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The Big East Regrets Losing Penn State

Submitted by on July 20, 20095 Comments
If they really wanted, Penn State could be running through the Big East today
The question the Big East needs to ask themselves is this; Was it the right decision to invite Miami instead of Penn State?  The obvious answer for Penn State fans is no.  And in the long term the answer for the Big East is probably the same.

Back in 1991 the Big East formally welcomed the University of Miami Hurricanes to the Big East in a selfish move to give the budding conference national recognition.  Naturally this move irked Penn State fans, and Joe Paterno, as this move was made after the conference rejected Penn State’s plea to join the new football conference.

Paterno set out on a mission in the 1980′s to get an eastern football conference formed.  He urged teams like Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and Boston College to get on board but these teams were nervous about joining an upstart conference that would likely be dominated by Penn State.  Years later the Big East formed a football conference for the 1991-1992 season and excluded Penn State from the discussion.  Instead the Big East offered membership to Miami, who was coming off a successful decade and had emerged as one of the top programs in the college football landscape.

Fast forward to 2009.

The Big East lost the coveted Miami program, as well as Virginia Tech, in 2004 to the ACC and Boston College followed in 2005.  Temple was also removed from the conference in 2004.  The conference scrambled for replacements and expanded to include Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida.  Today the Big East fails to field a team worthy of a national championship consideration and typically is one of the conferences picked on by critics for their weak assortment of teams.  So when new commissioner John Marinatto recently mentioned Penn State in a Sports Illustrated interview, the ears of Nittany Lions fans opened up.

If Penn State was interested in moving back to the East, we’d be interested in that because they bring value. We are only eight [in football], but I think it’s an attractive situation because when our coaches are out there recruiting, they can sell players that their chance of earning a berth in a major bowl is more favorable.

If Penn State was interested?  I can assure you that many fans would probably be interested but the university itself will never admit to being interested in joining.  Paterno in particular may be the most difficult person to get to change their mind about the Big Ten.  But even if Paterno’s input was out of the equation (which realistically would not be the case) if Penn State had take everything into consideration, as much as fans may want it, the Big Ten would still be the best situation for the program.

One might wonder if Penn State could have enjoyed the success that the Miami program had from the years 1991 (when Miami played their first Big Easdt game) and 2004, when Miami packed up and took their game to the ACC.  In that time span Penn State went 110-49, which included the awful seasons at the turn of the century.  Along the way Penn State reached five of the BCS games.  Miami on the oher hand went 128-29 and picked up a pair of national championships in the process.  Could Penn State have picked up a bunch of easy wins against teams like Temple, Rutgers and Syracuse and played their way into a national championship game?  Almost certainly.  But where would they be today?

Would Penn State have made the same decision that Miami and Virginia Tech made in 2004 and moved on to another conference with a more lucrative opportunity?  Hindsight may be 20/20 but Miami has not exactly taken the ACC by storm the way it was imagined.  In fact the ACC has taken a big image hit in recent years, so you would like to think Penn State would not have repeated the move Miami made.

If Penn State were in the Big East they would be winning Big East trophies every year.  Only once has a Big East champion lost two conference games, with both times occuring after Miami and Virginia Tech left the conference.  Does anybody think that the Nittany Lions would be losing twice, let alone once, to the likes of Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Syracuse or Connecticut every year?

While the Big East has been on a roller coaster ride they do have some advantages over the Big Ten to boats.  The Big East owns a winning record in BCS bowl games since the concept was started in 1999, going 6-5 in BCS games including three appearances in the BCS championship game.  Meanwhile the struggles of the Big Ten in post season play are widely publicized, and often misrepresented.  In the same time span the Big Ten is 8-12 in BCS games, including four BCS championship games.

The two conferences faced off in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl for the only match-up between the conferences in the BCS.  Ohio State took the game and the national championship from Miami before they moved on to the ACC.  Miami owns three of the Big Easts’s BCS victories.

Sure, the Big East may have a winning record, but the Big Ten receives more opportunities in the BCS, deserved or not.  But if Penn State was in the Big East wouldn’t they be making more trips to BCS bowl destinations?  Probably.  And they would likely be facing off with the champions of the ACC in the Orange Bowl, a bowl game that Joe Paterno is 4-1 in.

As much as I would love to see Penn State join the Big East though, the time for that has long passed.  At this stage it seems that the only people that would reconsider it are the Big East officials, but it is rotten apples for them because Penn State is a Big Ten team and they will remain there for a long time.

And that is the best option available today.

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