Just when we thought Barry Alvarez had made enough headlines for one week, the Wisconsin athletic director/interim football coach gave us another delicious gem.
Speaking Friday to Wisconsin's athletic board, Alvarez said the Big Ten's recent additions of Maryland and Rutgers were motivated in part by the concern of losing Penn State to another conference. Alvarez didn't specify which league, but everyone knows it's the ACC.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"Jim [Delany] felt that someday, if we didn’t have anyone else in that corridor, someday it wouldn't make sense maybe for Penn State to be in our league. That they would go into a league somewhere on the east coast. By doing that, it keeps us in the northeast corridor."
From talking with a Penn State trustee and others affiliated with the school, it doesn't sound like there was any imminent desire to leave the Big Ten. But the Penn State/ACC rumor was out there the week before the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers.
Delany wrote in a text-message to ESPN.com on Friday that he's not commenting on what others are saying about the Big Ten's expansion rationale. But I asked him Nov. 19 -- the day the Big Ten added Maryland -- whether there was any concern about losing teams.
"No, not in my view," Delany said. "But I do think that you need to build, and this build really solidifies the expansion we’ve done in the past. We've done one in the East, we've done one in the West [Nebraska in 2010]. I would say the driving force is demographics, but when you look at it, you can't help but think this is good for Penn State as well."
I thought it was telling that he mentioned Penn State. He also described the expansion as an "eastern initiative with a Penn State bridge." Penn State undoubtedly was front of mind with this process as the Big Ten tried to create a greater presence on the east coast.
Since the blog launched in 2008, I've heard from Penn State fans who never have felt welcome in the Big Ten and would prefer the ACC, in large part because of the proximity to some ACC schools and the rivalries that would be enhanced. There likely are some Penn State power brokers who feel the same way.
From a financial perspective, it would be idiotic for Penn State to leave the Big Ten for the ACC. It makes no sense. On the other hand, the ACC increased its footprint with its recent expansions (Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame) and, in a way, surrounded Penn State.
The possibility of losing Penn State -- real or perceived -- likely played a role in the Big Ten's thinking.