Jim Delany's retiring in 2020, spurring the usual round of kow-towing to a rich guy who was just in charge of things. Since Delany didn't do anything good, these pieces have to talk about how important he is. And when people talk about Jim Delany as a "transformative" or "influential" figure, this is what they're talking about:
Ah, crap. That's not the right graph. This is the right graph.
Maybe this one?
Sorry, sorry, all these graphs look exactly the same, they're hard to pick apart.
Netflix, fractioning audiences, sports is the only live thing a lot of people, etc. Crediting Jim Delany for the Big Ten's revenue surge is crediting Saudi Arabia for being on top of a lot of oil. Delany didn't create the Michigan and Ohio State fanbases. He just exploited them.
And exploit he did, as anyone who's been to a football game in the past decade can attest to. The increase in revenue came with a commensurate increase in commercial time, to the point where there were several stretches in Michigan games where there were more commercials than plays over the course of an entire quarter. Adding injury to injury, one of those games was against Rutgers, and another was against Maryland.
Delany's never-ending quest for revenue made every Big Ten fan's experience worse, and the money then went to everyone except the people actually earning it. While Delany was ruthlessly strip-mining every dollar out of my fandom and yours he was simultaneously asserting that if the courts gave players even a tiny slice of the increased revenue that the Big Ten would drop to DIII, a level that has no scholarships, out of pure spite.
That's who Delany is.
He did indeed sit in one of the most powerful chairs in college athletics for 31 years. He used that perch to reinforce the con of amateurism for his personal benefit. He regularly issued ludicrous proclamations. He spearheaded the Big Ten's fart-sniffing "Legends" and "Leaders" divisions. He added Maryland, an athletic department so out of control it killed one of its football players out of pure negligence, and Rutgers, an athletic department that finishes at the bottom of the standings in almost literally every sport it competes in annually. He did this so he and people like him could have more money. He happily takes personal credit for industry-wide trends.
Whoever replaces him probably won't be any better or braver. But they could hardly be worse.