Spanier: Penn State staying put in Big Ten

Amid all the current talk about conference realignments, Penn State president Graham Spanier says his university is content being in the Big Ten.

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

Spanier offered the brief statement as his reaction to a comment made by head coach Joe Paterno at Tuesday’s football teleconference. Asked what he thought of two traditional Penn State rivals, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, Paterno talked about it being a good move for both schools.

Then he added, “There might even be some speculation that Penn State maybe ought to get into something different, or we ought to try to go out and get some people from the East to come into the Big Ten.”

Paterno has been trying for years to get at least one more Eastern school into the Big Ten, and suggested that Rutgers might serve that purpose.

He said he’d like to solicit Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and “some of the leaders in the Big Ten” to “take a look at Rutgers and take a look at somebody that we can bring in from the East so that the Big Ten doesn’t end in State College.”

“I’ve been trying since day one to get a couple of those schools, one of those schools or some other schools 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.”

Back in the early 1980s, when Paterno also served as Penn State’s athletic director in addition to its head football coach, he tried to get Eastern schools together for an all-sports conference. But the Big East, led by Dave Gavitt, its first commissioner, convinced teams that it could be a top-notch basketball league, and they stayed.

Paterno said Penn State had no interest in joining the Big East strictly for basketball.

“That was not the thing I felt was best for Penn State,” he said, “so we backed away.”

--Joe Juliano