Jim Delany pitches reform plan

CHICAGO -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany believes change is coming to college sports.

Change could happen, Delany said, within a year.

In a 23-plus-minute opening statement that ranged from a history lesson to a state of the Big Ten, Delany outlined a four-point plan of issues important to him, which he thinks could help straighten out the issues within the NCAA.

"We've done more complicated things than this," Delany said.

Delany offered potential solutions for what he believes are the main issues in college athletics as a whole, not limited to the NCAA. The following ideas are some of the things that are "lost" in the conversation, he said.

Point 1: An educational trust

Delany would like to see schools commit to allowing athletes to return to school after their playing days if they did not finish their bachelor's degree. If an athlete chooses to do so, the school would pick up the tab for the rest of that player's education.

"What I would like to see is explicit commitment by higher education through conferences for funding, that if you come up short in your four years, whether you turn professional or drop out, we'll stand behind you," Delany said. "When you're ready to get serious, when you're ready to have the time, we'll support your college education to get your degree for your lifetime."

Point 2: Time commitments

Delany recognizes the 20-hour-per-week rule which limits athletes' time to spend on their sport during the season is not realistic. He spoke to his coaches about juggling that and being a full-time student.

"I want to make sure that our rules and regulations and constraints and standards are properly balanced," Delany said. "Once a student is admitted, he or she has the opportunity to do what they need to do academically to continue to move forward."

Point 3: The at-risk student

Delany stopped short of calling for freshmen to return to being ineligible in their first year, but he appears to be in favor of a hybrid model. Students who are "at risk" would get a year of residence in college while giving them their four years of eligibility and a scholarship.

"Let's make sure we haven't shortchanged anyone or exploited anyone because we've taken at-risk students and haven't given them adequate time to prepare to transition educationally," he said.

Point 4: Miscellaneous expenses

This is a topic Delany has mentioned for two years now, essentially a look at paying athletes a stipend in addition to their scholarship "up to the cost of education." The Big Ten commissioner, though, isn't sure what that number would be.

Delany wants to make sure any stipend would be Title IX compliant, so all male and female athletes on full scholarship are eligible for the same benefits.

"I'm talking about a stipend of miscellaneous expense that meets Title IX rules and federal law," Delany said. "And no exemptions for football and basketball."

Delany's four-point plan came in advance of any comments he made about NCAA president Mark Emmert, who has been criticized by his colleagues in other conferences over the past two weeks.

In some ways, Delany defended Emmert, noting that many of the issues facing the organization appeared before he took over in 2010.

"There's been a lot said about Mark Emmert," Delany said. "My view is Mark has done some good things and Mark has made some mistakes. Let me tell you this: Running the NCAA is real challenging.

"Most of the problems we see today preceded Mark Emmert, so the fundamental challenges to institutions and conferences and the NCAA were here before Mark Emmert walked in the door."

Delany also touched on the NCAA's scrutinized enforcement group, telling ESPN.com that the group has been "a lightning rod within a lightning rod." As a former NCAA investigator, he plans to study the situation further and provide some suggestions going forward.

"I would like to see the people who make the mistakes pay the price and see the institution pay a lesser price," Delany said. "I would like to see it clearer when an institution is in jeopardy on institutional control that that's reserved for the worst of the worst. And I want to make sure if you make a mistake, there's a process. ... We should be able to communicate better which are the major [infractions] and which are the not so major ones."