Friday, on the three-year anniversary of leaking the news that the Big Ten was looking to add a 12th team, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez told the school’s athletic board the conference was driven to add a 13th and 14th team — in part — to keep Penn State in the fold.
“Jim (Delaney) felt that someday, if we didn’t have anyone else in that corridor, someday it wouldn’t make sense maybe for Penn State to be in our league,” Alvarez told the board, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That they would go into a league somewhere on the East Coast. By doing that, it keeps us in the Northeast corridor.”
So is there any truth to this? Was there a threat by the PSU administration to leave? Since the Big Ten’s grant of rights only covers the length of the current television contract, the timing would make sense. And Penn State’s recent issues with the conference have been well documented, too. While we certainly never believed PSU — or any team, for that matter — would truly leave the Big Ten, here’s the sales pitch we advocated for the conference to push to the school back in November:
“We know the Big Ten has it out for you. That fumble call against Nebraska was part of a much larger conspiracy by the league and the NCAA to truly stick it to you in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They’re going to continue to do so. Oh, and remember when Penn State was able to claim a good chunk of the New York market due to its proximity and affiliation to the B1G? Well that’s gone too, now that Rutgers has joined the conference. Speaking of the Scarlet Knights, we have a proposition for you: trade matchups with them and the Terps at noon for games against FSU, Notre Dame and Miami. We’ll even let you restart your old, bitter rivalries against Syracuse and Pitt. And we’ll let you win games and compete for a national championship. Seriously.”
All of that rang true back then, and it’s a compelling argument now. Before the Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland, what was really stopping the Nittany Lions from leaving a geographically dissimilar league that had it out for them, and exchanging it for an increasingly strong eastern league that would certainly receive a big contract boost with their membership?
So with that possibility virtually off the table, does the ACC have to make a similar move, beyond just bringing in Louisville? In a conference realignment game that continues to laugh at geography, it would be entertaining to see it actually drive an expansion move. In the ACC, the Florida schools (especially Florida State) feel regionally isolated and de-emphasized in comparison to Carolina basketball. The northeast corridor (Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) will be increasingly isolated once Maryland leaves (closest schools would now be in Virginia). Louisville, while close to Notre Dame, is still a regional outlier as the conference stands now. While I was once firmly against adding Cincinnati, if it ever came to needing another addition to keep Louisville from departing for the Big 12, the Bearcats would be the next and most logical choice.
For now, let’s just hope that the statement of solidarity holds and this is all conjecture. Don’t know about everyone else, but I’d love to see the realignment circus stop for a bit.