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Penn State, National Titles, and Big Ten Expansion

Did Penn State sweeten the Big Ten, or stain our teeth bright red? A pickled egg metaphor explains the conference.

FedEx Orange Bowl: Penn State v Florida State Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Strap in, folks, because we’ve got a full week of angry Big Ten fans yelling back and forth about whether James Franklin is a fraud, there’s any nuance to the Penn State offense, just how good Saquon Barkley is, and if the Nittany Lions were “better” than the Buckeyes in 2017. Can you feel the excitement? I know I’m already nauseous.

But hey, this is a potluck! Time to at least crack a couple Yuenglings before we hash it out. And can we interest you in a PA spin on some classic bar food?

Today we’ll zoom down into Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the Amish have showed us how to sweeten up...pickled eggs, apparently. Recipe courtesy of Teri’s Kitchen:


12 freshly hard-cooked eggs, peeled and kept whole
1 can (14 to 16-ounces) sliced red beets, drained, liquid reserved
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cup red beet juices, reserved from canned beets (see notes below)

Mix together sugar, salt, vinegar and juice until sugar is dissolved. (Taste for seasoning. It should taste more tart than sweet.) Place the peeled eggs and red beets in a large container. Pour dressing over eggs. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, cut eggs in halves, quarters or slices.

Pickled eggs are already really fantastic. If you disagree, I’m truly sorry that you came on the Internet and had to learn how wrong you truly are.

Teri’s Kitchen:

Adding beet juice, on the other that really necessary? Do you need to take a good thing like a pickled egg and color it red to make it sweeter?

Over 25 years on, now, we’ve moved past asking those questions about whether Penn State was a worthwhile addition to the conference.

OK, cynics, I hear you. At least for the sake of argument, today, we’ve moved on.

But, as Black Shoe Diaries noted in an excellent 2010 retrospective, it wasn’t always that way:

Michigan players were particularly disrespectful toward the Nittany Lions. The Wolverines had won or shared five straight Big Ten championships from 1988 to 1992, and they didn't particularly care for this new program coming in with a chip on their shoulder.

“At Michigan, the words "Penn State" are all but "X" rated.

"We're not allowed to say 'Penn State,'" Michigan recruit Jon Ritchie said while preparing for the Pennsylvania-Ohio interstate all-star game last July. "We have to say, 'the other team' or 'the 11th school.'"“

(It also gave us this cringe-larious article from 1991 over revulsion toward a Penn State woman’s decision to pose for Playboy’s “Girls of the Big Ten” series, which was the first thing that came up when I date-limited the search “big ten adds penn state.” It also has this line which made me spit out my coffee:)

Thanks to pornography, an outlet has been provided. Playboy and five minutes in the bathroom is usually all it takes. Mr. Man is happy.

This, though, leads me to my question to you all: Did Penn State sweeten the pickled egg that was the Big Ten in 1990, or have they stained our teeth red for little benefit? 24 seasons, 4 conference titles, and a .626 winning percentage later, what do you think Penn State’s biggest contribution to the Big Ten has been? Shoring up a flagging conference which hadn’t won a national title since 1968? Expanding the Big Ten brand to the East Coast? Preventing us from talking about a world in which wisconsin was the second-best team in the conference? Leading us to the additions of Maryland and rutger?

Bonus Question: Since it’s been a good two months or so since we kicked around conference expansion, give us your latest conference expansion take/theory.

GF3: Let us not forget the equally cringe-worthy Penn State cockiness about their forthcoming domination of that over-hyped Big Ten conference.

What has PSU really given the Big Ten (aside from piss balloons and air horns and the biggest black eye in the history of college sports)? Well, certainly not domination.

To be fair, they haven’t been bad by any stretch. They average a conference title every 6 years or so and have posted a respectable 10-7 bowl record (in the years they made bowls). That said, it’s hard to call adding Penn State anything but a wash in light of all the excess baggage. Adding Nebraska sooner would’ve been much better from a sporting perspective (though hardly from a money perspective). In that respect, PSU is the original Rutgers: maybe not worth the misery, but certainly worth the cash.

Addressing the bonus: WVU, Oklahoma, and two other schools are the obvious next choice when the Big XII (10) implodes.

PS: Ohio has more Amish than Pennsylvania.

Speth: Eh, Penn State’s been in the conference as long as I can remember so I can’t really comment on pre-PSU Big Ten things. And really, that was a long time ago and not so far removed from ancient history like segregation in college football and Minnesota actually being relevant in football. Also Wisconsin didn’t start winning the Big Ten with any regularity (and more regularity than Penn State has) until they joined the conference. Lastly, Happy Valley is a long way from Madison and I have border rivalries to worry about, not “whether or not central Pennsylvania is Midwest” (it’s not).

As far as the bonus question goes, I’m sure they’ll be totally cringeworthy and I refuse to say they can’t be worse than Rutgers because Delany might take that as some kind of sick, sadistic challenge. Logically one should be Virginia since they meet all the criteria and will give Maryland a rival back. The other one is a huge toss up and I’m sure it’ll be terrible so best be ready to welcome UConn to the Big Ten because bringing schools into the conference with football tradition is in a death spiral since Nebraska and there’s only about 4 FBS schools that geographically make sense with less football tradition (besides being a wannabe Ivy League) than Rutgers. And please bring up MAC schools to prove me wrong Rutgers fans, you’ll just prove my point for me.

Townie: There is no question that joining the B1G was good for both the conference and Penn State. I remember being independent. I liked it, because it offered a variety of teams. In truth, it was a weak schedule that counted against us in the grand scheme of the AP rankings.

Playing a slate of Cincinnati, West Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College didn’t look as impressive as playing in the Big Ten.

On the other hand, adding Penn State to a Big Two, little eight conference shook things up. Made it difficult for the same old teams to continue to do the same old shit.

When it comes to expanding the B1G, I hope that the powers-that-be would weigh strength as much as dolla-dolla-bills. Adding peers for Purdue and Rutgers ultimately weakens the conference. The Big Ten is larger than the midwest today. in that vein, we could add a quality school that fits in our footprint...say Colorado, Georgia Tech, or Virginia Tech.

Jesse: Penn State to the Big Ten helped give Nebraska a National Championship so... GREAT THINGS!. But seriously, I don’t know the world before Penn State in the Big Ten because I just really wasn’t paying attention. The fact of the matter is that a brand like PSU is better than the other dominoes that might have fallen - see: Pitt - and while the ‘what did you add’ question might be a non-starter when it comes to overall prestige/success as of late, you’d rather have them then not have them.

BONUS! I am all for seeing some expansion. Let’s just make one 127 team conference and then have Notre Dame.

LPW: I really don't remember a time before PSU because I rooted for Notre Dame or was agnostic to teams before my brother attended Northwestern and I became a Wildcats fan.

Looking at history, they’ve been a solid/strong team in the east with the dark ages in the early 2000s and the post Sandusky scandal downturn that they’ve finally recovered from. The best contribution they’ve added is preventing OSU and MSU from dominating everything but in fairness I think the 85 scholarship limit in the early 90s introduced a lot of parity across the sport.

Bonus: lock the door at 14, or go up to 20 with Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, and MSU in one division, and Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Kansas , Oklahoma and Pitt in the other one.

Stew: I think they’ve been a net neutral addition. They’ve been generally good at football. Enough so that it’s increased the piece of the pie for everyone. There have been certain things that can be described as nothing but negative, both to the school itself, and the conference as a whole. Without them maybe we don’t have Maryland or rutger, which, yeah, I’d kick out PSU in a heartbeat if they took the other two with them. They aren’t exactly midwestern, which has lead to some cultural clashes. And there is still quite a bit of conspiracy streak left in the fanbase from their independent days. This is pretty damn annoying.

No expansion. No. Stop it. I loathe expansion talk.

Aaron: If Penn State wasn’t in the Big Ten, there would be no Big Ten hockey conference, so obviously everyone should be happy about Penn State. Not only that, but think of how many fewer wins your legendary basketball coaches would have if not for Penn State in the league.

Also, think off all the time fans save by not paying attention to wrestling because they know Penn State is just going to crush it every year. That helps everybody out. Even without this awesome football team, there are dozens of reasons to love Penn State in the Big Ten.

Here’s my take on expansion: Limit each conference to 10 teams so that everyone plays a round robin in football. Then, kick out Penn State so you heathens can learn to miss a great thing.

MNW: Bill Carmody wouldn’t have any more wins :(

I’m in Speth’s boat on Penn State (I was born in 1990), so they’re just kind of the Nebraska of the East to me, I guess. With the scandal of Baylor. Unfortunately, IT defines the addition of Penn State for me—along with the depth addition to the conference but...nothing all that flashy or world-shattering.

I threw in the expansion bit in part because it’s died down a bit, and I don’t think anyone seems as eager about it as they did a year ago. Sure, there’s always the Notre Dame thing, but has the sword of Damocles that is cord-cutting and unbundling or whatever iced expansion talk in the short-term? I honestly don’t look around and think “Yeah, this is (are) the team(s) I want in the conference.” And I’m OK with that. I definitely don’t want Georgia Tech, and I don’t need more cultural outsiders like Virginia or Colorado. I could live with Pitt and Notre Dame, but I’m happier in a world where we’re done expanding, which is right where we’ll stay until the next TV negotiations.

Also, I’m pretty disappointed no one commented on the Playboy op-ed.

Stay tuned for more Penn State coverage, as our friends 87townie and Aaron Yorke walk us through why they think Penn State should turn in another strong Big Ten showing in 2017.

In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on what Penn State and expansion have meant to the Big Ten.

Potluck Schedule:

Monday: State and the B1G
Tuesday: Tempo, YOLO, and Moorhead for all!
Wednesday: Is there any escaping Linebacker U?
Thursday: In-State Rivals, Non-Conference Schedules, and Predictions