STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Penn State president Graham Spanier was pulling for Nebraska.
So he was pleased when the Big Ten announced Wednesday night that the expansion-revised football schedules would guarantee an annual game between the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers starting in 2011.
Spanier, a big sports fan and the former chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, noted close competitions between the schools in sports beside football, including wrestling and women's volleyball.
"The rivalry in football has been especially noteworthy. I think a lot of people were hoping that if there was one school we could add to the football schedule, it would be Nebraska," Spanier said Thursday in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Spanier moved into his current job in Happy Valley in 1995. He supported bringing the Cornhuskers into the conference and kept in touch with the current chancellor, Harvey Perlman.
"And I thought it would be great if Penn State and Nebraska ended up being the crossover schools," Spanier said.
Expansion to 12 teams made led to the Big Ten splitting into two six-team divisions, starting in 2011. Nebraska and Penn State will be in different divisions, but have been designated crossover rivals by the league.
Penn State and Nebraska last met in 2003, an 18-10 win for the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. Penn State leads the all-time series 7-6.
The new schedule has them next playing Nov. 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium.
The new conference divisions for football placed Penn State in the same division with Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State, with Nebraska in the other division.
"We've played Ohio State every single year in the Big Ten. We're a border state ... it's turned out to be a natural rivalry," athletic director Tim Curley said Wednesday night.
Curley said Penn State didn't lobby to have Ohio State and Nebraska on the schedule regularly.
"The reactions have been almost uniformly positive .... There's a lot of excitement about the new big 12 divisional structure and the schedules for the next two years," Spanier said before clarifying.
"The 12 schools in the Big Ten. The new Big Ten with the 12 schools," Spanier said. "We're going to keep our name. That's our plan."
Spanier this week was also named chairman of the 12-member BCS Presidential Oversight Committee _ replacing Nebraska's Perlman.
The senior president in the group, Spanier said the committee's role involves governance, oversight, media contracts and policy matters. School presidents are comfortable with the current structure of the BCS and the new TV contract with ESPN, he said.
"There are a lot of sports writers and fans who I acknowledge would like something different, but when you look at all of the facts surrounding the BCS and how it works, it's a fantastic experience. It's just a fantastic operation for our universities," he said.