Expansion is inevitable. The Big Ten, by this time next year will likely be made up of a minimum of 12 teams. Whether it be Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, or even Notre Dame, the Big Ten will most certainly be made up of 12 teams. Perhaps even more.
David Jones of The Patriot News recently unveiled a massive 16-team Big Ten plan of attack, which would put the Big Ten in firm control of everything football related in the northern half of the country and dismantle the football operations of the Big East. It would even pick apart the Big XII’s North division and drop the mid-west rival conference to a feeble nine teams in the process. With it the Big Ten would also take the rights to a conference championship game, and perhaps even the accompanying sponsors and advertising revenue.
So what will expansion do for Penn State and which plan is most ideal? This is a topic that can be argued from a number of different angles so allow me to introduce a couple different scenarios. After I give you a few options and my personal take on them I want to hear what you have to say. Read through these options and add your thoughts below in the comment section. Feel free to suggest your own expansion ideas if you have any not mentioned here.
Expand to 12 teams – Rutgers
For some reason or another Rutgers is an attractive option for expansion. It has nothing to do with the athletic program though and everything to do with location, location, location. With Rutgers being the closest possible option to the New York City market, the Scarlet Knights have media access that will be highly sought after for the Big Ten Network. In order for expansion to work for the Big Ten it will need to focus on getting their footprint to increase for the network, and entry into the largest media capital in the world would be the crown jewel.
Expand to 12 teams – Pitt
When the topic of expansion pops up one of the most popular names is Pittsburgh. At least it is in Pennsylvania where memories of the great Keystone rivalry between the Panthers and Nittany Lions are all but faded memories at this point. The rivalry was essentially killed off when Penn State joined the Big Ten and to this day both sides seem too stubborn to give in to the other in regards to scheduling home games (Penn State has always wanted one extra home game in any plans for a series of games).
Of all the schools mentioned in Big Ten expansion, Pitt looks like the best fit from an academic perspective and the location would fit the current Big Ten mold. But Pitt lacks the ability to grow the Big Ten’s footprint as Penn State already covers the state of Pennsylvania. Pitt already plays second fiddle in the Keystone State.
Expand to 12 teams – Big XII team
Take your pick; Missouri or Nebraska. Missouri seems like a natural fit for the Big Ten due to geography but Nebraska would bring more prestige in terms of athletics. There is no questioning the traveling power of Nebraska fans, who to this day have helped set the Beaver Stadium record for most fans at a game (a 2002 game against Nebraska) and that could help the Huskers gain an edge when it comes to receiving an invitation (think bowl money).
Expand to 14 teams – Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse
Let’s say the Big Ten decides to move from 11 teams to 14 teams. The idea would be to set up a pair of seven team divisions. In that case one likely scenario would be for the conference to move eastward. This would certainly be an advantage for Penn State as the Nittany Lions would be in more comfortable territory (we all know Penn State has been like the step-child in the Big Ten since joining the league as a full-time member in 1993, right?). But the move would not be made to satisfy Penn State or their fans (we also know that is the last thing on the minds of the Big Ten)
An expansion to 14 teams would be best if tearing apart the Big East by inviting Pitt and Rutgers for the reasons listed above. But to complete the Big East trifecta the Big Ten would likely be interested in Syracuse. The Orange may be going through a rough era on the football field but you can not deny what the institution brings on the basketball court, or the lacrosse field. They would also increase the Big Ten’s image in the state of New York. Syracuse can equal media coverage and that makes them appealing.
Would Syracuse be interested in the Big Ten when they are one of the top athletic programs in the Big East (basketball especially)? It is hard to tell, but if the Big Ten successfully adds Rutgers and Pitt, then Syracuse would be forced to listen to what the Big Ten has to offer after being left out of the ACC expansion a few years ago.
An addition of Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers mixed in with Penn State would dramatically change the eastern landscape of college football, and would finally give Joe Paterno what he had envisioned decades ago, sort of.
Expand to 16 teams – Syracuse, Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado
The Big Ten’s dream scenario may actually to increase to 16 teams. As imagined by David Jones of The Patriot News, and illustrated by Chris Boehke, the Big Sixteen (“Sweet Sixteen” may have some copyright issues to battle) would extend the boundaries of the conference to five new states, unleashing a world of potential for the Big Ten Network. Don’t kid yourself, expansion is about money and money comes from television. Typically more coverage equals more money and it would be hard to battle that.
Could the Big Ten handle the cultural differences that come with extending from Colorado (extreme long shot in my book) to the shores of New Jersey (fist pumping snow lovers aside)? It sure would be interesting to see. The Big Ten would completely change the Big XII and Big East, sending each conference in panic mode.
But that is not the Big Ten’s concern. The Big Ten worries about the Big Ten only.
As a Penn State fan, which, if any, of these scenarios do you support? What modifications would you make? Do you want to see West Virginia, Kentucky, or Maryland in the discussion? How do you feel expansion would impact Penn State? Feel free to offer your Big Ten expansion thoughts below.
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