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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 7:58 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:22 am
Posts: 1030
Three part series on PSU's joining of Big Ten from a paper in Central PA.

Part 1 today:

(First of a three-part series)

The idea wasn't new.

When Bryce Jordan became Penn State's president in 1983, talk of the university joining the Big Ten Conference had been trickling into administrators' ears for a few years.

But before he settled in full-time, as he was still commuting from Austin, Texas, to State College, Jordan had a talk with football coach Joe Paterno, who had recently tried to spearhead an eastern all-sports conference. The idea was strong in Jordan's mind, and he knew the topic was of great interest to the coach.

"We ought to consider becoming a part of the Big Ten," Jordan told Paterno.

Less than a decade later, Paterno's football team, 22 of Penn State's other 27 varsity teams and the university itself were members of the oldest and arguably most distinguished major athletic conference in the country.

The in-between was a quick and mostly pain-free transition that changed both the sporting landscape Penn State had left and the one it had entered, and more than 15 years of competition have elapsed since. Coaches have come and gone, Big Ten titles won and lost, rivalries ended and established.

During the next three days, the CDT will examine Penn State's history in the conference -- the challenges it has faced and will face, the ways the move re-shaped the athletic department and the conference itself -- and look at what lies ahead.

Football, as it has and continues to in so many ways at Penn State, triggered the transition. The program that generated the revenue for essentially every other team at Penn State had always been an independent, even when the basketball programs and a handful of other teams had joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in the early 1980s.

Paterno saw the future even before the NCAA reduced the number of scholarships during the early 1990s and parity sprang up across the nation, before the multi-million dollar Bowl Championship Series made its debut in 1998. He knew that joining a conference would provide his team with scheduling stability, increased national exposure, additional revenue and an expanded recruiting turf.

Of course, not just any conference would do.

Paterno, who also served as Penn State's athletic director from 1980-81, had attempted to forge an eastern all-sports conference in the early 1980s that would have consisted of Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and Temple, among others. Not enough of those universities came on board -- Pitt joined the Big East in basketball -- and the vision never came to pass.

So instead of looking north and south and east for new alliances, Penn State looked west. And the West looked back.

Stanley Ikenberry served as Penn State's executive vice president for administration from 1971 until he became the University of Illinois' president in 1979. In 1989, he was the chairman of the board of Big Ten presidents, known as the "Council of Ten."

Ikenberry knew Penn State. He knew that in terms of size, academic reputation and athletic tradition, it matched up well with the existing Big Ten schools.

"I knew the university and the people," said Ikenberry, now an education professor at Illinois. "There was a level of trust on their part and my part that might not have otherwise been available."

Sometime in late 1989, Paterno, Penn State athletic director Jim Tarman and senior vice president of finance and treasurer Steve Garban boarded a private plane and flew to Champaign, Ill., where they drove to Ikenberry's home for dinner and discussion about Penn State's potential future.

A good portion of the initial talk concerned academics.

"I wanted Penn State to be among its equals," said Jordan, who was Penn State's president from 1983-1990. "Some of the institutions we were playing regularly prior to that were simply not Penn State's equal academically."

Membership in the Big Ten meant membership in the Association of American Universities as well as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

"The academic wing of the Big Ten," Jordan said. "One doesn't hear much of it but it's an important aspect of the conference."

Penn State would have access to materials in all of the Big Ten's other libraries. Its academic leaders would have easier and more frequent contact with their conference counterparts.

The Penn State contingent liked the fit, but also realized the importance of being welcomed with open arms. Ikenberry told Jordan that he would individually contact the other Big Ten presidents to get their initial reactions to the proposed expansion.

"We didn't want to raise this publicly unless there was a relatively high level of confidence that it was going to go through," Ikenberry said.

During that round of phone calls, Ikenberry said, the "reactions were almost uniformly positive." He then called Jordan back and asked if the Penn State president wanted to formally put the wheels in motion. He did.

At a press conference held in the Kern Building of the Penn State campus on Dec. 19, 1989, Ikenberry officially extended the invitation to join the conference.

To gain admittance, Penn State needed votes of approval from seven of the 10 university presidents. The Council of Ten convened in Iowa City on May 3, 1990, talking late into the night about the pros and cons of adding an 11th member.

The next morning, Ikenberry called Jordan.

"I told him that at that point I did not have the necessary seven votes," Ikenberry said. "And that he should prepare himself for the possibility that this thing might go down."

After two more hours of discussion that morning, Ikenberry called a recess. Wisconsin chancellor Donna Shalala took him aside and said she believed Northwestern president Arnold Weber was hesitating because of his belief that Penn State's entrance into the conference would lead the Big Ten to ask Northwestern to leave.

That was not anyone's intention, said Ikenberry, and when the meeting resumed, the council instituted a three-year moratorium that would freeze the number of teams in the conference at 11.

Northwestern was satisfied. Penn State had its seven votes, and was formally accepted into the conference on June 4, 1990. But not everyone celebrated.

The most outspoken detractors were Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, who made half-kidding remarks about the difficulty of traveling to State College, and Minnesota athletic director Rick Bay who, according to Jordan, was "almost vitriolic in his opposition." Opposition also came from Penn State alumni, who were doubtful that the Nittany Lions would be able to establish the same sort of rivalries they had forged with in-state and Eastern foes with their Big Ten brethren.

And though the majority of university presidents were pleased with the outcome, several of their athletic directors quietly grumbled about it, as much about the fact that they hadn't been consulted as about the decision itself.

"Mostly it was a proxy for what was then occurring, which was a change of governance leadership," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who had been on the job for less than a year when Penn State received the initial invitation. "It was evidence of greater involvement by university presidents (in athletic affairs), a de facto statement of who was in control."

Those who had put the process in motion were patient with the doubters.

"It was tough at the time," Ikenberry said, "but it was pretty obviously the right fit."


Dec. 19, 1989 --Big Ten extends invitation to Penn State to become the 11th member of the conference.

June 4, 1990 -- Penn State is formally accepted into the Big Ten by member universities.

Sept. 8, 1991 -- Men's soccer becomes the first Penn State team to play a Big Ten conference game when it faces Indiana

Nov. 28, 1992 -- The women's volleyball team clinches a share of Penn State's first Big Ten championship by defeating Northwestern. The Nittany Lions will win the school's first outright Big Ten title a year later.

Sept. 4, 1993 -- Football begins Big Ten play with a 38-20 win over Minnesota in Beaver Stadium.

Sept. 18, 1994 -- Penn State's women's soccer team plays its first Big Ten conference game. The Nittany Lions have won each of the last nine Big Ten championships.

March 12, 1994 -- The women's basketball team wins the first of its five Big Ten titles.

Nov. 26, 1994 -- The football team defeats Michigan State 59-31 at home to cap an 11-0 regular season and its first Big Ten championship.

(Big dreams series continues Monday and Tuesday.)

Last edited by panthersc97 on Mon May 21, 2007 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 8:06 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:22 am
Posts: 1030
Part 2: Transition has been one of adjustments

Transition has been one of adjustments
By Jeff Rice

Editor's note: This story is the second in a three-part series on Penn State's history in the Big Ten. To read Sunday's story, visit Check Tuesday's CDT or the Web site for the series finale.

Ask Russ Rose to share a few memories of his team's first Big Ten season, and the Penn State women's volleyball coach will tell you of the time he spent sitting in airport terminals.

The Nittany Lions, who had been within driving distance of the majority of their Atlantic 10 rivals, quickly realized the adventures of trying to find connecting flights from State College to the Big Ten cities of the Midwest.

"On one of the trips, we had 18 different flights," Rose said. "Now, we charter."

Rose's story illustrates the adjustments Penn State's 23 Big Ten teams had to make during their initial seasons in the conference as well as the Nittany Lions' status as the conference's geographic outpost. For several of Penn State's programs, the transition was made smoother by outstanding performances on the fields or courts of play. Others, more than a decade later, are still trying to catch up.

Penn State officially became a member of the conference on June 4, 1990, following a vote by university presidents. It could begin play in most of its sports the following year, and it did -- 10 Nittany Lion teams opened their inaugural Big Ten seasons during the 1991-1992 season. Rose's team, which met Indiana on Sept. 27, 1991, became the first to do so.

Because of conference television contracts, basketball and football had longer waits. At the time, it was believed football wouldn't start conference play until 1994, men's basketball until 1995.

But Penn State began conference play in both sports a lot sooner.

"We were always bullish inside the conference offices that it would be the sooner, the better," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "Basketball could be done more quickly because of the nature of the contracts. Football is a little bit longer."

The men's and women's basketball teams played their final seasons in the Atlantic 10 in 1990-91, played one season as an independent, then played their first 18-game Big Ten schedules in 1992-93.

The football team was the last to come on board, playing its first Big Ten conference game in the 1993 season opener and defeating Minnesota 38-20.

While fans across Big Ten country and the nation closely followed the progress of Joe Paterno's famed football team against its new rivals, several of the other Nittany Lion teams wasted little time making themselves at home in the Big Ten.

The women's volleyball, men's soccer and women's basketball teams won conference championships during the 1993-94 scholastic year. The football team won its first Big Ten title -- finishing the season 12-0 and No. 2 in the polls -- in 1994.

Other programs struggled to make the adjustment. The men's basketball team, which had become one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 and had gone 21-8 in 1991-92, was 2-16 in its inaugural Big Ten season. Just three years later, the Nittany Lions went 12-6 in the conference and earned an NCAA Tournament berth, but the success was short-lived; the men's basketball team has had a losing conference record in 10 of the 11 seasons since.

Of Penn State's 41 regular-season Big Ten team championships, 32 belong to women's teams. Nine of those belong to the women's soccer program, which was established at Penn State in 1994. Ten belong to Rose and the women's volleyball program, and five to the women's basketball program, led through its first 15 seasons by since-departed coach Rene Portland.

But both the title-winning teams and those who struggled to .500 records had to make adjustments. The travel was one. Columbus, some 330 miles away, is the closest Big Ten city to State College. Minneapolis is more than 970 miles away.

Recruiting was another. For years, Penn State, particularly in football, had its pick of the top recruits in the East. When they joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions expanded their recruiting area, drawing some top prospects from Michigan and Ohio, but the conference's other 10 teams began luring some prize recruits out of Pennsylvania.

"I think it's tougher," Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said during Big Ten Media Day in 2005. "When we got in the Big Ten, I told some of the (other coaches), 'If you guys are smart, we're gonna open up a whole new area over here.'"

If familiarity bred contempt on the recruiting path, it slowly spread to the playing fields as Penn State began seeing foes it had previously met only a handful of times once or twice a season.

The Big Ten is filled with rivalries -- Minnesota-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-Michigan State and, of course, Michigan-Ohio State. Fifteen years into the conference, Penn State is still searching for a rivalry with that sort of sizzle.

"The one challenge we have is just distance," said Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. "It's a hard thing for people who can't go to away events like you would like in a rivalry. But overall in each sport, each one has kind of identified one or two schools, that's our rival in that sport and that's who we need to get ready to play."

But some of Penn State's athletes have trouble identifying those one or two schools.

"It's tough to even think of what rivalry we have, I mean, every other team in the Big Ten has already got one -- Ohio State's got Michigan. People would probably place us against Northwestern," said men's basketball player Danny Morrissey. "Maybe it's tough for Penn State in general to have a rivalry when they used to be in the Atlantic 10. ... We get up for the top ranked teams, but I can't really think of one game that that's much bigger than any one."

Penn State football player A.Q. Shipley considers Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State to typically be the "biggest" games of each season. The Nittany Lions face the Spartans during the final week of each Big Ten season, when the Ohio State-Michigan game and other traditional conference rivalries take place.

The Nittany Lions have lost eight straight games to Michigan. The series with Ohio State has been closer (9-5 in favor of Ohio State since 1993), and the Buckeyes are Penn State's closest conference neighbor.

"There's a lot of Pennsylvania-Ohio rivalries just between high schools," Shipley said. "We play the Big 33 game, there's a lot of all-star games. Then you come to college and it's the same thing. Ohio State's a big-time program every year. We're getting back to that."

Shipley, a western Pennsylvania native, smiles wistfully when asked about the prospect of Penn State renewing its rivalry with Pittsburgh. The Nittany Lions and Panthers haven't met since 2000.

"I grew up watching that rivalry," he said. "And I know I'd like to see it again."

It didn't take long for Penn State's coaches and athletes to realize that the formula for winning battles on the recruiting trail or on the field in the Big Ten wasn't all that different than the one they had known.

"To me, it's always cyclical," Rose said. "When you get a good collection of athletes and they play well together, you have a chance of doing well in your conference, whether it's the Atlantic 10 or Big Ten."

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 8:39 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 2:37 pm
Posts: 9047
Panther,thanks for posting those interesting articles.

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:12 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:22 am
Posts: 1030
Thanks freaked.

Here's the final part of the series:

Bond remains strong on both sides
By Jeff Rice

This story is the third of a three-part series on Penn State's history in the Big Ten. To read the first two stories, visit online at

It's a question that comes from young children, green sports fans or simply those who cannot tolerate numerical discrepancies: Why does a conference with 11 members call itself the Big Ten?

And that question has occasionally led to another: Does Penn State belong in the Big Ten?

Seventeen years after it became a member of the conference and 15 years after the majority of its teams began Big Ten competition, the university believes the answer is a resounding "yes."

The affiliation's positive effect on the university's athletic budget is only one reason.

The nation's thirst for college football was unquenchable in the 1980s, and the television networks began cashing in. The SEC's "Game of the Week" began airing in 1984. NBC began televising Notre Dame football games on a regular basis in 1991.

"We felt if we did not get into a conference at that time," Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said, "we might be on the outside looking in. We thought it would be an outside chance for us to get into the Big Ten. But, like a lot of things, the timing had to be right."

The Big Ten's television contracts for football and basketball and the revenue they brought were not a primary factor in Penn State's decision to enter the conference.

They were, however, among a number of changes to the way the athletic department calculated its annual budget.

As an independent, Penn State would receive an allotted payout for every bowl game it played in. As a member of the Big Ten, Penn State receives 1/12th of the conference's total bowl earnings (Big Ten teams play in an average of 5-6 bowls per year; the 12th share goes to the conference office) whether it plays in a bowl game that season or not. Considering the athletic department -- one of the few remaining in the nation that is self-supportive -- factors this revenue into its annual budget, the revenue sharing proved huge when the football team played in just one bowl game from 1999-2005.

The shares of dollars and status were guaranteed. Penn State also wanted its share of Big Ten championships, which was not. So, over time, the athletic department adjusted. Ten of the school's 13 athletic facilities have been built or upgraded since Penn State joined the Big Ten. Many of the 29 varsity teams received additional funding, staff and number of scholarships.

"There's no guarantee you'll be successful with those things," Penn State women's volleyball coach Russ Rose said. "It's a pretty good guarantee you won't be without them."

The sports with the largest budgets, the so-called "revenue" sports, are football and men's and women's basketball. According to the most recent data available from the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Acts Web site (reported from July 2005 to June 2006), Penn State was sixth in football spending, ninth in men's basketball spending and third in women's basketball spending.

It trailed only Ohio State in overall athletic spending, which is little surprise since Ohio State, with 39 varsity programs, is the only Big Ten school with more teams than Penn State's 29.

The fact that nearly every Big Ten school has a different number of varsity teams is precisely why Penn State's athletic department tries not to measure its budget against those of other Big Ten institutions, but there's no question that it keeps an eye on what other schools are spending on specific sports.

"We try to take each sport individually and look at the marketplace and benchmark within the Big Ten, because that's obviously where we're competing in the majority of our events," Penn State athletic director Tim Curley said. "But we also try to benchmark against other top programs around the country. Each sport may be a little bit different.

"We evaluate that year in and year out in terms of what the competition's doing and what we need to do in order to give our coaches and student-athletes the resources, the support, the personnel, scholarship support in order to be competitive at that level."

Penn State has enjoyed other benefits of Big Ten membership as well. As a member of one of the nation's "power" conferences, Penn State is also part of an organization that is frequently called upon for its input on national issues in collegiate sport, such as Title IX or recruiting standards.

"We're a part of a group that has an ability to impact a lot of topics that come up from time to time," Curley said.

And the Big Ten has enjoyed the addition of a university whose teams continue to finish among the nation's best in the classroom. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked fifth in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup standings, which measure overall competitive success, and are third among Big Ten teams behind Wisconsin and Michigan. Penn State's four-year graduation rate for student athletes is 81 percent, which is second in the conference and the nation to Northwestern.

Penn State has been what the Big Ten hoped it would be.

"I think it continues to be the most successful single-member expansion of any conference expansion," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.

"Penn State is a predictable sellout for almost any away football game," said Stanley Ikenberry, the former University of Illinois president who helped orchestrate the union. "It's been good to have them in the academic meetings as well. It's a quality place, well-managed, our people have a lot to learn from them. I can't imagine anybody who would think about dismantling Penn State from the Big Ten."

Of course, there are always those who want more. The success of Penn State's women's programs is undeniable, but there are fans who believed that Penn State's football team would have more than two Big Ten championships by this point, and plenty more who cannot understand why the men's basketball team has a winning percentage of .295 in conference games or why the wrestling team is still searching for its first Big Ten championship.

"In some cases," Curley admitted, "we're a little further along than others."

For the most part, though, the relationship has been what Penn State expected, the benefits what it had hoped they would be and the drawbacks addressed or adjusted to.

"It's been good for us because of the reasons we wanted to go in," Paterno said. "We wanted to be a in a conference that had some prestige, and one that gave any of the sports that we had an opportunity to play in the conference."

The landscape of college athletics is ever-changing. Over the past few years, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East Conference have undergone major realignments. But the Big Ten, said Delany, has no immediate plans to expand. Nor does Penn State have any immediate intentions of going anywhere.

"I know we're really happy where we are today," Curley said. "Things change very quickly in college athletics, and it seems like every year you read about somebody else with a conference change. I just don't know what will happen down the road, but right now we're really pleased with our affiliation."

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