Penn State-Eastern Illinois: Follow The Money

Tim KingCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions walks off the field after a game against the Temple Owls on September 19, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

The name Eastern Illinois appears on the Penn State schedule this year right alongside storied franchises such as Syracuse, Michigan, and Ohio State.

It's no misprint. The game kicks off at noon, just like the piece of paper says. But it shouldn't be that way.

Eastern Illinois is the Nittany Lions' 12th game of the season and will make its way to Beaver Stadium on Saturday, only to collect around $430,000 and one game in the loss column. Outside of Appalachian State, FCS teams stand a snowball's chance in games of this nature, a fact of which they are well aware. 

Saturday is loosely about competition, but more importantly it's about a payday.  Eastern Illinois goes home with a decent portion of its football budget for the year paid for, and Penn State goes home with another home box office bonanza. It shouldn't be that way, but in the world of big-time athletics, it has to be that way.

According to figures submitted to the NCAA, Penn State is one of only 19 programs in FBS whose athletic department is entirely self supporting. There isn't a cent of tuition money or tax money in Joe Paterno's budget, and he's one of only 15 percent of big-time programs that can make that claim. 

The only way that can continue is to schedule cupcakes and count the money. The fans hate it, but more than 105,000 of them will be on hand.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The 12th game was supposed to restore great inter-conference games. Fans drooled at the possibility of Florida-USC, Penn State-Texas, or Tennessee-Oregon.

They got a wee bit of that, but mostly they got what the Nittany Lion faithful get Saturday. When the NCAA allowed I-AA teams into the equation and allowed the big boys to count them in the win column, it all became about the money. 

Don't expect much to change in the future, either. At schools like Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State the football team is paying for the new track facility, natatorium upgrade, and the women's basketball team. The arms race that is college sports is a hungry beast these days, and some Lions have to feed it.