Northwestern President Schapiro to lead search for next Big Ten commissioner


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Morton Schapiro watches a football game. He’ll be leading the search committee to hire the new Big Ten commissioner

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

The Big Ten Conference announced Monday that longtime commissioner Jim Delany will step down from his position in June 2020, a move that has significant ramifications for Northwestern athletics.

University President Morton Schapiro will lead the executive committee tasked with naming the new leading man for the conference. The appointment has brought up speculation that Jim Phillips, Northwestern’s athletic director, would be considered for the position.

“I was asked by my peers to chair the search, and I’m honored to help guide this process,” Schapiro said in a statement to The Daily. “Jim Delany has been a forward-thinking, collaborative and decisive leader. We’re certainly looking for someone who can bring those same qualities, and who can build on the foundation that Jim established over the past three decades.”

As president of Northwestern, Schapiro has shown his commitment to the athletics program by securing large donations and maintaining frequent presence at basketball and football games. In an interview with The Daily earlier this month, he named the progress of nearly every team without being asked.

Schapiro will work with Korn Ferry, an organizational consulting firm, to determine who will be named the next commissioner. Delany has served as commissioner since 1989. In a 30-year span, he spearheaded the creation of the Big Ten Network, expanded the conference to include remote schools like Maryland and Rutgers, founded the Big Ten Football Championship Game and has been a loud voice in industry shaking conversations like the four team college football playoff.

“Even though my energy’s good and I’m in good spirits, I just think in my own view it’s time,” Delany said in a teleconference. “It’s time to pass the baton, give someone else a shot.”

In 11 years at Northwestern, Phillips led the renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena as well as the development of Ryan Fieldhouse. He also retained several coaches who received offers from other universities, including Pat Fitzgerald.

Phillips serves on several NCAA committees, including the NCAA Division I Council, the NCAA Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet, and the men’s basketball tournament selection committee. In his statement, Schapiro declined to specify how his relationship with Phillips would influence the search process.

“We’re not going to speculate about any potential candidate,” Schapiro said. “Korn Ferry will lead a confidential process.”

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