University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema made a pitch this week following the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference to keep Penn State as UW’s opponent for the final regular-season game.
The Badgers’ yearly game with Penn State could be in jeopardy if the Big Ten wants to create a regional rivalry between the Nittany Lions and one or both of the new entries.
Bielema has been steadfast in wanting to keep Penn State as the end-of-season opponent, even when it looked like NCAA sanctions might decimate the program for years to come.
“I sure do like playing Penn State,” Bielema said on Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “I’m saying that now, before this Saturday.
“Everybody else in the league has got some marquee matchups at the end. ... (The Nittany Lions) have only been in the league obviously a limited amount of time. I’d love to protect that in any way, shape or form.”
Bielema acknowledged the coaches had virtually no input on how the divisions were split up when Nebraska joined the league in 2011.
“I even wasted probably a couple days of my life trying to come up with a great answer,” Bielema said. “Had some input, but the way it all kind of shook out, it was out of (the coaches’) hands. I couldn’t be happier the way it laid out.”
As for other preferences in the new Big Ten, Bielema wants to stay in a division with Ohio State and Penn State, while keeping Minnesota as the protected cross-division game. Other than that, Bielema sounds content to let commissioner Jim Delany and the athletic directors hash things out.
“I’m sure the way (schools) get aligned in the future will be well thought out and planned out again,” Bielema said.