Penn State AD expects changes in Big Ten divisional alignments

Penn State AD expects changes in Big Ten divisional alignments
January 29, 2013, 6:00 pm
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa.  -- The Big Ten might put more emphasis on geography when shuffling divisions after eastern schools Maryland and Rutgers join the Midwest-centric league by 2014.

Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said officials within the league have had several discussions over the phone about potential divisional alignments.

"I have a feeling it will be more geography-based," Joyner said. "There seems to be a lot of sentiment for that."

It would be especially helpful, Joyner said, to ease travel issues and funding for travel, especially for Olympic sports.

Joyner made the comments in a videotaped interview with an athletics assistant communications director posted Tuesday on the department's website.

Athletic directors have already met a couple times to discuss topics related to the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, and will probably meet four or five more times before finalizing recommendations to the Council of Presidents/Chancellors for review in June, Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman said.

The current 12-team Big Ten split into two divisions for football after Nebraska joined the league in 2011.

The Legends Division is comprised of Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. The Leaders Division is made up of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin.

Commissioner Jim Delany had said in announcing the divisions in 2010 that the conference sought to keep competitive balance and promote new rivalries while keeping traditions and existing rivalries in mind.

Penn State last week removed "acting" from Joyner's athletic director and reaffirmed that Joyner would serve in that capacity until Rodney Erickson's term as president expires next year. The school has started searching for Erickson's successor, and the athletic director job would be open to a national search under the new president. Joyner would be able to re-apply.

He took the job about a couple weeks after his predecessor, Tim Curley, was placed on leave in November 2011 in the fallout from former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child sex abuse charges.

Joyner on Tuesday likened his initial months on the job to being in a "war zone" after managing crisis after crisis.

"Now we're still very busy. We have a lot of things we need to do as we move forward with programs and plans," Joyner said. "We're more now on maintenance and moving forward and rebuilding on where things were before."

Penn State had a successful fall season, especially considering how the school was hit with landmark sanctions by the NCAA for the Sandusky scandal. Most notably, the football team under first-year coach Bill O'Brien had a better-than-expected 8-4 record, and the school has also had success in women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's basketball and wrestling, among other sports.

NCAA data has also shown that the school continues to have high rates in graduating athletes.

"The results speak for themselves," Joyner said. "These students and these coaches have done remarkably well" considering the turmoil of the past 15 months.

The sanctions included a $60 million fine. The first of five $12 million installments was paid last month. But Joyner reiterated that Penn State had no plans to cut sports. Athletics may have to rely more on donations to help pay for facilities and upgrades, he said.

"We're going to be all right," Joyner said. "It's going to be tough."

Curley and two other former administrators are awaiting trial on charges related to the Sandusky scandal including endangering the welfare of children and obstruction. All three men have maintained their innocence.