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You Can Stop Talking About Big Ten Expansion When You Pry It From Joe Paterno's Cold, Dead Hands

Joe Paterno might have eased off the gas a couple weeks back about demanding the Big Ten add a 12th team...but he's not exactly hitting the brakes just yet.

At last week's Big Ten football meetings in Chicago, Paterno talked up the idea of the conference's adding a 12th team, preferably one that is big in the New York television market, such as Syracuse, Rutgers or Pittsburgh.

That would enable the conference to break into two six-team divisions in which the first-place teams play for the league title, keeping the Big Ten in the public eye and better preparing two teams for bowl contests.

Couple thoughts.

1. Paterno's not wrong for wanting the Big Ten to add a 12th team and a championship game.  That is the future of college football.  Sooner or later, all of the BCS conferences will look like that, so you can keep plugging away under the guise of tradition or you can wake up to the reality that the separation between the have's and have-not's in college football will only continue to grow.  Even if the BCS gets blown up and teams like Utah and BYU get a fair shake at competing for the national title, the major conferences are going to continue putting in measures to ensure they don't lose too many pieces of the pie. 

And the easiest way to do that is to add a championship game.  It brings in revenue.  It adds a ton to your winner's RPI and strength of schedule.  It allows you to keep up with the Joneses (SEC, Big 12).

2. If it did eventually happen, I don't think it would be Syracuse.  At least not right now.  The Big Ten is in no rush to expand so to them, it would have to be a rainmaker offer to make it happen.  That's only going to happen one of two ways.  Either Notre Dame and their national fanbase join the conference or a team with full access to a major media market becomes available.  And I know, we're New York's College Team, but they don't televise our football games every week in New York City.   You know who's games do get televised there every week?  Rutgers.  They're much closer to NYC and have better in-roads at promoting in the Tri-State area.


Gregg Doyel over at CBS Sportsline picks apart Paterno and his ideas, calling him a selfish old turd who wants to loot and ruin a fellow BCS conference, something the ACC already tried and almost succeeded in doing.  In return, Black Shoe Diaries returns the serve and, rightfully, mentions that the Big East is just as culpable of conference-robbing (C-USA) as the ACC was.

To be fair, it's not the classiest thing to do to name-drop teams from another conference as options for expansion.  That's a discussion best left for behind closed doors. 

But if we're all being honest, all this talk about the dissolution of Big East will only get louder as long as the conference remains at such a small size compared to the other BCS conferences and, more importantly, no one from the Big East steps up and becomes a national title contender.  2007 was a fantastic  year for the conference, but it's unfortunately beginning to look more like the exception than the norm.  Last year was a disappointment and Cincinnati's conference title and poor Orange Bowl showing impressed very few around the country.  The conference will probably have no teams in the preseason Top 25 this year.  It's highest profile team, West Virginia, is expected to under-perform, and Syracuse is still a bottom-feeder until proven otherwise. 

Even if folks in the Big Ten don't think expansion is necessary, surely that's a surefire answer for the Big East in terms of putting a stop-loss on rumors for the time being.  Grow the conference a little, show the rest of the country you're not being stagnant, bring in another key market (Villanova/Philly, Navy/Baltimore), balance the conference schedule to 4-and-4.  While the teams race to improve on the field and prove which one will be it's national hope, we can at least send a message to JoePa and the rest of the college football world that Big East football is still something worth fighting for.