Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rutgers to the Big 10/11... Was it a mistake by Penn State???

The Big 10/11's annual courtship of someone (usually Notre Dame) expanding into the conference is in full swing. Today's flavor seems to be The Sate University of New Jersey, otherwise known as the Rutgers. Other past flirtations have included Pittsburgh, Missouri and even Syracuse.

Many may ask, why Rutgers? Is it because they've dominated the Big East in Football winning several championships? Ahh, no. Is it because of award winning basketball? Nope. Academics? Puh-lease. College presidents may talk about academics, but its all about the benjamins. It has everything to do with being in metro New York and the 8 million TV households included in the market and the tv money that is sure to follow.

The goal simply stated is to make the Big 10/11 relevant in college football again. Add a 12th member, get in two divisions and have a championship game like the SEC has been staging for almost 20 years now. The SEC Championship has been a financial windfall for the conference since the first one was staged in 1992 at Legion Field in Birmingham. Its served as a defacto national semi-final game between Florida and Alabama the past two seasons and has produced 8 of the last 18 national champions, including the last four.

That my friends is power that Big 10/11 does not have anymore. The conference quits playing football the weekend before Thanksgiving and watches other conferences garner attention over the next two weeks while sitting home roasting marshmellows. Of course should we be surpsrised its taken the Big 10/11 this long to join the rest of the college football world, it only took them 500 years to add a conference basketball tournament.

So with the romancing of Rutgers in full swing, the better question to ask may be what has Penn State's addition done for the Big 10/11 since full membership began in 1993 and vice versa.

When the move was made, it seemed only natural that the Big 10/11 would add an additional team to go with PSU. But it never happened, despite the fact the SEC was adding Arkansas/South Carolina and the Big 12 was raiding the old Southwest Conference for its Texas members.

So what has happened to benefit Penn State. Personally, I see very little benefit for the Lions. The argument could be made they lost out on atleast one national championship in 1994 by being forced to go to the Rose Bowl to face a so-so Oregon team, instead of taking on Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Being an independent or even moving to the Big East, the Lions would have had that opportunity to play the Cornhuskers for all the marbles.

Atleast two other times this decade, the Lions stumbled on the road in late season conference games against so-so Iowa and Michigan teams derailing their chance at another national title appearance. Had they stayed as an independent or moved to the Big East, the Lions may have a couple of cyrstal footballs instead of an empty trophy case.

The numbers don't lie for Penn State. Between 1979-1986, the Lions played for the national championship on four occassions (Alabama/1979, Georgia/1982, Oklahoma/1985, Miami 1986), winning twice. Since full membership in 1993, the Lions haven't even sniffed the NC game despite having some great teams.

The other thing thats happened is that college football on the east coast is basically non-existent today since the Lions moved west. They were the dominant program in the east. Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh have all lost something in their programs since the yearly contest with the Lions have dispapeared. No big rivalries in the east seem to draw national interset. Their were times in the past the PSU vs take your pick attracted national attention. Not anymore. College football is almost non-existent in the east.

IF PSU moved to the Big East in the early 1980's, the argument could be made that not only could the Lions own the east coast but might own the nation. Instead, they've become a perenial 3rd-4th place team in the Big 10/11 and opened up the keystone state to Ohio St, Michigan and others to recruit against the Lions. OSU, Michigan and Mich. State have all had success with Pennsylvania players, kids they could not get other wise had the Lions not moved west.

The other unforseen consequence, the basketball program is in shambles. Many believed PSU would become as basketball power, they were headed for the Big 10/11, leaving Wreck Hall for the Bryce Jordan Center and headed for greener pastures then the Atlantic 10. Instead, the Lions have only made 2 NCAA tournaments since joining the conference have never been a factor in the Big 10/11 race.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh has become a basketball powerhouse by remaining in the Big East and Temple, Villanova and even St. Joe's have accomplished way more on the hardwood then the Lions. To me, its always been inexcusable for PSU to be so poor in hoops. There is talent in the state, they have a great facility, but I guess kids aren't going to go to a school that plays no games in the major metro areas of the east coast (NIT games in NYC don't count).

Although the Lions move to the Big 10 was greeted with great fanfare, I believe its really been a negative to PSU in terms of winning and even national exposure. The basketball team is still pitiful and the football team hasn't played for the big prize in almost 25 years. If Rutgers goes to the Big 10/11, it will be greeted with great fanfare, but just watch. They won't win championships, they will be an also ran in football and continue to be horrible in hoops, and New Jersey will be opened up for the rest of the conference to raid the states talent, just like Pennsylvania.

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