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Wayne Duke (1928 - 2017)

AP / Charles Knoblock

Wayne Duke (1928 - 2017)

Wayne Duke, the collegiate sports executive who worked to expand the NCAA basketball tournament during his 18-year tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten, died Wednesday, March 29, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 88.

Duke, of Barrington, Illinois, served as commissioner of the Big Eight conference from 1963 until 1971, the year he became commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten announced the death after Duke's relatives notified the conference.

“Wayne was a giant in the world of college athletics administration during times of great change,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany in a news release on the conference website. “He was a champion of the student, and was responsible for many of the academic, athletic and social initiatives that our students today benefit from. His mantra was ‘performance commands respect’, and his performance and dedication throughout his college athletics career earned him the respect of countless administrators, coaches, media and fans across the country."

A 1950 graduate of the University of Iowa, a Big Ten school, Duke served as the conference's commissioner from 1971 to 1988.


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Duke was born Nov. 9, 1928, in Burlington, Iowa. After graduating from Iowa, he worked for the sports information departments at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and later the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1952, he became assistant to NCAA's executive director, Walter Byers.

The Big Ten said Duke "was a prominent force in cultivating media interest, especially with television."

At the Big Ten, Duke "was instrumental in the conference being at the forefront of affirmative action, the integration of women's sports, limiting athletic grants-in-aid, and improving academic standards and graduation rates," the release said.

Duke was a member of an NCAA committee when the tournament expanded from 32 to 40 and eventually 48 teams, "meaning teams other than conference champions could get into the field," the release said.

Duke also served on a committee "at a crucial time for the organization as TV money started to reach unimagined numbers," the Big Ten said.

Duke was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

He is survived by his wife, Martha; a son Dan; and a daughter, Sarah.

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