Move to Big Ten Conference Good for Rutgers Basketball? Ask Penn State
“There’s no better place for Rutgers to land then in the Big Ten Conference,” said Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti.
Perhaps Pernetti was talking football. Because when it comes to basketball, being the eastern school in an essentially midwestern conference, hasn’t been great for Penn State.
Penn State moved to the Big Ten in 1993. Prior to that Penn State, along with Florida State, Miami and Pittsburgh, was one of the few big time independent football programs. The Nittany Lions roamed alone, conference-free like Notre Dame.
Meanwhile Penn State’s basketball team was building its program under coach Bruce Parkhill in the Atlantic Ten Conference. Under Parkhill (1983-95) Penn State won 51.7 percent of its games. The Nittany Lions were on the rise, challenging Temple for A-10 supremacy.
Since moving to the Big Ten Penn State’s basketball team has been on the decline, with just three NCAA Tournament appearances in 20 years. Last year the Nittany Lions finished 12-20.
The move didn’t hurt Penn State football. Western Pennsylvania provides as many talented recruits as central Ohio. However the move may have hurt basketball recruiting.
Penn State is located just just 4 1/2 hours from basketball hotbeds in New York City, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Obligations to Big Ten opponents means fewer games in those areas. Suddenly Penn State faced telling recruits from those areas that games against A-10 teams near home would be replaced by road trips 10 to 15 hours away.
Even with Maryland joining the Big Ten, Rutgers will still be an East Coast team in a midwestern conference, which hasn’t been a winning move for Penn State basketball.
Merlisa blogs about Georgetown and Big East basketball. Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa