For Big East teams, Big Ten not the promised land

By Darrell Laurant  |   Monday, June 15, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

College Football
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Joe Paterno was kidding, right?

"Everybody else is playing playoffs on television," the Penn State football coach said last month. "You never see a Big Ten team mentioned. So I think that's a handicap.

"I've tried to talk to the Big Ten people about, 'Let's get a 12th team -- Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt -- we could have a little bit of a playoff.'"

Actually, it might be that JoPa has it backward -- how about Penn State leaving the Big Ten (er, Big Eleven) and joining the Big East? That's really where the Nittany Lions belong.

I know. It's not going to happen. But his comments did stir up some dust within the administrative halls of both conferences.

The most logical team to join the Big Ten is a no-brainer -- Notre Dame. After all, a third of the Irish schedule is against Big Ten teams, and its location is smack in the middle of that media market. Problem is, the home of Touchdown Jesus isn't going to turn its back on a special independent NBC television contract, reportedly worth $9 million a year, that was recently extended through 2010.

When you think about it, a little school-shuffling would seem in order in a number of conferences, especially in terms of strengthening instate rivalries. Why is Iowa State in the Big XII and Iowa in the Big Ten? How come South Carolina (SEC) and Clemson (ACC) play in different leagues?

So why not Pitt, Rutgers and/or Syracuse in the Big Ten?

For openers, there's that 900-pound gorilla known as basketball. The Big East is as powerful in hoops as it has been underpowered on the gridiron, and the athletic directors don't want to lose that exposure to national TV.

Nor would a move to the Big Ten be fair to the football fans of the aforementioned schools. Unless you're a South Florida follower, you can drive to most of your team's Big East games on a Saturday (or Thursday or Monday, in the Big East's case). From Rutgers to, say, Minnesota is a marathon by comparison.

True, the Big Ten splits more money among schools, but that could well be eaten up by travel costs.

And come to think about, the Big East doesn't have a postseason playoff, either.
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