Dead Man Talking
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The Associated Press Penn State head coach Joe Paterno speaks during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had a lot to say Tuesday about his team's offensive and kicking woes.

But he had even more to say about Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference and about Penn State's future conference alignment.

Paterno dropped a potential bombshell involving the Nittany Lions during a lengthy answer about his reaction to the move by Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

"There might even be speculation that Penn State maybe ought to get into something different," Paterno said, "or we ought to try to go out and get some people from the East to come into the Big Ten."

It was an unsolicited remark from the Hall of Fame coach, which raised eyebrows that Penn State might be reconsidering its membership in the Big Ten or that the conference might have plans to expand.

Penn State president Graham Spanier said that his school is content in the Big Ten and that the conference has no plans to add schools.

"The Big Ten does not contemplate a change and feels very secure in its current arrangement," Spanier said in a brief email to The Associated Press. "This applies to all of our 12 members, including Penn State."

Penn State athletic director Tim Curley declined comment.

The Nittany Lions have played Pitt and Syracuse more than any other schools in football. Paterno had been campaigning for the Big Ten to add an Eastern school, even before Nebraska was admitted last year.

"I think it's a good move for the Atlantic Coast Conference and a good move for those two schools," Paterno said. "I've been trying since day one to get a couple of those schools, one of those schools or some other school from the East in the Big Ten because I think there's a tremendous market for recruiting and football in the area.

"Fifty million people live in the areas that we're talking about. That's an awful lot of kids playing football and all sports."

Later on the Big Ten coaches teleconference, Paterno discussed again how he tried to form an Eastern all-sports conference when he was Penn State's athletic director from 1980-81.

He said the athletic directors then at Syracuse (Jake Crouthamel), Boston College (Bill Flynn) and Providence (Dave Gavitt) wanted to keep the fledgling Big East intact as a basketball-only conference. Gavitt, who died Friday, also was the Big East commissioner.

"They didn't want a football conference," Paterno said Tuesday. "They didn't want Penn State for football. They didn't want us to pull Boston College, Syracuse and Pitt out of the Big East and into an all-sports conference.

"They made a strong effort to get Penn State to join the Big East, strictly for basketball. That was not the thing I felt was best for Penn State, so we backed away."

Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who succeeded Gavitt, told The New York Times in 2009 upon his retirement that the conference made one major mistake in his 30 years with the conference.

"We had a chance to take Penn State in 1982 and we didn't," Tranghese said. "You look back on it and the whole face of college athletics would be changed now. If we had taken Penn State in 1982 we may still have football independents."

The eight Big East members voted 5-3 to accept Penn State, according to Tranghese, but that was one vote short of the necessary six needed for admission.

Penn State was admitted to the Big Ten eight years later, which was the first domino to fall in conference realignment. That precipitated the ACC's addition of Florida State and the Big East's addition of Miami and Virginia Tech, two schools that later jumped to the ACC.

In the last year, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Boise State, Texas A&M, Pitt and Syracuse have changed conference affiliations or announced plans to do so.

Paterno still would like to see an Eastern school invited to join the Big Ten and mentioned Rutgers.

"Maybe we ought to solicit (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany and some of the leaders of the Big Ten," he said. " 'Hey, why don't we take a look at Rutgers or somebody that we can bring in from the East so that the Big Ten doesn't end in State College?'

"I think that would be helpful. I don't know. I haven't given it enough thought, but I'm sure there are people sitting around this morning over a cup of coffee who have some responsibility for the future of different conferences that are talking about it."

(Courtesy of the Reading Eagle)

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