Am I crazy or is that a lot of money?
Pictured: Unpaid Big 10 laborers. © William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
USA Today has obtained Big Ten Conference tax returns via an open records request and learned that Jim Delaney, commissioner of the Big Ten since 1989, is set to receive an estimated $20 million in bonuses. Deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia did not comment specifically on the bonuses but said Delaney was an exceptional leader who "successfully balanced the missions of academic achievement" and "student-athlete development and athletic success."
Just as an aside, here is a video of former University of Connecticut student athlete Shabazz Napier describing how he's gone to bed hungry in response to a question about Big Ten member school Northwestern's football team's failed bid to unionize:
Delaney's bonus was tough to suss out because as a private "non-profit" organization, the Big 10 is not required to disclose employment contracts. But they do have to file taxes. By comparing the differences in filings, USA Today was able to figure out that the conference owed Delaney $20 million.
Essentially, certain provisions in his contract were triggered in 2015 that entitled him to future payments which required the conference to report them on their 2016 tax filings. USA Today discovered the multi-million dollar difference when they compared prior filings with the new 2016 filing.
As another aside, here is a 2013 quote from Jim Delaney regarding a proposed pay-for-play scenario for college sports in regards to the Obannon case:
"[I]t has been my longstanding belief that The Big Ten's schools would forgo the revenues in those circumstances and instead take steps to downsize the scope, breadth and activity of their athletic programs," Delany wrote. "Several alternatives to a 'pay for play' model exist, such as the Division III model ... These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten's philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes."
At least he's got the $20 million up front now in case he ever has to "forgo the revenues" should disaster strike.