It sounds like even Jim Delany knows his $20-million bonus is asinine.
In May, USA Today broke news of future payments for the Big Ten commissioner that would total about $20 million. In July 2015, he “became fully eligible for future bonus payments pursuant to his employment contract.” The payments are in addition to his annual six-figure salary, which The Washington Post reported to be $3.1 million in 2016. Delany, the commissioner since 1989, has seen his salary grow 10 percent each year for 10 consecutive years.
Delany appeared Big Ten Media Days on Monday, discussing, among other things, the conference's new six-year TV contract with FOX and ESPN. He was also asked about the "optics" of his annual salary and bonus.
"The optics are what the writers make of them," Delany said. "For me, we have an obligation — legal — to share a 990 [tax return], which we have [with USA Today] … For me, I'm active, interested. [College athletics] has been important to me for more than 50 years. I continue to believe in it. I think the apt comparison is probably not with the student. I don't think it ever has been. I understand people will make that connection. I just don't make it."
First, no one is questioning whether Delany is active and interested in college athletics. We'd have a big problem if a $3.1-million salary and $20-million bonus didn't make him active and interested.
Second, from spearheading the creation of the Big Ten Network to getting out in front of conference realignment, there's little doubt that Delany has done a tremendous job for the conference. Again, no one is questioning his contributions to the financially stable league.
However, the refusal to answer questions about his enormous compensation package while blaming writers for the optics is embarrassing. He clearly sees a flawed system that includes eight-figure bonuses for him but small stipends for student-athletes.
Work on fixing the issue commish, not on crafting bumbling side-stepping messages to battle bad optics.