With the start of the college football season on the horizon, it's clear that conference commissioners across the country are talking seriously about the future of the athletic departments at their schools. The leaders of the Big 12, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference have offered their critiques of the NCAA over the last week.

It looks as if considerable alterations are a foregone conclusion, and it's not very far away, either.

"Very optimistic we'll get it," Delany said. "And I think we may get it within a year. And I think the conference commissioners that I've spoken with throughout the range of Division I are open for that discussion.

"I think it's necessary and it's a traditional organization and it needs to innovate as we all do, and I'm pretty optimistic that we do that," Delany added. "But I want us also to keep in mind why we're doing it and I think it's to make better connections between our athletes, the educational and the athletic experience."

Delany's top priorities for a restructured NCAA include a lifetime commitment to education, an examination of the time demands placed on athletes, the eligibility structure for at-risk students and an additional grant for full-scholarship athletes - a hot-button issue for mid-major schools.

All the commissioners from the major conferences have pushed for a stipend for athletes that would add about $2,000 to an athletic scholarship to cover the full cost of attendance, but it could not be passed because smaller schools said they couldn't afford it.

"It's the right thing to do," said Delany, who played college basketball for North Carolina. "Whether that's 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000, I don't know, but we need to address that."

Delany also thinks the NCAA should do more to help at-risk students, without providing an exact definition of what he meant by the term. He proposed a year of residence before the four years of eligibility kicks in.

"I think everybody is in favor of giving people a shot," he said. "Everybody's in favor of raising standards and raising outcomes. But I think when you admit an at-risk student, you have to seriously consider the year of readiness."

Also Wednesday:

-Delany provided a mixed review of NCAA President Mark Emmert, saying he had done some good things and also made some mistakes.

"Running the NCAA is a real challenge, and most of the problems that we confront today preceded Mark Emmert," he said. "So the fundamental challenges to institutions, conferences in the NCAA, were there before Mark ever walked into the door."

-The longtime commissioner said he thinks the O'Bannon antitrust case could go to the Supreme Court if the plaintiffs are successful.

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is part of a group of current and former athletes who believe they are owed billions of dollars, saying the NCAA allowed their likenesses to be used in video games without compensation.

"I don't think that the O'Bannon case represents the best interests of intercollegiate athletics," Delany said. "I don't know how it will be resolved. It will be litigated. And I think it will be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, if the plaintiffs are successful. I don't think there's any compromise on that."

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