The Delany family has given a $1 million gift to the Carolina Edge initiative, with $750,000 benefiting the Carolina Covenant and $250,000 to support law school students.

James Edward Delany may be commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, but he is a lifetime member of the Carolina basketball family and his Tar Heel roots run deep. A native of South Orange, New Jersey, he came to Carolina to play for the late, great Dean Smith and went to two NCAA Final Fours. He was a captain as a senior and graduated with life lessons from on and off the court.

“Coach Smith always taught, and modeled, that success in any endeavor required tremendous preparation, effort, attention to detail, flexibility and a certain amount of creativity,” Delany said. “I remember in January 1968 Coach Smith missed a practice, which was very unusual. The next day he told us he’d gone to UCLA to watch Coach John Wooden’s practice, then assured us we were doing exactly what we should be doing to be successful. We lost to UCLA in the final that year, but to see Coach Smith seek out and learn from the best to hone his craft made us all want to work harder and get better. I still aspire to that today.”


Delany graduated with a degree in political science in 1970, and though his future included a career in sports, it first went through the UNC School of Law where he earned his juris doctor in 1973. He then served as counsel to the North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee and as staff attorney to the North Carolina Justice Department. He joined the NCAA as an enforcement officer before becoming commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference. He became commissioner of the Big Ten in 1989.

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Originally published April 20, 2018.