You have to wonder how many Big Ten and Indianapolis tourism officials will be rooting hard for Wisconsin this weekend when the Badgers play Penn State at Madison.
The Big Ten this year is rolling out its inaugural football championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium Dec. 3, and if Penn State beats the Badgers Nov. 26, PSU will be packing its bags for Indy.
And instead of talking about a new tradition in a spiffy stadium and all the upgrades to Indy’s downtown and the upcoming Super Bowl, much of the national media will be focused on the scandal plagued Nittany Lions football program.
No, the PSU players shouldn’t be vilified for past transgressions of now deposed coaches and administrators. But we’re not talking about what’s fair.
We’re talking about the reality that Penn State’s inclusion is sure to take much of the attention away from the game and the city hosting it, and putting it squarely on the allegations swirling around Jerry Sandusky, the team’s former assistant coach, and the recently fired head coach Joe Paterno.
Michigan State already has the other spot for the Big Ten football championship game locked up, and the Spartans are sure to become more of a footnote in this game if the Lions prevail this weekend. I'm sure many cringed as Penn State moved to 6-1 and took sole possession of first place in the Leaders Division with a 20-14 victory over Ohio State on Saturday.
More than a few Indianapolis tourism officials have been rooting for Wisconsin for months. Few college football fan bases travels better and spend more dollars on the road than the Badger faithful. But this isn't merely about economic impact.
With new people still coming forward accusing Sandusky of unspeakable acts and an assistant coach in hiding from fear of death threats, the cloud over Penn State isn't going away anytime soon. Some think Penn State’s involvement would sully the event and stain the inaugural game forever.
With Penn State playing for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, public demonstrations would certainly be a possibility. There’s no shortage of people nationwide who think Penn State should shut down its football program until this mess is sorted out. And when the stage is bigger and the spotlight burns brighter, protesters are more likely to appear.
Several members of the national media as well as child advocacy groups have already called for PSU to forgo a bowl game this year. Some sources within college athletics have said no bowl game organizers want Penn State as part of their game.
None of what is written here is meant to diminish the seriousness of what has allegedly happened within the PSU program. Clearly getting all the facts straight and helping any victims is the top priority.
It’s just that I’m sure Big Ten officials in Chicago as well as those charged with building Indianapolis’ brand through top-flight sports events would rather that this mess get scrutinized and sorted out in State College, not Indianapolis.