Life is about to change for Penn State Football … Again.
With the PAC-12 conference crumbling, the Big Ten is expected to formally offer membership to Oregon and Washington Friday, per Pete Thamel form ESPN.
Sources: Big Ten expected to move ahead with formal offer letters for Oregon and Washington. A Big Ten vote is expected to take place later today to formalize their admission, barring any last-minute snags.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 4, 2023
After last year’s addition of USC and UCLA, the Big Ten is expected to once again expand its western footprint with the two PAC 12 schools.
What does this mean for Penn State?
Two main takeaways of the addition of Oregon and Washington can be seen for Penn State Football
1) Lower revenue share
The addition of Oregon and Washington, even at an expected reduced revenue share, means less revenue share for each other member of the Big Ten conference.
Nicole Auerbach of the Athletic reported that “expectation has been that UO/UW could come in even as low as 50 percent” of the revenue share per school.
The Big Ten is expected to officially approve Oregon and Washington as new members later today, sources tell @TheAthletic.
It’ll be interesting to see what the revenue share ends up looking like. Expectation has been that UO/UW could come in even as low as 50 percent.
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) August 4, 2023
Even with the addition of the two new western schools, the Big Ten’s expected revenue per school is still expected to be higher than all other conferences, including the SEC.
2) Potential forced conference rival
After the first round of Big Ten expansion for 2024 with the addition of USC and UCLA, Penn State Football ended up as the only Big Ten school to not have at least one yearly protected rival.
Even though the Nittany Lions play a yearly trophy game with Michigan State (the Land Grant Trophy game) and had a forced rivalry with both Maryland and Rutgers over the past decade, the Big Ten decided not to protect a yearly rival beginning in 2024 for Penn State.
While Penn State uses the motto “unrivaled” to describe themselves, the addition of Washington and Oregon may force the Big Ten to create a fake rivalry to protect. So who makes the most sense as Penn State’s protected rival?
Penn State and Oregon have squared off four times in history, most recently in the 1995 Rose Bowl.
The Lions took the first two wins of the series, 1960 in a game played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and 1963 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon won the only matchup in State College in 1964. The teams did not meet again for over 30 years before meeting in the 1995 Rose Bowl.
Penn State won the last meeting of the two in that Rose Bowl to cap off a perfect 12-0 season and finish number two in the nation behind Nebraska who the media crowned the National Champions.
With the relatively small history between the two teams, a protected rivalry does not seem to fit.
Penn State Football and Washington have met even fewer times than Penn State and Oregon, meeting only three times in history.
The Nittany Lions have won all three meetings (1921, 1983, and 2017). In the last meeting between the two teams in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl, Penn State saw Saquon Barkley play his last game, which included a program record tying 92-yard touchdown, and Brandon Smith recover a fumble to seal the 7-point game in the final seconds.
With the very small history between the two schools, Washington does not fit as a protected rival either.
Even with the addition of Oregon and Washington, Penn State is likely to remain unrivaled barring a change of heart on a rivalry with current Big Ten members Michigan State, Maryland, or Rutgers.
Neither Oregon nor Washington make sense as a protected rival with the very small history between the programs.
The Big Ten may also look to protect rivalries between the four western schools to minimize travel costs for schools. Dennis Dodd from CBS Sports reported Thursday that a potential hangup in the discussions between Washington and the Big Ten were expected travel costs of $10 million per year.
Sources: Arizona is now a “hard lean” to join the Big 12. Scheduled to be in executive session at the moment. No word on ASU. Also, economic hangup re Washington which has figured it needs about $10 million annually to cover travel. That would impact revenue share signficantly.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 4, 2023
A cross country rivalry would be interesting for players and fans but the logistics of the details and travel costs may not make sense.
This along with the limited history should keep the Big Ten from protecting rivalries between Penn State and either Oregon or Washington.