Big Ten Commissioner Earns $20 Million Bonus

By Steve Berkowitz | USA Today

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Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany is set to receive more than $20 million in future bonus payments, according to information in the conference’s new federal tax return and a comparison of that document to prior years’ returns.

The new return — which the conference provided Friday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports — states that in July 2015, Delany “became fully eligible for future bonus payments pursuant to his employment contract.”

As a result, the document said, the conference had to record the full amount of those future payments as an expense and a liability on the return covering its 2016 fiscal year, which ran from July 1 through June 30.

A comparison of the Big Ten’s new expense and liability amounts to those on prior years’ returns reveals the $20 million estimate.

As a private, non-profit organization, the Big Ten does not have to disclose its employment agreements, and deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia declined to provide any details about Delany’s contract, the bonus payments’ amounts or their timing.

In a statement provided by Traviolia, University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler — who currently chairs the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors — said: “Commissioner Delany has provided invaluable leadership for Big Ten member institutions while delivering first-in-class performance during a time of great transformation in college athletics. He has not only successfully balanced the missions of academic achievement, student-athlete development and athletic success, he has successfully developed the resources necessary to strategically position the conference for success well into the future. His compensation is market-competitive, based on an independent third-party analysis, and reflects the value and impact of his leadership.”

Delany became the Big Ten’s commissioner in 1989. Among other developments, he has overseen the conference’s expansion from 10 to 14 teams and the creation of the Big Ten Network.

Since the 2010 fiscal year, the conference has more than doubled its total revenue to the $483.4 million it reported on the new tax return. And that number is likely to go much higher when new television agreements take effect, beginning later this year.

The latest revenue figure pushed the Big Ten’s per-school distributions to about $34.8 million for each of its longest-standing 11 members. Nebraska, which joined in 2011, and Maryland and Rutgers, which each joined in 2014, all continued to receive smaller amounts. For the 2016 fiscal year, the Southeastern Conference reported distributions to each of its 14 members that ranged from $41.9 million to $39.1 million, while the Big 12 reported distributions to each of its 10 schools that ranged from $28.9 million to just over $28 million.

Delany was credited with nearly $2.4 million in total compensation during the 2015 calendar year, according to the new tax return. (Under IRS rules, a non-profit organization must report its revenue and expense data based on its fiscal year, but it must report compensation data based on the calendar year completed during its fiscal year.) He received just over $2 million in base compensation and just under $275,000 in deferred compensation.

His overall total increased by about $100,000 from 2014.

In comparison to the commissioners of other Power Five conferences, Delany’s recent pay has been on the lower end.

► Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who concluded a 13-year run in the job in the middle of 2015, was paid more than $4.3 million in total compensation during the 2015 calendar year, the conference’s most recent tax return showed. SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said in February the total included Silve’s salary as commissioner through July 31; what Vincent termed “one-time departure compensation,” plus the 2015 portion of consulting pay that the return said was $250,000 over the conference’s fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, 2016. Vincent declined to provide the amount of the one-time payment, which was not detailed in the most recent return.

► Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was reported with nearly $2.7 million in total compensation for the 2015 calendar year.

► Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s total compensation was greater than $3 million in each year from 2011 through 2014, when he was reported with $4.05 million.

From 2010 through 2014, Scott’s compensation annually included a bonus that ranged from $626,000 to $1.376 million; his bonuses for those five years totaled $5.05 million.

Scott also has had the continuing benefit of a nearly $1.9 million loan from the conference.

► ACC commissioner John Swofford was paid just under $2.7 million in 2014, almost all in base compensation.

The approximate total of the Big Ten’s future payments to Delany is revealed through changes over time in its expenses on employee compensation and in the reporting of liability totals and details although all of the differentials for 2016 cannot necessarily be attributed to Delany’s future payments.

Beginning with fiscal year 2013, the conference reported annual compensation expenses of $6.2 million, $7.1 million and $7.9 million. For 2016, the amount is $30.6 million.

On the liabilities side, the Big Ten reported $44.4 million in 2013, then $38.2 million and $35.1 million. For 2016, the amount is $63.9 million.

For 2014, $1.1 million of the liabilities were attributed to “accrued benefit/deferred compensation.” For 2015, that amount was 1.4 million. For 2016, the amount is $23.8 million – and the figure is accompanied by a notation referring to supplemental information that states Delany’s eligibility for the future bonus payments.