Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who has led the league since 1989, will step down from his position after his contract expires in June 2020.
Delany, 71, had said in 2016 that he intended to step down in 2020 and likely would not be negotiating the league's next media rights agreement, which expires in 2023. The Big Ten's council of presidents and chancellors, led by Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, will lead the search for Delany's replacement with assistance from Korn Ferry executive search.
"Our presidents and I talked about it, where we were, what we were doing, energy levels and health, and we pushed [the contract] out to '15, and then we pushed it out to '18, and then we pushed it out to '20," Delany said. "We're just not pushing it any more. Even though my energy's good and I'm in good spirits. I just think in my own view it's time. It's time to pass the baton, give someone else a shot."
Delany is only the fifth commissioner to lead the Big Ten, which was founded in 1896.
"It's been an amazing opportunity to serve and lead these preeminent institutions, presidents, administrators, coaches and students," Delany said in a news release. "It is incredibly fulfilling to support the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been afforded an opportunity to obtain best-in-class educations as a result of the invaluable, one-of-a-kind lessons learned through the unique combination of athletic and classroom competition."
Delany, the longest-serving commissioner of a major college sports conference, is regarded as one of the most influential figures in college sports history. The Big Ten expanded from 10 members to 14, adding Penn State and then Nebraska, followed by Maryland and Rutgers. Delany spearheaded the Big Ten Network, launched in 2007 as the first network affiliated with a major college conference. The Big Ten in 2004 became the first conference to introduce instant replay in football.
Delany also helped bring in record revenues for league members.
Delany was asked about the Big Ten winning only three football national championships and two men's basketball championships during his tenure.
"That element, I'm fan and a competitor as well as a commissioner. I love to win the games, but I try not to whine or complain," he said. "If you go back 40 years, I don't think you've heard a negative word about a seed or a selection into the [NCAA] tournament, nor have you heard one about a selection into the CFP or the BCS. I don't do that. I would have loved to have won more, but that's kind of fool's gold, whining about what you do or don't do."
A former basketball player at North Carolina under Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith, Delany earned his law degree and worked as counsel for the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee and North Carolina Justice Department before joining the NCAA's enforcement division in 1975.
He served as commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference from 1979 until 1989, when he joined the Big Ten.