Ben Maller, citing an unnamed source, is reporting that the University of Pittsburgh is joining the Big Ten conference, that it’s a done deal and that some announcement will be coming down the pike on Thursday. Whether or not the report is actually true, it’s worth looking at how Pitt would fit into the Big Ten, and what that school’s departure would mean for the Big East, which would be left with only six teams. Well, seven…if you count Louisville.
Pittsburgh is a near-ideal fit for the Big Ten, geographically speaking. The University of Pittsburgh campus is almost exactly between Ohio State and Penn State, giving Penn State a natural rival and Minnesota another boring (but not terribly long) plane ride, a situation that should be alleviated once the conference breaks into divisions. It’s the ideal spot for a 12th school not named Notre Dame.
Academically, Pitt will hold its own. Pittsburgh received a score of 52.0 in the latest US News and World Report university rankings, which put it 56th among all national universities so ranked. The average Big Ten score was 57.1, and the average rank was 50th. Their strong academic reputation will ease the school’s entry into the conference, which must be ratified by the faculty of the current member institutions.
Pitt is pretty good at football. Pitt finished 15th in the AP rankings after a 10-win season; the Panthers also finished 2nd in the Big East, trailing only undefeated Cincinnati in their conference. The rest of the Panthers’ sports programs are not quite as strong; Pitt finished 93rd in last year’s Directors’ Cup, which is based on schools’ performance in all varsity sports. The average Big Ten school finished 29th in that same span.
The Big East is all but finished as a BCS conference. Pitt’s departure would leave the Big East with seven teams, two of which were acquired from Conference USA less than five years ago. And the options to bolster the conference’s membership are rather slim. Geographically, the best prospective members would be Temple (MAC), Marshall (C-USA), Buffalo (MAC), and Navy (FBS Independent). Yeah, I’m not impressed, either.
ASYLUM POLL: Which team would YOU like to see in the Big Te11n?
But the biggest question might deal with the Big Ten’s name. The conference kept the “Big Ten” moniker even after adding Penn State as its 11th school in 1990, though they’ve now committed to always spelling out the “Ten.” Honestly, I don’t really care. If they can squeeze a two into that logo of theirs, that works for me. And put a pirate ship on their, too. Pirates are pretty sweet.