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Penn State Football: Two Years After Joe Paterno's Plea, the Big Ten Gets an Eastern Team

by on November 20, 2012 9:00 AM

The man saw this coming years ago, just like Jim Delany.

Big Ten expansion happened twice with Joe Paterno, once in the early ‘90s involving Penn State and the second in the twilight of his life. Around the time Nebraska was announced as the 12th member of the conference, Paterno’s words would lead us to conclude it would be far from over.

"I think the trend is there are going to be bigger conferences,” Paterno said in April 2010. “I think there are going to be 12-, 14-team conferences and maybe even 16-team conferences. Do I know what I'm talking about, who knows?

Turns out, he was.

He vouched for an eastern team when expansion first arrived on the front burner of college athletics. He knew, then at 83, that television markets mattered a great deal, and that exposure would in turn boost recruiting. He knew, just like Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, that other conferences would shift the tectonics plates of the collegiate landscape and standing by idly could devastate the conference.

Paterno got Nebraska, a school with a football tradition as great as his own but located in the Great Plains.

Of course, he never did coach against Nebraska when both were members of the Big Ten. Now, Maryland is set to join the Big Ten starting in 2014, and Rutgers is reportedly set to follow suit. Those schools will secure the eastern corridor for the conference.

“It brings somebody to our back door that extends the footprint of the Big Ten, yet brings back many traditional great memories for people in Pennsylvania as well as in Maryland,” Penn State Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner told the Big Ten Network.

Several questions surrounding the addition involve the impact on recruiting, budgets and scheduling. The big question is whether the Big Ten is finished. Delany, a North Carolina grad, said there were models of a 14- and 16-team Big Ten on the board when it was courting Nebraska. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski told Sports Illustrated he believes the ACC is “vulnerable.” Atlanta and Charlotte are two more television markets untapped.

"When all this happens,” Paterno said, “I'll probably be out of this thing.”

Of course, that too is true.

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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