College Football

Time for Another What-If Post

I honestly can’t remember how many I have done in the past but I don’t think I have dedicated an entire post to something like this.  This is what happens during the off-season…the mind starts to wander.

First, before I begin, I will say that I have been sick all week and noticed the Cleveland-Philly trade the day after it happened.  Doesn’t change my mock draft as all that would have to be done is the Eagles are slotted in at #2 and the Browns are now at #8.  Somehow we have gone back to my first mock which had Joey Bosa going to the Browns.  Poor Joey.

Alright, time for the What-If portion of our show.  The question this time around is What if Penn State was granted entry into the Big East back in 1982?

I know this has been done several times by others but I figured I would take a crack at it.  If you don’t know, Penn State applied to become part of the old Big East in 1982.  They needed six votes to be accepted out of the eight schools and got five.  Georgetown, St. John’s, and Villanova voted against it.  All three had powerhouse basketball programs and did not want to go away from the conference’s basketball roots.  The Big East didn’t sponsor football until 1991 so until then, basketball was king.  This decision was possibly understandable at the time but boy did it ever affect college football in the future, especially with the eventual demise of the Big East itself.

So let’s take a look at what would have happened if Penn State had been accepted to the Big East.

Penn State would have never accepted an invitation to the Big Ten if they had already been in the Big East.  Penn State was an independent until 1990 when they joined the B1G.

The Big East probably would have started sponsoring football at least one or two seasons earlier than it did.  The Big East had a football conference for the first time in 1991.  Chances are this would have started earlier, even if it had been one season.

There is a good chance with Penn State in there, Notre Dame would have joined before talks became serious with NBC.  This means, when the conference probably would have started sponsoring football in, say, 1990, this is what the football lineup would have been:

Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh – all original members

Penn State, Notre Dame – invited in the 80s

Miami, Rutgers, Temple, West Virginia, Virginia Tech – invited when Big East started football conference

That would be some kind of ten-team conference.  Only issues in the 90s would have been Rutgers and Temple being doormats most of the decade.

Does this mean Florida State joins the Big East?  Probably not but I think the decision becomes a little less simple with Miami, Penn State, and Notre Dame all in one conference.

Up until 1995, most of this would have meant very little.  That all changed in 1996 when the Southwest Conference ceased to exist.  This made the Big 8 expand to the Big 12, Conference USA being formed, and the WAC going with some extreme expansion.  Remember, if all above had happened, the Big Ten would have still been at ten teams.

I think the big 1996 realignment, the first of its kind, would have gone on exactly as it looked, at the time.  At this point, college football is big, but not as big as it has become now.  And it certainly didn’t have the money flowing towards it back in 1996 that it does now, 20 years later.

All this time, I am sure Joe Paterno would have reminded everyone of his vision of a Northeastern-type conference of college football.  The one team that he had mentioned that wasn’t in the Big East was Maryland.

This brings us to 2004.  The great ACC heist of three teams from the Big East (well, Miami and Virginia Tech that year and Boston College the next).  We can safely say now that this probably never happens.  However, Miami had complained about the Big East as far back as 1999.  The northern nature of the conference may have created the scenario that Miami would have felt like an outsider.  At the time, Miami did feel like an outsider because they were more focused on football than basketball.  Again, this isn’t the issue here.  My guess is Virginia Tech and Boston College stay.  And on top of that, the Big East adds the aforementioned Maryland to the conference to complete Joe Paterno’s dream (kind of).  Also Connecticut is added to the Big East as well.  Finally, Temple remains and isn’t dropped as was originally what happened.

The ACC is almost desperate for expansion so they would take Miami, especially since this means more games for Miami against archrival Florida State.  The ACC wanted enough teams (twelve) to hold a conference championship game though.  This meant they would have still needed three teams.  My best guess is they go to twelve immediately with the invitations to Louisville, Cincinnati, and USF, the three football programs who ended up going to the Big East that same year.

I believe this would also be what behooved the Big Ten to expand.  In 2011, they added Nebraska from the Big XII.  I think they would go all in and also add Kansas and Missouri as well.  This would put them at an awkward 13.  Rutgers now wouldn’t make sense as the Big Ten really didn’t have a bridge to the NY/NJ area.  My guess is they are semi-forced to take Kansas State as they may be anchored to Kansas (although that might not be true).

So now the Big XII is down to nine.  Do they stay that way?  I doubt it.  But now, instead of Colorado and Utah, the (then) Pac-10 has an easier time of convincing the Texahoma 4 (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State) to move west and join to become the Pac-14.

The SEC would get Texas A&M but now Missouri is in the Big Ten (where they probably should have been all along).  Knowing there’s few schools out there that fit the SEC footprint they may just take UCF as they are a huge school from a big area.  It would also match the number of Florida teams in the ACC with two.

Finally, with all this talk of conference championships being important, the Big East would have to move to add a team to get to twelve.  My best guess is that it would come down to three schools at the time: East Carolina, Massachusetts, and Buffalo.  East Carolina wouldn’t fit the geographic footprint and Buffalo isn’t a power in neither football nor basketball.  So in the end, the Big East gets UMass.

All this would leave the following setup (I have left divisions out as it doesn’t really matter here):

Big East SEC Pac-14 Big Ten ACC
Boston College Alabama Arizona Illinois Cincinnati
Connecticut Arkansas Arizona St. Indiana Clemson
Maryland Auburn California Iowa Duke
Massachusetts Florida Oklahoma Kansas Florida St.
Notre Dame Georgia Oklahoma St. Kansas St. Georgia Tech
Penn State Kentucky Oregon Michigan Louisville
Pittsburgh LSU Oregon St. Michigan St. Miami
Rutgers Mississippi St. Stanford Minnesota NC State
Syracuse Ole Miss Texas Missouri North Carolina
Temple South Carolina Texas Tech Nebraska USF
Virginia Tech Tennessee UCLA Northwestern Virginia
West Virginia Texas A&M USC Ohio St. Wake Forest
UCF Washington Purdue
Vanderbilt Washington St. Wisconsin

There’s probably a few things that could change there obviously as some schools could be considered more “deserving” to be in there than others.  Some schools, like Baylor and TCU, now thrive on the football field and it may affect things in the future.  Obviously this means the Big XII would die off (not surprisingly) and the aforementioned Baylor and TCU would be joined by Iowa State and Colorado as schools without a conference.  Either the Mountain West or Conference USA would become their home.  Either that or, in the case of Baylor and TCU, a new Southwest Conference is formed with some of the bigger/more successful schools like Houston, North Texas, UTSA, UL-Lafayette, etc.  Utah would be still stuck in the Mountain West.  This, however, might mean that BYU might be inclined to want back in, especially if they also had Baylor and TCU.

This whole exercise also includes the breakup of the Big East as well.  The basketball schools would leave and create their own conference like they have now.  However, the Big East name might not be theirs so the conference with Georgetown, Villanova, Butler, et al might be called The American Conference instead.

Anyways, no matter how you figure the dominoes would fall, it is a certainty that that one vote not going Penn State’s way changed college football’s landscape forever.


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