CHICAGO -- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was talking to reporters Tuesday about who might replace retiring Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany when Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez walked behind him.
"Someone like a Barry Alvarez," Smith said coyly. "He'd be a prototypical candidate."
As Alvarez playfully grabbed him by the back of his neck, Smith joked, "Oh, is Barry here?"
In all seriousness, Alvarez, 72, said he is not interested in the job.
"I'm moving toward Jim's route," he said, alluding to retirement.
Athletic directors who spoke Tuesday after two days of meetings concluded at Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., said they hope the next commissioner has a strong understanding of the conference's philosophies and values, ideally from the inside.
"Certainly you need someone who understands this league and appreciates what this league represents," said Alvarez, who has been Wisconsin's athletic director since 2004. "Someone that is strong enough they can deal with the coaches and athletic directors and chancellors at great universities. Someone who can build a consensus. We've made a lot of tough decisions and had tough votes on expansion, divisions, how we broke up divisions.
"Certainly someone from the inside could answer all those questions and understands what we're all about. It doesn't have to be someone from the inside, but someone from inside may have an edge."
Delany, 71, announced in March he plans to retire by June 2020 after 30 years at the helm. He oversaw landmark moments for the conference: expansion to 14 teams, the creation of the Big Ten football championship game and launching the Big Ten Network.
Northwestern President Morton Schapiro is heading the search committee, assisted by search firm Korn Ferry.