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If there were such a thing as a sports dictionary, future editions might list the definition of tradition as ‘a past observance of athletic competition carried on by players, teams and community entities with much anticipation, interest, and fervor.’

As we drove home from Gettysburg on September’s first Saturday after watching grandson Tucker play his first collegiate game for Juniata, longtime Penn State radio color announcer Jack Ham was gushing about the renewal of the Nittany Lions’ opening game against onetime rival West Virginia. It marked the first time since 1992 that the two teams lined up against one another.

Rather than quote Ham inaccurately, his remarks reflected how the games he once played against the Mountaineers were filled with rivalry and tradition. His commentary stated that most of the games once on PSU’s schedule were filled with tradition. He listed games against Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, and Army as contests eagerly welcomed by the team and ones that fans of the Blue & White could drive to witness.

On that September Saturday, 110,747 of the white-out faithful paid no attention to safety protocols and overflowed Beaver Stadium’s listed 106,572 capacity (the 2nd largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere), filling the athletic coffers to cheer on the home team’s systematic 38-15 victory. The win raised Penn State’s all-time series lead over WVU to 49-9-2, whose last win over the Nittany Lions came in 1988.

But while the opening game against the Mountaineers was a fun-filled flashback to the days of old, football traditions are a dying breed. That once-honored Tradition Trail is becoming a pothole-filled footpath being supplanted by a multi-lane Dollar Drive featuring new luxurious rest stops and gold-plated fountains from which to drink.

The Big Ten’s current 14-school membership will soon become a megalopolis 18-team coast-to-coast operation when USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington are welcomed next year. I doubt anyone would be surprised if the league’s tenacles don’t reach out to reel in two more members for an ‘even’ 20-team operation before too long.

The conference has been aggressive in the college expansion and landscape realignment.

Its stated desire is to increase its media market share and add fine athletic programs. The Big Ten values AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) membership, football, and basketball, in that order. Media markets are also vastly important for the Big Ten to remain the most valuable conference in college sports.

From a tradition, rivalry, travel, and fan convenience perspective, the current conference expansion makes little sense. However, the reason that seems to matter is the cents accompanying dollars. The current Big Ten seven-year media contract will bring in 7-8 billion dollars, the richest media contract in college sports history. Member schools now get roughly 60 million each year. Starting in 2025, that number will increase to roughly 100 million per school each year.

In comparison, the other ‘power five conferences’ current media deals bring in the following each year: SEC 300 million; PAC 12 (or what’s left of it) $250 million; ACC $240 million; Big 12 $200 million.

How the Big Ten will schedule sports other than football and basketball remains to be announced. It would make no cents for sports like volleyball, tennis, and other minor sports to be engaged in cross-country trips. The pocketbook would really be stretched for the Rutgers fencing team to trek to Los Angeles for a duel.

The Big Ten is not the only player in this ‘let’s get rid of tradition’ malaise. It is becoming a cutthroat sports scene with the ‘amateur’ all but disappearing from the college ranks as we used to know it.

Locally, even high school sports conferences have changed, often at the expense of traditional rivalry games no longer being played. But a tip of the football helmet goes out to the Northern Tier Conference, where neighboring rivalries still survive and matter.

The longtime league consists of 12 member schools: Athens, Canton, Cowanesque Valley, North Penn-Liberty, North Penn-Mansfield, Northeast Bradford, Sayre, Towanda, Troy, Wellsboro, Williamson and Wyalusing.

In recent years, the NTL has also seen its share of ‘expansion.’ Local schools Montgomery, Muncy, and South Williamsport have been joined by CMVT, Galeton, Northwest, and Sullivan County in competition as one-sport members.

Pride is highly evident in the NTL. I can vividly recall a moment several years ago when South Williamsport’s football team traveled to Wellsboro to meet the Green Hornets for the first time. The Mounties came out on the short end of the scoreboard, and when the final horn sounded, shouts of “Welcome to the Northern Tier” could be clearly heard.

A famous quote decrees, “Nothing stays the same.” Understood, but it is too bad the likes of Delaware, Bowling Green, Marshall, and Ball State have replaced those rivals of the past that excited the fan base and the traditions created.