He might be the second-most powerful man in Chicago, behind the president-elect. "Barack lives in Hyde Park, I live in Hinsdale," the Big Ten commissioner said. The former North Carolina basketball player likes that the Tar Heels are the preseason No. 1, Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions are undefeated and his new contract keeps him in charge of the Big Ten until 2013. Sports editor JIM ROSSOW caught up with Delany to talk about Penn State's tenuous rating in the BCS poll, his future in office and "The Journey."
JR: Why is Penn State still third in the BCS poll? With No. 1 Texas losing last week, they should have moved up to No. 2.
JD: They have a formula. It's very close. And we've got 25 to 30 percent of the schedule yet to play, so we'll see how it plays out. It's not a pure human poll. The results are what they are. It's the system we've created, a system we've lived with and a system we've benefited by. Win, lose or draw, you're not going to hear any complaints from me.
JR: I've heard that an unbeaten Penn State could be passed up by a one-loss team from the Big 12 or SEC.
JD: That's all speculative and I'm not going to comment on hypothetical or speculation. I have a lot of confidence in the coaches (poll), I have a lot of confidence in the Harris poll people. I think the computers are properly influential. We'll just see what happens. People can opine all they want, but I've been involved in the system and it has served us well.
JR: Is the Big Ten's reputation hurting Penn State's chances?
JD: I think our reputation is fine. Again, people are paid to comment. If you look at it, I think we have eight or nine teams in the top 50, four or five in the Top 25. By most measurements, we're among the better conferences. I have a lot of respect for the Big 12, the SEC, the Pac-10, the ACC, the Big East. But I don't really get caught up in that too much. We have a system, we have a 12-game schedule – and some play 13 – and we'll see what happens as it plays out.
JR: Are you pulling for Joe Paterno?
JD: When the history books are written, he will have panned out as one of the greatest college coaches in any sport because of the quality of the competitive product, the quality of the student-athlete experience and the integrity of his program. I'm very proud of Penn State, proud of Coach Paterno and what he's done over time. You don't win all the games, but he's won more than anyone else, and he's doing it the right way.
JR: Is the Big Ten going to have another school by the time your contract runs out in 2013?
JD: Probably not. I would say not, but you never say never. It's not a front-burner issue. We don't have anything under direct consideration, and we haven't had anything for half a decade or more. I would say no rather than yes.
JR: Is this your last contract?
JD: (Laughing) I don't know about that. We'll have to see when the time comes. I'm pretty healthy, I'm pretty happy. I'm not going to predict what's going to happen the next three weeks of the football season. How can I predict what's going to happen in five years?
JR: Have you watched "The Journey"?
JD: I've seen parts. It's been a fun chance to go inside the program; the access has been very deep. What it does is it gives the young people a chance to come alive outside their uniforms, outside their helmets. It's very insightful. It shows what an intense, enjoyable, complex experience college football is.
JR: Give me your read on the Big Ten Network.
JD: We came out of the gates professionally produced, a high-quality national cable network. What we didn't have was wide distribution in the eight core (Big Ten) states. With the addition of Comcast in the spring and Time Warner, Charter and Mediacom later, we're distributed in our region to about 21 million homes. Nationwide, we're in front of or available to another 50-60 million homes. The next level is to make better what already is good, to build ratings and to build relationships with audiences and find what's the right programming. We also have to be credible, to tell facts as they play out.
JR: How much does a bad economy hurt the Big Ten?
JD: College sports, pro sports aren't immune from an economic downturn, but they might be less affected than some other things. We've had good crowds, but sponsorship could be a problematic area. Most of our media and bowl agreements are solid. Any new contract, whether it's a media contract or a coach's contract, you have a marketplace, and the marketplace is impacted by the economy.
JR: How important is getting two teams in the BCS?
JD: Put it this way: If you don't get two, you're $41/2 million poorer. No. 2, you have one less bowl slot available. We have to have a second team that's in the top 14 with at least nine wins. If we do, then we'll go to work, lobbying and promoting like we did last year with Illinois and in previous years. For the most part, our teams are very attractive because they're from good media markets, they have great fan following, they play great football, and we travel well. We have to have someone eligible. The Orange and the Sugar and the Fiesta are going to have openings, but there is a lot of competition out there.