Friday, July 20, 2012

Jim Delany gets ALL OF THE POWER (not really)

This is the headline on every story about the Big Ten's allegedly insane rules proposals:
Big Ten Commissioner Wants To Have Power To Fire Coaches
This is accurate only in the most general sense, and by "accurate only in the most general sense" I mean "not very accurate." The proposal itself is hidden behind a Chronicle of Higher Education paywall (and thus totally hidden) but is summarized on the organization's website as follows:
The idea comes from an 18-page proposal being circulated among Big Ten leaders on the heels of the Penn State scandal. The proposal, which has not been approved by the league, would give the commissioner and a group of powerful presidents the authority to penalize, suspend, or terminate the employment of coaches whose behavior damages the league’s reputation.
Note the first eight words of the bolded-for-emphasis portion: "the commissioner and a group of powerful presidents." The formation of a God-like committee that includes Jim Delany is not the same as "DELANY WANTS TO BE GOD."

And my understanding -- based on the various quotes circulating from Big Ten athletic directors -- is that the commissioner/committee wouldn't have unilateral firing power but would have some sort of disciplinary power that would resemble the NCAA's (the NCAA's version of employment authority: a show-cause that doesn't technically represent a termination but makes the employee in question all but unemployable). Said quotes (or summaries of said quotes):
Minnesota President Eric Kaler said he doubts that individual schools would be willing to give up control to the conference on such an issue of firing a coach.

"A lot of things have been discussed, but I have not been party to any conversation that would suggest the commissioner would have unilateral power to fire coaches," (Michigan athletic director Dave) Brandon told the AP. "That's kind of out of left field, and I don't think the commissioner would want that kind of power."

Illini athletic director Mike Thomas called the proposal "a work in progress." Thomas wasn't prepared to endorse the idea of coaches or other officials potentially being fired by the commissioner.
So yeah. The plan/intent is not to make Jim Delany omnipotent.

That said, there is/was a potentially horrifying subsection ...
In the event of a major incident that "significantly harmed the reputation of the league," the commissioner would be able to take matters into his own hands. ...
In certain circumstances requiring "immediate and decisive action," the commissioner would have unilateral authority to "take any and all actions" in the best interest of the Big Ten.
... that (a) the Big Ten has already publicly backed away from and (b) would be totally unnecessary anyway. As far as I can tell, there's never been an event in Big Ten history that would've warranted the implementation of martial commissioner-al law; nobody knew about the Penn State thing until everybody knew, at which point everybody involved was fired immediately and whatever power had been granted to the almighty overseer would've been rendered irrelevant. The only power that would be relevant here would be the power to remove/suspend Penn State from the conference entirely, which currently requires eight votes, but I can't imagine a scenario in which half (or more) of the conference presidents would veto something massive like that and Delany would approve it anyway (keep in mind that his employment status is determined by the presidents as a collective).

As for the committee's usefulness, I also can't really envision a scenario in which a show-cause-type penalty for a still-employed coach would be necessary since the coaches who "damage the league's reputation" to the extent that devastating penalties are appropriate just don't survive. Evidence: Joe Paterno got fired. No other evidence necessary.

In summary, something something barn door something horses. I think the idea here is to feel warm and fuzzy about an adequate contingency plan that probably will never be needed except maybe in the event of that one thing that already happened and kinda necessitated said contingency plan. My level of concern about a potential abuse of power in the event of something totally horrifying: close to zero. It's so close to zero that I can't believe I just wrote/typed 700 words about it, thus limiting the time I'll have this evening to question Al Golden's sanity.


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