Despite Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany being one of those big, bad college athletics administrators that Kain Colter's proposed Northwestern union would knock down a peg, the commish and the quarterback might have a lot more in common than previously thought.
Delany and the commissioners of the other four major conferences are in their own battle with the NCAA to get some restructuring done that would allow them power to make and enforce rules that they see applying to them and not smaller schools across the country. And when asked what the mission of this fight was, Delany shared a lot of the same goals that Colter's College Athletes Players Association has.
"I think the next frontier, really, is the restructuring of the NCAA and getting our house in order. There are some things we haven't been able to do that we need to do. It's not about expansion at this juncture. It's about creating more balance for the student-athlete in his/her collegiate experience," Delany told USA Today's Nicole Auerbach. "In my view, that means getting cost of education legislation through, getting some improvements in time demands — it's pretty clear to me that the 20-hour rule has not worked. ... We need to get the best medical information. We've got great trainers and doctors, great concussion protocols. There are things I'm hoping over the next 18 months that we can get done, that are legislative in nature, policy in nature."
"The other thing is I want to make it very clear that we want student-athletes to have voices and votes in the system. This is just not about universities. It's about empowering athletes and empowering their point of view both with their voice and vote. That's been central to the vision we've crafted over the last year."
What are some of the specifics Delany and the five major conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) are looking for?
"I'd say cost of education. I think a lifetime trust that allows students to come back, get their degree," Delany told USA Today. "I think real change in the time demands — dead periods where there's a lockdown on facilities so the kids maybe take a junior year abroad or take an internship in the summertime. After the bowl season, lock it up, give them some time off. If you really study this stuff, from the standpoint of where it was 40 years ago, 20 years ago and now, we need to back away. So there are three parts to a student's life: their athletic life, their academic life and their personal life. Just because young people start specializing in sport earlier, just because we have the facilities, doesn't mean that we can't say no to ourselves. We can do that. We have to do that.
"Beyond that, I think we need to make sure there's an insurance safety net. There are a lot of different ways to amend risk. There are a lot of different kinds of injuries that can occur. I'm not an insurance expert, but I think there must be a good, solid base level of insurance coverage on injuries that occur during the course of practice or competition."
Sound like someone else you know? Maybe a certain former Northwestern quarterback? Delany thinks so, too.
"There aren't many things that have been suggested by people like Kain Colter that I really, in substance, disagree with. I don't."
Even if Colter's unionization attempt fails in Evanston — several reports indicated that, in addition to the university's appeal of the National Labor Relations Board's ruling that football players are employees, a majority of Northwestern players might have voted "no" on unionization anyway — it seems the goals of his fight are shared with the very people he is fighting. "A seat at the table" has been one of Colter's most-used phrases. It seems Delany, at least publicly, wants the same thing. Perhaps just in a different way.