How Joe Paterno’s North-Eastern Conference Would Have Worked


Morgantown, West Virginia — With conference realignment being a major headline in college sports for the past couple of years, I want to share how different collegiate athletics would be right now if his plan had succeeded.

It all started in the 1980s. Paterno saw the writing on the wall. The days of being an independent were numbered and conferences were the future of not just football, but all of collegiate athletics. He had a plan of making a true North-Eastern conference that would rival the new conferences that were forming and were already successful.

At this time, the NCAA had made a rule that made scholarship limits for football teams. This finally allowed teams like WVU to FINALLY compete with teams like Pitt and Penn State, who were hogging scholarship spots for decades.

This gave Paterno an idea, a conference of North Eastern schools to make a conference with. Bringing them in, and make a conference of champions that can compete on the national level.

Here is who he wanted to bring in:

Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple, Maryland, Rutgers, Boston College, Syracuse, and West Virginia. 

Those 8 members would just be the founding members, and would likely be expanded upon in the future bringing in other eastern schools like Army, Navy, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and even Notre Dame. 

Unfortunately, these plans never became a reality. Pitt, Boston College, Rutgers, and Syracuse went to the Big East, a conference DOMINATED by Catholic basketball schools, and ended Paterno’s dreams of a TRUE Northeastern Powerhouse conference. Penn State eventually accepted the bid to join the Big Ten, which ignited the first batch of conference realignment that created the Big 12, and ended in 3 major realignment era’s that leaves us with what we have today.

So, what would the world of College Football look like today if Paterno’s aspirations became a reality?

Well, we would likely see the second superconference besides the SEC that combats SEC expansion, and more superconferences that are geographical fits.

The “NEC” as I call it would stretch into the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.

Example of what this conference would look like: 

The SEC would likely gobble up the remains of the ACC, and the Big 12 and NEC would split the Big Ten.

This scenario hasn’t become a reality, and never will, but it is always fun to look back into the past and see what COULD have been possible.