UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- This wasn't your typical Jim Delany, at least on the surface. Rather than the suit and tie that seem permanently affixed to his body, he sported a blue-striped polo over his surprisingly summer-tanned skin. He conveyed less the commissioner of the Big Ten that he is than an open colleague, chuckling here and there and avoiding his usual lengthy, robotic sentences.
What did not relax was his mindset relating to Penn State. Last year, he said the NCAA had the moral authority to act and that the sanctions against the program were severe but fair. As members of the Board of Trustees and coach Bill O'Brien have recently called for the NCAA to meet Penn State "halfway" on the sanctions, Delany is not ready to seek leniency from the NCAA on the school's behalf.
"I don't know that we'd become an advocate, but we're obviously interested in the progress that's being made," Delany told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Thursday afternoon.
"And you know, there's always a mechanism, but I am more concerned about what it is we have control over, not asking somebody else to do something that I don't have control over."
Delany later addressed the Penn State football team at practice. Sunglasses rested below his neck, and he held a navy Penn State jersey in his hands. Athletic director Dave Joyner stood next to him.
Such an image describes the oddness of Delany's position: He's close to Joyner, as well as president Rodney Erickson, from working with them as part of the integrity agreement of the NCAA sanctions.
Of O'Brien, he said: "The way he's challenged the athletes to compete, to keep them together, is very impressive for a first-time head coach. This may have been as challenging a situation as you can imagine."
And yet, Delany is punishing them -- at least the conference he governs is.
This past season, the Big Ten withheld from Penn State the $2.3 million allotment given to each Big Ten team as part of a bowl payout. Over four years, Penn State is supposed to lose out on $13 million because of this Big Ten sanction. (The Big Ten will annually split the withheld money among the 12 teams, who must give their cut to the charity of their choice.)
Delany said the $13 million estimate should remain the same, though it could rise slightly because of new bowl contracts and the forthcoming playoff system.
He has no plans to reduce his own sanction.
"No, we wouldn't reconsider that unless something were to change. But I think right now we're focused on, as a member of the tri-party agreement, to get Penn State where they are comfortable with it and we're comfortable with it," Delany said. "And as I said, great strides are being made in that regard. I think we're moving it ahead."
The Big Ten is moving ahead, too -- eastward, anyway. The addition of Rutgers and Maryland signal the Big Ten's desire to move into the major markets of the eastern cities. A strong Penn State program would greatly aid the chance of a successful expansion and increase the TV revenue that could accompany such a move.
Delany acknowledged he is caught between wanting a healthy Penn State and knowing that the NCAA's actions and his conference's actions could negatively impact the program in the coming years. Still, he said the corrective measures remain appropriate.
So for now, in any picture of him at Penn State, he will be noticeable, a little out of place, but convinced he's standing in the right spot.
"We couldn't wait for the criminal adjudications to take place," Delany said. "We couldn't wait forever, but we waited and didn't act pre-emptively. We saw what happened with the NCAA and saw there was enough certainty to take a position at that time. It's not easy and it's not enjoyable, but we have responsibilities that go to the competitive, that go to the conceptual, that go to the moral and the cultural."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.