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Big East had a shot at Penn State


Demetrius Dew
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Tranghese wanted Penn State in Big East

Missed this one from the other day, but outgoing Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese had some interesting comments about the league's pursuit of Penn State in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times' Pete Thamel.

Tranghese called the Big East's failure to land Penn State the league's "one major mistake."

"We had a chance to take Penn State in 1982 and we didn't. You look back on it and the whole face of college athletics would be changed now. If we had taken Penn State in 1982, we may still have football independents. The idea wasn't to take Penn State and start a football league. It was to give Penn State a place. And then they would have been aligned with Syracuse and Boston College. We probably would have brought Pitt in, too, and the four of them probably would have agreed to play and continue as independents. I think the whole face of college football would have changed. I don't think Florida State would have moved and Miami would have moved. All of it came about when Penn State made the decision to go to the Big Ten. I thought that in 1982, I was just a young staffer at this meeting. [big East commissioner Dave Gavitt] wanted to go to Penn State and extend the invitation. But he couldn't if we didn't have the votes. And we had eight teams and needed six votes and it was a 5-3 vote. It was probably the only time that Dave couldn't drive a final decision in the years that he was the commissioner. I was just a staffer. I could say whatever I wanted to Dave. At the end of our meeting, Dave asked what I thought. In fact, it's in our minutes. I said, 'We will rue the day over this decision.' And it's been pretty prophetic."

The Big East certainly seemed like a great fit for Penn State, both in location and proximity to natural rivals like Pitt and Syracuse. Penn State would have been the league's flagship football program -- you figure the Lions have would given up their independent status at some point -- rather than the third powerhouse in the Big Ten along with Michigan and Ohio State.

Both Penn State and the Big Ten have benefited greatly from Penn State joining the conference, but I often wonder if the Lions and their fans feel truly comfortable and accepted in this league. It's tough being the only non-Midwest member. It's tough bringing your own storied tradition into a tradition-rich conference.

Does Nittany Lion Nation wish things had worked out in the Big East? Tranghese does.

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Paterno has always tagged a lot of that on former Syracuse A.D. Jake Crouthamel, right?

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Despite all the negativity that comes out about Jake, he fought like crazy for Penn State to be in the league. Syracuse and Boston College really fought to have Penn State because Jake understood the importance of Penn State. What happened in the previous fall, Penn State had tried to form a football league. Coach Paterno has laid a lot of this at Jake’s feet, which I think is wrong. What never got written was that the basketball league was being pretty successful and they couldn’t agree on revenue sharing in football. There wasn’t going to be any revenue sharing. Jake just wasn’t going to do that. The next year Dave brought it up for discussion and Jake was absolutely supportive. We voted five different times and all five times Jake voted for Penn State. And Bill Flynn at Boston College, God rest his soul, voted for Penn State all five times. The reason that they didn’t get in was that the league was new, a lot of the directors felt it was a basketball league. Some of the directors felt that the concept of the Big East was big markets. It was a 5-3 vote that changed the face of history.

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