Here is a quick hitter from a reader and commenter,”PittinClearwater” who submitted a piece to get some conversational juices flowing.
What would have happened if Pitt had joined Penn State in the late 80’s to form the Eastern Eight? It is a good question to ponder in the down-time prior to the Pitt-Northwestern bowl game.
Here is a bit from a older article in the Allentown Morning Call paper that lays out some background to this question:
Thirty years are but a blink to the landmass we live on, but in the timeline of college football they encompass ages and epochs.
Consider this: In 1981, Penn State coach Joe Paterno very nearly brokered a deal with several East Coast universities to create an all-sports conference. It was his dream to live and play in a world of newly negotiable television contracts and traditional, regional rivalries.
But then the details got in the way, and the disagreements became spats. Today, the negotiators differ on the terms of their parted ways, though they agree on one theme: College football’s road to today began partly with Paterno, the Big East and the never-was, but still lamented, Eastern Conference.
The obituary of Paterno’s proposal was dredged this past weekend, when the Atlantic Coast Conference welcomed the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse as its 13th and 14th members. Fed up with the Big East’s increasing football irrelevancy, proactive Pitt and Syracuse found an equally proactive partner in the ACC, which seeks to remain afloat in the relevant waters of college football.
The head-spinning conference makeovers likely won’t end until four superpowers remain. Which begs the question: Would Paterno’s Eastern Conference have been one of them?
Here are the schools which were under consideration for the new Eastern Conference in the early 1980s:
Virginia Tech (or would it have been University of Cincinnati or the University of Miami?)
PSU would have been the driving force and with seven required conference games per year it would have allowed PSU to schedule four other games (at that time the NCAA limited football schedules to 11 games in a regular season), so a larger conference would not have worked for them nor, I believe, have made all these ex-independents happy.
Some traditional rivalries would have been kept but the rest of the college football world would have moved on as we know it. In 1991, the South West Conference started to fall apart and thus a new round of realignment began.
In looking at the final AP standings from the 1985 season to the 1995 season Penn State would have been the big dog among the group. If Miami had been the 8th member, they most probably would have given Penn State the best competition PSU faced in those days. Remember that was when Miami was “Thug U’ and winning lots of games.
However, I believe the Eastern Eight schools listed above would still have had the same problem the Big East ended up with in having Miami being out there as an non-conference Independent school. Miami would have been targeted by the Atlantic Coast Conference to persuade them to join up with them…. and we saw that exact thing happen in 2005.
So fellow Pitt fans, what do you think would happen when the early years of the 21st Century rolled around? The South Eastern Conference (SEC) would still expand and The Big 12 would become the Big 12 (now with only 10 schools actually).
And we well know what transpired with the Big Ten; they expanded eastward for the money that would be generated by TV and cable viewership in those big-city markets and thus sacrificed athletic and academic quality in their members to do so.
So then, here is what I think would have happened.
Let’s assume Virginia Tech and not Miami is in the new Eastern Eight. All the other moves would remain the same. The Big Ten offers Penn State, Syracuse and BC membership in 2011 to become the 14 member conference they are now.
The ACC accepts Miami and VT and Maryland would have remain a member. For Pitt’s athletics we would end up with WVU, Louisville and Cincinnati in the new Big 12 and TCU then is the odd man out and is the big loser.
How do you guys see things panning out had that proposed conference become a reality…?
Note: Here is a NY Times article that helps explain how the Big East came to be back in the day…
Edit by Reed: Here is how one media outlet envisioned a future B12 (14) as recently as 2012: