While Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he is excited about the opportunity for collaboration between the NCAA and its member institutions, especially regarding infractions and rules, he also blasted two Big Ten teams which have been involved in recent NCAA investigations.
At Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, Delany specifically mentioned NCAA investigations involving Ohio State and Michigan, commenting on the problems such violations create for the conference as a whole.
“University of Michigan had a problem with out-of-season practice. That was an embarrassment,” Delany said. “This year we have Ohio State getting ready to go in front of the infractions committee on Aug. 12th. That’s embarrassing.
“Neither one of those institutions have a history of being in that situation. It not only has reflected poorly on them, it’s reflected poorly on us.”
On Dec. 23, 2010, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game ban.
In the wake of these violations, Jim Tressel, who was facing a five-game suspension and $250,000 fine for failing to report NCAA violations committed by his players, resigned as OSU’s head coach on May 30, 2011.
In 2009, Michigan came under investigation for exceeding NCAA limits on the amount of practice and training time the players may take part in. The 14-month investigation ended in November 2010 with the NCAA adding a year of probation to Michigan’s self-imposed sanctions, which included cutting 130 hours of practice time before the end of the 2011-12 academic year.
Former head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired on Jan. 5, 2011.
With new coaches joining each program this year, Delany said he made it clear to both Ohio State coach Luke Fickell and Michigan coach Brady Hoke that going forward, it was their responsibility to manage their teams.
“I explained to each of these coaches that going forward we do not want two more such cases and that they are the CEOs of their program.”
Delany said these mistakes are not limited to the Big Ten, but he is concerned about the violations that directly affect the conference.
“I can’t remember a period of time where we’ve had more questions about various programs, whether it be on the agent side, the recruitment side or the academic side,” he said. “We’ve had two of them in this conference and that’s two too many as far as I’m concerned.”
And while, in Delany’s opinion, certain systems and rules must be evaluated, it is up to individual institutions within the NCAA to work with the NCAA to fix problems with the infractions process, Delany said.
“They (the NCAA) have an infractions process, they have a regulatory system basically where they are enforcing our rules,” he said. “They aren’t their rules, they’re rules that come out of NCAA membership. To the extent they’re inexplicable or irrational, it’s not the NCAA’s problem, it’s our problem and we need to fix it if we need to fix it.”
Delany did say that mistakes will be made, but the Big Ten and other NCAA conferences, along with the NCAA, must address them and move forward.
“It’s not the NCAA alone that needs to change. It’s the conferences and the institutions, to really look at their processes so we can trust each other that when information comes up and needs to be addressed, it’s addressed in the proper way,” he said. “…I’m excited to address these things going forward.”
Delany used Thursday as an opportunity to call a meeting with all Big Ten coaches to discuss the state of the conference as it pertains to the NCAA investigations.
“I wanted to call them together today and speak to them candidly and from the heart,” he said, “explain to them that in many ways, the game is as healthy as it’s ever been.
“But also in my view, we as a conference have been hurt by the two institutions that have been involved in NCAA allegations and findings, and that I wanted to let them know that I expected them to lead their programs in a way that wouldn’t put us in that circumstance again.”
Fickell addressed concerns involving OSU’s program and stated his desire to move the program forward.
“I think from day one, the biggest thing that I’ve tried to do is focus on our leadership as well as trying to pound home the culture that we believe is important in moving our program forward,” Fickell said.
Hoke said he does not view the Michigan program as needing to be rebuilt, despite on- and off-the-field troubles.
“I don’t think we’re rebuilding, period. I mean, we’re Michigan. We’ve got kids who understand that they’re Michigan,” Hoke said of the state of his program.
Delany said that while the Big Ten has never added to the penalties handed down by the NCAA in cases of investigations, the conference has high expectations of their member institutions and that Jim Tressel did not live up to those expectations.
“I view us as having fairly high expectations about report and then reveal … I think Jim’s activity was in contravention of that,” he said.
While the Big Ten will not change its expectations regarding self-reporting of possible NCAA infractions, Delany said he feels confident that going forward, coaches will live up to his expectations.