It's been a little over two months since the Big Ten publicly acknowledged that it's considering expansion.
As expected, there's been all kinds of speculation not only on which school or schools will be added to the Big Ten but how many other conferences will shuffle their decks.
On top of the Big Ten wish list are Notre Dame and Texas, even though Longhorn officials have already nixed the idea.
Unlikely to get either, the Big Ten derby is wide open with no apparent frontrunner among possibilities including but not limited to Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse and Miami.
And it could be more than one team as the Big Ten, its own network having established itself and further bolstering the league's financial strength, thinks big.
Penn State's decision to join the Big Ten 20 years ago changed the face of Nittany Lion football, mostly for the better, and Eastern football, mostly for the worse.
The purpose today is not to examine the best fit for the Big Ten or predict which way the league may be going but to explore how impending expansion could affect Pitt.
If the Big Ten comes calling, will Pitt leave the Big East?
Here's a better question: Can Pitt afford not to?
The Big Ten is the most powerful conference in all of college sports. According to the most recent figures supplied to the Department of Education, the Big Ten paid each member $22 million in 2008 - or about $17 million more than member schools got from the Big East.
The top revenue-generating athletic departments in the country include several members of the Big Ten, and most are approaching or exceeding $100 million - or more than double most Big East schools.
All this money, of course, has removed the amateurism from college sports and apparently cued schools like Penn State to force a new ticket plan on its patrons, but that ship has sailed.
Landing in the Big Ten would restore the Penn State-Pitt football rivalry, which would be good for both schools and good for the league. (It would actually make Penn State's job that much tougher since it's historically recruited well in Pittsburgh and the Panthers' status as a league member would benefit Pitt).
The Big East has some improving football teams such as Cincinnati and Connecticut, but the league lacks the star power that the Big Ten, with PSU, Ohio State, Michigan and another possible marquee addition, can deliver.
While there's no question the Big East is the best basketball league ever, basketball - even at Syracuse - can't carry an athletic department financially like football.
Villanova, Georgetown and Marquette are intriguing matchups on the court, but Pitt doesn't have as much in common with those schools as it would just about every Big Ten member.
Further, if Pitt would be shortsighted enough to draw the shade to an overture - should it be fortunate enough to get one - it would further risk its future if the Big Ten plucks a combination of Big East brothers such as Rutgers, UConn or Syracuse.
And what if West Virginia responds to all the uncertainty and switches its allegiance to join Virginia Tech and Virginia in the ACC? Perhaps Pitt could go there.
Twenty-five years ago, Pitt decided it didn't need Penn State. In a lot of ways, its football program has been paying for that decision ever since - by playing to a lot of half sellouts and by being relegated to the Meineke Bowl on Dec. 26 after losing the Big East championship by a point.
If the Big Ten expands without Pitt and the Panthers find themselves without a stable football home, they could pay for their 1980s' decision forever.
Pitt is rightfully enjoying another great basketball season, but being in the Big Ten and competing with Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue wouldn't hurt Pitt basketball as much as being left out of a Big Ten affiliation could potentially hurt Pitt football.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.