A brief blurb on the Miami Herald's website was enough to create a stir among Penn State fans this week. The possibility of Penn State and Miami once again getting together for a football game appears to be in the discussion phase, and if one sentence is enough to go on, it appears it may just be a matter of determining when the game or games will be played.
Miami Herald sports columnist Barry Jackson made note in a Miami sports roundup that the University of Miami is "optimistic about finalizing a future football matchup (one or more) with Penn State." The Patriot News later confirmed through a Penn State spokesperson that the two schools are indeed talking but are only in the preliminary phases of such scheduling discussions.
Jackson also suggested a neutral-site game may be an option as well. The connection also makes plenty of sense, with Miami head coach Al Golden having played at Penn State and molding many of his coaching tendencies after Joe Paterno and current Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. He has also said before that the school is looking to schedule big-time programs with the possibility of playing in the south.
Three words for the folks behind the discussions at both Penn State and Miami: Make this happen.
Once the new college football postseason format is put into play for the 2014 season, strength of schedule will take on a larger emphasis on scheduling. This means many schools will likely be looking to schedule more frequent games against big-name programs instead of lower division programs.
The Big Ten intends to drop scheduling FCS programs altogether, and the conference will likely be moving to an official nine-game conference schedule as soon as possible. The ACC is expanding to 14 teams with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse this year and Louisville replacing Big Ten-bound Maryland in 2014.
Out-of-conference scheduling opportunities will be valuable for programs in both conferences looking to challenge the SEC. Any time the ACC and Big Ten can get together for a game should lead to some attractive matchups. Penn State versus Miami may not be what it was in the '80s or '90s, but if and when this game is scheduled will be something to keep an eye on.
Penn State currently has non-conference matchups booked for 2014 with Temple, Akron, UMass and Central Florida (which could be moved to 2015). Miami currently only has two non-conference opponents lined up for 2014, with Florida A&M and a road game at Nebraska.
Penn State's return date to Central Florida could be moved to 2015 to allow a game against Miami to take place in 2014, but the odds Miami would sign up for two games against Big Ten opponents in the same season may not be so great. The Hurricanes also have Nebraska scheduled for a 2015 game in Miami and two other non-conference games scheduled against Toledo and Florida Atlantic.
The non-conference schedules for Penn State and Miami do not open up with dates until 2017, with the assumption that the Big Ten and ACC will have nine-game conference schedules in the meantime. By then, Penn State will be off of NCAA probation, and Miami should have their current NCAA investigation well behind them.
Currently scheduled non-conference games can always be altered and moved to different dates, but sometimes those changes come at a price. With Penn State serving a postseason ban, the importance of strength of schedule is not necessarily a high priority until 2016, and the cost to reschedule certain games or cancel them altogether may be an unnecessary price to pay while paying off a $60 million fine and dealing with various lawsuits.
Whatever the case, whenever it is played, Penn State and Miami will rekindle memories of Penn State's past. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl, Chafie Fields and "no flags, no flags, no flags" and the night Adam Taliaferro led the team out of the tunnel of Beaver Stadium all rank among some of the top moments in Penn State history. Miami played a role in all of them.
Will fans get a chance to witness one of the next great moments in Penn State history if, or when, the Nittany Lions and Miami tangle once again?