CHICAGO – In the town that created the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” the one topic everyone wanted to talk about was the “Conference Shuffle.” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was doused Sunday with questions, as the future of almost every football conference in the country seems to be in doubt.

However, there was one thing that made this media frenzy different: This was supposed to be about basketball.

“How’d we get into football, I thought we were going to do all basketball,” Delany said after his discussions with the media as Big Ten media day transformed into a forum on the future of college football.

Delany is known as one of the most powerful people in college football. But in a time when new opportunities are arising, Delany doesn’t really want any. When asked about possible expansion, including the mention of Notre Dame, or a conference title game, the commissioner wasn’t very excited.

“Unless we can add another Penn State, we probably are where we are,” Delany said.

When the league’s basketball and football coaches and athletic directors met last spring, they came to the conclusion that they wanted to play each other more, not less, and adding a 12th team would contradict that.

As for Notre Dame joining the conference, Delany said, “I have no idea.” He restated that the conference talked with Notre Dame in 1999 and that was the last conversation they had on the matter.

According to Delany, the Big Ten is under zero pressure to add a conference title game. While there are obvious advantages to having a title game, Delany stressed many of the negatives. He cited the additional hurdle the game creates to the Bowl Championship Series title game, the effect the losing team receives on its bowl prospects and the season-ending rivalries that would be undermined by the game’s presence. Delany also said the recent addition of multiple conference title games makes the games less meaningful in terms of television revenue.

“While there’s money there and some marketing and promotional value, it’s not (as) appealing (to) us as it us to others,” Delany said.

Delany is unsure of the impact the recent exodus of Big East teams to the Atlantic Coast Conference will have.

“I’m not sure that at the end of the day what comes out is an improvement,” Delany said.

Delany said that while he felt people understood the addition of Miami, Florida State and Penn State from independent status and the merger of the Southwestern Conference and the Big VIII, he does not feel the same about the ensuing movement in the ACC, Big East, Conference USA and WAC.

“Other people can disagree, and maybe 10 years from now we’ll look at it and have a different view,” Delany said. “But I see a lot of dislocation, a lot of consternation and a media public relation that is not a positive one.”

Delany did say, though, that this type of movement has been going on for 20 years without the commercialism involved. He discussed the move Arizona and Arizona State made from the WAC to the then-Pac-8 in 1978 and how that cost the WAC its Fiesta Bowl bid.

Delany also commented on the controversy over mid-major conference access to the BCS, which he said wasn’t an issue until the mid-majors started to receive some access

“No one had a problem with Northern Illinois not going to the Rose Bowl from 1947 until about two years ago,” Delany said. “No one ever received money from the Rose Bowl, and now it’s an issue. Everybody’s saying that there’s not additional access, but anyone’s who ranked number one in both polls will go.”

Delany also said he had no idea that the BCS would grow into the monster it has become. He said the sole idea of the BCS was to create a clear No. 1 vs. No. 2 title game each year. Decisions over the future of the system, he said, will continue over the next several months. Delany, in this basketball-turned-football press conference, did say one thing:

“The only thing the BCS is not responsible for is SARS.”


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