Mr. Paterno Heads to Chicago

By Jason Priestas on May 18, 2009 at 7:00 am

The Big Ten football meetings get under way this week and the new radical octogenarian, Joe Paterno, is on a mission of sorts.

Joe Paterno and Jim Delaney have much to talk aboutAdorable

Two weeks ago, Paterno gave us some help passing the long days of May when he suggested that the conference should look to add a 12th team and the championship game that would come with such a move.  It's been the offseason of challenging the status quo in college football and Paterno was only trying to add some shake to the Big Ten, which has been taking a national beating, both on the field and on the internet the past few years.

Last week, Bret Bielema joined the cause, saying the following to ESPN's Rittenberg:

"It'd be great. Everybody would welcome a 12th team in the league and maybe having a championship game."

We're not sure what Bielema means by everybody, but it can't include who Paterno referred to as the polite, but snickering handful of people that dominate the conference. At any rate, perhaps emboldened by the flank support from the guy that clock-rule-punked him a few years back, Paterno is charging ahead into the meetings full steam. He plans on tracking down the powers-that-be and getting answers, damn you, answers, as to why the league isn't exploring expansion and leading the charge into a college football postseason:

"It makes sense that we have a playoff," Paterno said last night at the the 35th annual Daily News-Eagles City All-Star Game banquet at Dugan's Restaurant in Northeast Philly. "I don't know what the problems are, but I don't like to hear the phony reasons why they don't have it. 'The kids are going to spend too much time away from class.' Aw, come on. Look what they do with the basketball [NCAA Tournament]. All the other divisions in NCAA football have playoffs. I really think a playoff is fairer."

Unfortunately, he's not likely to get anywhere. We won't get to a playoff overnight and the Big Ten won't be adding a 12th team in the near future, but you're fooling yourself if you think both won't eventually come. Paterno realizes that while we're sitting around and deliberating over moves against tradition, other conferences are moving ahead. These moves don't have to be reckless, but they do have to be made. Paterno's charge somewhat calms my recurring nightmare of waking up in 50 years and seeing the Big Ten as the new Ivy of football. And what better than to have a high profile 82 year old with no fear of burning bridges to push the point on much needed changes.

Paterno's crusade won't be the only agenda item this week as the conference must also decide whether to renew five of the league's seven bowl contracts. Though most bowls are expected to be extended, there's a bit of intrigue surrounding the renewal of the Capital One contract. The bowl does pay well, but there are concerns about the stadium and whether another bowl may make a sweeter offer in an attempt to became the fifth major:

The league’s contract with the Capital One Bowl earns the league nearly $4.25 million, the top payout among non-BCS bowl games. But Orlando’s 73-year-old stadium’s potential $175 million renovation has stalled, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The paper reports a slowdown in tourism taxes has placed the project on that community’s back shelf for possibly 10 more years.

And those looking to move up?

There’s also speculation that bowls like the Cotton, Outback or Houston could vault past the Capital One Bowl as college football’s best non-BCS bowl. The Cotton Bowl, once considered among the four best bowls with the Rose, Sugar and Orange, moves into a $1 billion palace in Arlington, Texas, this year.

The Cotton looks really appealing, what with the platinum urinals that Jerry Jones is putting into that stadium, but an ideal scenario would be one where the SEC tie-in is kept and that league's representative is forced to play a postseason game outside the land of sweet tea.