UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State athletic director Tim Curley has been playing the Big Ten divisional guessing game, too.
The conference appears headed to a two-division format after Nebraska accepted an invitation to become the 12th member. Divisional alignment is expected to be a prime topic of discussion in a couple weeks, when athletic directors and football coaches meet in Chicago.
And just like dozens of other football fans, Curley has been scribbling out his own ideas - though he's not giving any clues about where he wants Penn State to end up.
''Every time, I've looked at it and tried to slice and dice it, each one has its real strengths and some question marks,'' Curley said Wednesday in an wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. ''At the end of the day, because of the strength of the conference, whatever division we end up in, it's going to be dynamite.''
Expansion talk aside, it's been a busy year regardless for Curley, who heads one of the country's largest athletic programs with 29 varsity sports.
He's watched the Penn State women's volleyball team streak into the NCAA record books with a third straight national title and the second-longest winning streak in Division I team sports (102 games). He's watched Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson start a new era for the Nittany Lions wrestling program, and followed that up with the hiring of highly regarded head coaches in lacrosse, men's soccer and women's gymnastics.
And he's also looking at possible renovations to facilities including Beaver Stadium.
Like many other schools facing tight budgets, Penn State has had to find new ways to pay for a $100 million budget expected to balloon due to travel costs, insurance and other reasons. And, like other schools, Penn State has turned to football tickets as a way to help pay the bills.
The school is in the midst of phasing in new season-ticket pricing guidelines for the 2011 season that could force some fans to donate more to the football booster club to keep their seats. Location will be a new factor in determining giving levels for seat renewals, along with the number of tickets purchased and parking.
Currently, Nittany Lion club members must contribute at least $100 a seat to renew season tickets, regardless of where they sit. The new starts at a $100 per seat, primarily around the end zones, and increases to $400 and $600 closer to midfield, and a $2,000 section for a small section of seats at midfield with seat backs.
The actual price of a ticket ($55) will not change.
''The majority of our [fans], they understand, they appreciate how Penn State has gone about it in terms of funding, and I would say most of our fans are willing to try to help support and to try to have this broad-based program,'' Curley said.
Still, not everyone is happy. Some fans say they can't afford to donate more money, while others are hesitant to make bigger donations to support sports that don't generate revenue.
Football and, to a lesser extent, men's basketball, are the only sports that make a profit. Penn State doesn't receive funding from tuition dollars or the state, and revenue from football helps support other sports
Curley noted that, through the new system, fans frustrated by a long wait to upgrade seats will now get a chance for better sight lines in 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium, the second-largest facility in the country behind Michigan Stadium.
The new plan also means that ''somebody sitting beside you is going to by paying the same amount that you paid,'' Curley said.
The athletic department has predicted revenue to grow between $2 million and $6 million each year, which would keep up with the rising budget forecasts.
''We hope we don't lose anybody, and that's why we try to build in these options so that we didn't completely re-seat the stadium and knock somebody out of the stadium,'' Curley said. ''This hopefully provides the options so that everybody can still stay and participate.''
Associate athletic director Greg Myford has said that fans can expect facility investments, including at least $2 million to $6 million in stadium improvements in 2011 and 2012.
Whenever the upgrades are finished, Nebraska should be on the Penn State schedule. Curley is mum, too, on whether he'd prefer that the Nittany Lions and Nebraska meet at the end of the regular season as a second high-profile game the final weekend to go with Michigan-Ohio State.
''Whether they fit into the rivalry category or not, any time you're going to play Nebraska ... that's a great game,'' Curley said.