Will The Big Ten Poach The Big East For Its 12th Member?

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For almost two decades now the Big Ten Conference has operated with eleven teams, maintaining its traditional name despite the oddity of that arrangement. Penn State became the conference’s eleventh member in 1990, but no effort to change the conference’s name nor to add a twelfth member to even out the number of schools has been given serious consideration. Until now.

Joe Paterno, affectionately known as JoePa, is the long-standing football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions and has recently been calling for the conference to add a twelfth school. JoePa noted that the conference is at a disadvantage to some other football playing leagues including the Big 12, ACC and SEC, each of which has enough schools to play a football championship game in early December. While those schools are playing before national television audiences, the Big Ten is inactive, forced to await the start of the postseason bowl season several weeks later.

Scanning The Big East For A New Member

As the winningest coach of all time and 43 years at the helm of Penn State, what JoePa has to say commands a lot of attention. Whether the Big Ten will add a twelfth school as Paterno suggested may be a stretch, but given the possibilities one school could be an excellent fit.

As the winningest coach of all time and 43 years at the helm of Penn State, what JoePa has to say commands a lot of attention. Whether the Big Ten will add a twelfth school as Paterno has suggested may be a stretch, but given that possibility one school could be an excellent fit.

At 82 years old, JoePa says what is on his mind and seems to always have quite a number of ears tuned to whatever he is saying. A few years back when rumors surfaced that JoePa was going to to ushered into retirement, the coach would have nothing to do with such talk. Few people believe that there is a college president in office who would dare come up against JoePa, given his charismatic appeal and penchant for winning. Get rid of JoePa before he is ready to retire and you just may anger 108,000 fans who call Happy Valley home whenever the Nittany Lions are playing in State College, PA.

JoePa has been very specific as to which schools he would like to see considered as the twelfth Big Ten Conference team, naming three from the Big East Conference: Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. All three are geographical rivals for Penn State and would help balance the eastern edge of the predominately Midwestern conference. But, only one school has the pull that could help the conference’s television ratings, a factor always under consideration when league expansion is considered. And that school is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Rutgers Gets The Nod

Rutgers is both an interesting choice as well as a good one for two reasons: not too long ago JoePa discouraged any and all of his assistant coaches from seeking a position at the NJ school. JoePa felt that the athletics department wasn’t behind the program which was always languishing at or near the bottom of the big school football pile. Indeed, many years of finishing last meant that a culture of losing existed at Rutgers, something JoePa realized wasn’t easily overcome and could damage a coach’s career. However, when one of his former assistants, Greg Schiano, took over the Rutgers program and quickly turned it around, JoePa was won over.

Another reason why Rutgers gets the nod over Pittsburgh and Syracuse is that the school serves a much bigger market than either other school. Not only are NJ’s nine million residents interested in the program, but that interest includes the Philadelphia and New York City markets, the latter particularly strong as some of the best players the Scarlet Knights have seen over the past few years have come from NYC metropolitan area schools (Ray Rice of New Rochelle, NY for example).

Of course, getting Rutgers into the conference means obtaining the consent of all Big Ten schools and the willingness of the Scarlet Knights to leave the Big East. The former may not be so tough given that there has been interest in Rutgers previously. And, as far as leaving the Big East, you can bet if Rutgers sees a better opportunity elsewhere then they’ll make the jump as soon as they respond, “how high?”

Sources: SNY.tv, Star-Ledger, Sports Illustrated

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