The Big East: 25 Years Too Late


Back in the early 80's Joe Paterno had the vision to see that Penn State needed to team up with a conference in order for the athletic department to survive. It's widely known that Paterno tried to form an Eastern Conference that would have included all of Penn State's traditional rivals like Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Temple, West Virginia, Maryland, and Boston College. But Pitt and Syracuse decided to join the Big East instead, killing Paterno's vision. So Penn State petitioned the Big East, but the member schools at the time turned them away concerned the Nittany Lions would dominate in football and their basketball program could never be very competitive. A few years later Penn State joined the Big Ten and these great programs have forever gone their separate ways.

So that brings us to today. I was cruising the news reader this morning and came across an interview Stewart Mandel of SI.com did with new Big East Commissioner John Marinatto and it struck me as hilarious that now the Big East wants Penn State back.

SI.com: When I asked fans over Twitter whether there were any specific subjects they wanted me to address with you, the No. 1 response by far was potential expansion plans. Is it on the horizon?

Marinatto: It's not in the immediate future. I don't think our membership has an appetite for it at this point, unless [going to 17 teams] happens to be something that brings value to football. If Penn State was interested in moving back to the East, we'd be interested in that because they bring value.

Yeah, and if Amy Kramer had been interested in going to the high school prom with me, I would have been interested in that too. That's because she was the hottest girl on the cheerleading squad and I was the pimple-faced dork playing the alto sax in the marching band.

Sorry, Commissioner, but that ship sailed off 25 years ago. Dream all you want, but Penn State isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

The Big East was once a great conference when it had Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech. But now your headline programs are West Virginia, Pitt, and Rutgers. I'm convinced that adding Penn State would give the Big East a shot in the arm and put them at least on par with the PAC-10, ACC, and a Penn State-less Big Ten. But why would Penn State want to do that now?

Penn State has too much invested in the Big Ten at this point. It took us 15 years, but we are starting to establish ourselves as one of the dominant teams in the league. We could jump ship now and be the big fish in the eastern pond, but what fun would that be? It's like getting 1000 feet from the summit of Mount Everest and walking away to go climb Mount Nittany instead.

Though the Big Ten is down in recent years, it's still a great situation for Penn State. The bowl game tie-ins are the best in college football. The conference routinely gets two teams in the BCS. The Big Ten Network is about to begin year three and really taking off. We play on some of the biggest stages in the nation on prime time Saturday night television. What does the Big East have to offer? Thursday and Friday night games?

Sorry. No thanks. It's nice to be wanted, but I'm quite happy in the Big Ten.

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