SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff
December 25, 1989
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December 25, 1989


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These are times of upheaval in college sports, and not just at Toledo, where athletic director Al Bohl set off shock waves on Nov. 22 by firing football coach Dan Simrell for no apparent good reason (page 32). Last week bigger college programs also felt tremors:

? Bo Schembechler, the fifth-winningest Division I football coach ever (234-64-8), stunned Michigan's devoted legions by announcing his retirement after 21 seasons at the helm of the Wolverines. Still cantankerous after one heart attack and two heart-by-pass operations, Schembechler, 60, this year guided Michigan to a 10-1 regular-season record and his 13th Big Ten title. The Wolverines' Rose Bowl matchup with USC on Jan. 1 will be Schembechler's last game, after which assistant Gary Moeller will take over.

?Schembechler's conference, the Big Ten, will soon be the Big 11—and No. 11 is a biggie. Two weeks ago the presidents of the Big Ten schools met in Chicago and voted to offer an invitation to Penn State, which had been quietly talking with the Big Ten for a decade about possible membership in the conference. Some Big Ten athletic directors were miffed that they weren't consulted. "This confirms the worst fear I have of presidents getting too much control in athletics," said Schembechler, who remains Michigan's athletic director. "Making decisions like this without ever studying it is terrible. Not one athletic director was consulted on this matter. How can they do that?"

Still, the Big Ten should benefit. Penn State shares the conference's solid academic philosophy, and the school's reputation for integrity and athletic prowess will further enhance the Big Ten's stature. Also, adding the Nittany Lions will help the conference land more lucrative TV contracts.

Joining the Big Ten will probably give Penn State a seat on one of the nation's most prestigious academic consortiums, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which is composed of the chief academic officers from each of the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago. It will also bolster the Nittany Lions' athletic income. Penn State makes money from only one sport, football, which pays for the school's 27 other intercollegiate athletic programs. As a Big Ten member, Penn State will get a share of the conference's basketball revenue, perhaps close to $1 million a year.

Although the Nittany Lions will no longer be able to keep all of their bowl money—they will pocket $1 million for playing BYU in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 29—they will be allowed to retain much of it, and on top of that will get a share of the bowl revenues taken in by other conference schools. This season four Big Ten teams ( Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois and Ohio State) are playing in bowl games that will pay them a total of about $8 million; roughly $4.8 million of this will be shared among all 10 conference teams.

Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno was rhapsodic about the development, saying it was "a great thing for the prestige of this institution just to be identified with those people." He even hinted that he might postpone retirement in order to coach the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten. But with both Penn State and the Big Ten schools locked into football schedules for at least the next few years, the Big 11, or whatever it will be called, may not get rolling until well into the 1990s.

By then the conference may have transformed itself into the Big 12. As Minnesota athletic director Rick Bay points out, "Eleven is an awkward number to work with." A highly placed source in the Big Ten told SI that Pitt has been mentioned by the presidents as a possible 12th member. If a 12th school is added, the source said, conference teams may well play 11 regular-season football games against Big Ten opponents—and no nonconference games.

?Pitt doesn't have Penn State's reputation for integrity, but last week it took steps that may help remedy that—and might make the Panthers more palatable to the Big Ten—by firing football coach Mike Gottfried and instituting rigorous academic requirements for incoming athletes. Gottfried's academic record is spotty. In 1984 and '85, his last two seasons as coach at Kansas, 18 of his players were ruled academically ineligible. Of the 18 players in his first recruiting class at Pitt the next year, six fell short of Proposition 48 guidelines, which require a 2.0 high school grade point average and a 700 SAT total. Last spring Gottfried clashed with the dean of Pitt's college of arts and sciences over the academic suspension of quarterback Darnell Dickerson—a tiff that didn't go unnoticed by Pitt president Wesley Posvar.

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