clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Penn State and the Big Ten - Part II

New, 1 comment

The Centre Daily Times continued today with Part II of their history of Penn State and the Big Ten. This article proved to be just as interesting as the first. Here are some things that caught my eye.

Ask Russ Rose to share a few memories of his team's first Big Ten season, and the Penn State women's volleyball coach will tell you of the time he spent sitting in airport terminals.

The Nittany Lions, who had been within driving distance of the majority of their Atlantic 10 rivals, quickly realized the adventures of trying to find connecting flights from State College to the Big Ten cities of the Midwest.

"On one of the trips, we had 18 different flights," Rose said. "Now, we charter."

I remember back then a big hangup for a lot of the other schools was the fact that State College had a small airport. In fact, a condition of Penn State joining the Big Ten was that the State College regional airport runway would be expanded to allow larger aircraft to take off and land. It took almost a decade, but it eventually got done. Before that, Penn State and many visiting teams had to land in Harrisburg and drive almost three hours up through the mountains to get to State College. Bobby Knight despised going to State College for this reason. He was trying to get his kids focused to play and they were looking out the bus windows seeing deer and eagles. Knight compared it to going on a camping trip.

The football team was the last to come on board, playing its first Big Ten conference game in the 1993 season opener and defeating Minnesota 38-20.

How fun that Minnesota, the team most opposed to Penn State joining the Big Ten, would be the first Big Ten team to take a drubbing at the hands of the Nittany Lions. Almost 15 years later not much has changed.

The men's basketball team, which had become one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 and had gone 21-8 in 1991-92, was 2-16 in its inaugural Big Ten season. Just three years later, the Nittany Lions went 12-6 in the conference and earned an NCAA Tournament berth, but the success was short-lived; the men's basketball team has had a losing conference record in 10 of the 11 seasons since.

I'm still perplexed by this. When we joined the Big Ten our basketball program was good, but the merger was supposed to take us to another level. It didn't. So we built the Jordan Center because Rec Hall was out of date and not up to Big Ten standards and that was supposed to make us respectable. But it didn't do it either. Now what do we have to do?

Recruiting was another. For years, Penn State, particularly in football, had its pick of the top recruits in the East. When they joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions expanded their recruiting area, drawing some top prospects from Michigan and Ohio, but the conference's other 10 teams began luring some prize recruits out of Pennsylvania.

"I think it's tougher," Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said during Big Ten Media Day in 2005. "When we got in the Big Ten, I told some of the (other coaches), 'If you guys are smart, we're gonna open up a whole new area over here.'"

I think Penn State is on the losing end of the stick here. Sweatervest has a lock on Ohio, and I can't think of too many kids we've plucked out of Michigan other than Tim Shaw. But Ohio State and Michigan have both raided Pennsylvania for some top notch talent that used to be owned by Penn State for decades.

The rest of the article talks about how Penn State is still searching for a natural rival in the Big Ten. Alas, as the eleventh member to join, I'm afraid we'll always be the odd man out on this one. Ohio State has Michigan and visa-versa. Wisconsin has Minnesota. Purdue has Indiana. We have Michigan State. Meh. On the plus side, I do believe that in most years every team on our Big Ten schedule considers us their second biggest game of the year. That's just my personal belief (or wish). Maybe some fans from other schools can weigh in on that.