With long-time Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany set to step down in June 2020 after 30 years at the helm of the conference, the search for his successor has begun. As per Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal, the conference and search firm Korn Ferry have compiled an initial list of nine candidates who might be a fit for the job. And perhaps unsurprisingly considering how much of a role television rights and league networks play for NCAA conferences these days, several of the candidates involved have significant media backgrounds.
Here’s a look (in alphabetical order) at the three listed candidates who appear to have the most media experience:
- Jon Litner, president, YES. Litner has been with YES since September 2016, and previously was president of NBC Sports Group, responsible for the eight NBC RSNs and the Golf Channel.
- Burke Magnus, executive vice president, programming and scheduling, ESPN. Magnus has been at ESPN for the last 24 years and currently oversees their negotiations with leagues. He received the EVP title in May 2015, and was previously senior vice president, programming and acquisitions since January 2014, and senior vice president, college sports programming, since March 2008.
- Tony Petitti, deputy commissioner, business & media, MLB. Petitti has held that role since December 2017, previously serving as MLB’s chief operating officer since December 2014. Before that, he was president and CEO of MLB Network from 2008-14. Some of his other previous media work includes roles as executive vice president and executive producer for CBS Sports, senior vice president, negotiations, for NBC Sports and vice president, programming, for ABC Sports.
But there are six other candidates on that list, and they all have their own interesting qualifications. Some have run leagues and governing bodies, like Katrina Adams (the former CEO and chair of the U.S. Tennis Association) and Amy Huchthausen (the commissioner of the America East conference). Others currently run school athletic departments (Jim Phillips, the Northwestern AD) or teams (Mark Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays). There’s also Beth Brooke Marciniak, the global vice chair of public policy for Ernst & Young, and Brad Traviolia, the conference’s current deputy commissioner and COO.
Oh, and as Smith writes, this list is far from final:
Sources cautioned, however, that this early list is just a starting point for the search. Names will move on and off the list as the search evolves. The conference and Korn Ferry haven’t even begun reaching out to most candidates yet, mostly because the conference has ample runway of about a year to have a hire finalized and ready to take the baton from Delany, 71, who spent 30 years as the conference’s commissioner.
Delany, who makes close to $3 million in annual salary, plans to stay on the job until June 2020. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro is chairing the conference’s search committee, and the Big Ten presidents will make the final decision.
However, it seems experience with media deals (either from the league side or the media outlet side) may be a strong factor here, and that makes sense. The conference’s primary rights deals with ESPN and Fox expire in 2022-23, so the new commissioner will likely have to jump into negotiations for new deals relatively quickly. If the new commissioner already has a background with those deals, that may lower the learning curve.