Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany

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Baffoe: In Latest Big Ten Scandal, Where's Delany?

Jim Delany has been silent as his conference has encountered two ugly scandals.

Tim Baffoe
July 06, 2018 - 10:48 am

(670 The Score) It was in 2012 that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany made a telling comment regarding the scandal at Penn State involving the handling by high-level university personnel, including football coach Joe Paterno, of sexual assaults of several children by former Nittany Lion assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"This case is unique in the sense that I think it involved people with senior executive and management responsibilities," Delany said.

Since Delany spoke those words, there have been sexual assault scandals involving people with senior executive and management responsibilities at Michigan State and Ohio State. The former was sports physician Larry Nassar’s serial sexual assaults of at least 332 athletes while working at Michigan State and with U.S. Olympians. Complaints about Nassar were known by at least 14 Michigan State representatives while he worked there without appropriate action being taken. In light of the Nassar criminal trial, an ESPN Outside the Lines investigation "found a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations (of sexual assault) by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department," including the basketball and football teams.

The latter scandal is the ongoing investigation into claims by former Buckeye wrestlers that team doctor Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, assaulted them and students from 14 Ohio State sports and the Student Health Services in Strauss’ time at the school from the 1970s to 1990s. He may have assaulted high school students as well. The wrestlers have included current U.S. congressman Jim Jordan among those who knew of Strauss’ behavior while Jordan was a coach at Ohio State. The Republican representative from Ohio’s 4th District, Jordan denies he was aware of any misconduct by Strauss.

Yet since that "unique" case at Penn State, Delany hasn’t been very visible during the two recent cases. In January, the Big Ten released a statement saying it would "closely monitor" the Michigan State situation only after receiving a request for comment on Nassar being found guilty of multiple sex crimes, multiple school administration resigning and the ESPN report. But there has been nothing specifically from Delany regarding the situation. He has yet to speak publicly on the Ohio State investigation either.

One would think the commissioner would have a responsibility to comment on two scandals involving his conference’s schools that are reverberating nationally, even if it’s just the requisite boilerplate "monitoring" and "concern." But Delany has been noticeably silent regarding both Michigan State and Ohio State.

"We're trying to protect institutional values," Delany said in 2012 after the Penn State sanctions were issued, "that the cult of success in sports doesn't overwhelm institutions' need to make sure that intercollegiate athletics is subordinate to the mandate and initiative of higher education at each one of our campuses."

But two more times in the same decade that protection seems to have failed massively by failing to protect people from alleged sexual predators. It's has happened in the same athletic conference, Delany’s conference. That demands some sort of update from the commissioner at the least.

Yet ... nothing so far

Jordan’s name being involved and President Donald Trump vocally supporting him has brought more media attention to the Ohio State story, but Delany has been aware of allegations against Strauss for months. In April, an unnamed former Ohio State athlete said that he was asked by a coach in 1997 to testify in a hearing against Strauss but was too embarrassed to do so. Strauss then left the university sometime after that supposed hearing.

But if Delany hasn’t yet commented on Michigan State recognizing that Nassar assaulted hundreds of people, it’s doubtful he’s going to speak on an ongoing investigation of the third serial assault scandal during his tenure, which began in 1989. And that’s disappointing.

Like any sports commissioner, Delany’s ultimate job is to do what’s in the best interests of the conference/league, which usually means what turns a profit or at least minimizes loss, be it in dollars or public relations. He has been integral in establishing the Big Ten Network, the Bowl Championship Series and expanding the conference. But a third school in it is going to be made to pay many millions of dollars because of internal culpabilities. Michigan State has agreed to pay Nassar’s victims $500 million. Penn State had to pay Sandusky’s victims $109 million. When the investigation into Ohio State is completed, the school presumably will be writing checks somewhere between those numbers. Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato has said that he believes Strauss’s victims number above 1,000.

"The only thing that matters to me is I think the NCAA did have moral authority to act, and I think the Big Ten had moral authority to act," Delany said in 2012 of Penn State’s punishments.

The Big Ten penalized Penn State only after the NCAA did, and it was the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors that released a statement on the matter, not Delany, as was the case when Penn State was being investigated by the Big Ten.

What about a moral authority to just say something about Michigan State and Ohio State? To let us know you’re there and care.

In 2017, on the five-year anniversary of the Penn State sanctions, Delany didn’t mention the victims of Sandusky but did express sympathy for those at Penn State who got in trouble.

"Certainly we had friends who were held to account by the court of Pennsylvania," he said. "It’s been a difficult, difficult road for the department, for the friends and for the Paterno family."

Delany added, "In totality, it’s been the most difficult set of circumstances I’ve ever been asked to participate in."

So what then of the Michigan State and Ohio State circumstances? The Big Ten’s media days as the unofficial kickoff of the college football season are July 23-24. Perhaps that’s what Delany is waiting for to speak on all this, months later for each.

Or maybe he’s using some of the $20-million bonus he received on an extended vacation that has prevented him from reaching anyone to speak on two horrific sexual assault scandals since the initial horrific scandal he was forced to speak on five years ago. The one tha's no longer "unique" to his conference.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.​​​​​​