Penn State Football: How Big Ten Realignment Will Benefit Nittany Lions

Kevin McGuireAnalyst IIApril 28, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Jesse Merise (13) celebrates with teammates after intercepting the ball in the first quarter of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Of all of the current Big Ten members, none will benefit more from the additions of Rutgers and Maryland in 2014 than the Nittany Lions.

For Penn State, the Big Ten's expansion moves will allow for an opportunity to rekindle some eastern rivalries and have the conference shift its presence closer to home.

Since the day they first joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have been sort of an outcast, isolated from the rest of the conference. Connected by just one state border, Penn State never really fit in geographically with the rest of the Big Ten, bearing a strong footprint in the Midwestern states.

In fact, Penn State's move to the Big Ten would turn out to be a sign of things to come with realignment in collegiate athletics, where conferences focused more on bringing in the best brands and television viewers.

Since then, of course, the Big Ten expanded further into the Midwest by adding Nebraska in 2011. From the start, Nebraska blended in with the Big Ten much more easily than Penn State did at first.

The conference's decision to move into a more eastern market was strategic for the conference.

Ideally, getting into the New York and Washington D.C. markets means bigger television numbers. Getting schools like Ohio State and Michigan on more TVs in those markets leads to more money for the conference if all goes to plan.

This is also an opportunity for Penn State to increase its presence in those regions as well.

Penn State already has a solid footing in the Washington D.C. area as well as in New Jersey, but now it will be able to bring its program to those fans and alums on a more regular basis.

Penn State is also being placed in a great division, with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. That means it gets to play the Buckeyes and Wolverines every year, which will be great for exposure and the fans.

Playing Maryland and Rutgers every year may not be that attractive right now, but rekindling those regional rivalries will be good for Penn State.

Maryland and Rutgers were never great rivalries with Penn State in terms of competitiveness, but the hope is that reuniting with these schools will spark some new rivalries to look forward to on an annual basis. Penn State's proximity to both schools will make travel for fans much easier and give some local fans in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia more opportunities to support their team.

This leads to positive results for alumni associations as well, which always has a positive impact on the school in a time when financial decisions may be tight as the school continues to pay off a $60 million fine assessed by the NCAA.

There are some drawbacks to Big Ten expansion, of course.

Penn State loses some of the recruiting pitches it could previously hold over Maryland and Rutgers. They will now be able to sell the same advantages their conference has to offer recruits, with increased exposure and the opportunity to play schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska.

Bigger conference revenue-sharing payments will also help Rutgers and Maryland catch up with athletic facilities. It may take some time to catch up to a school like Penn State in some respects, but it is a concern when Penn State is trying to pick talent from the same regions.

Overall, the Big Ten expansion does have a number of good effects on Penn State moving forward.


Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and an analyst for Bleacher Report. Follow Kevin on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.