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August 26, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Those who sleep well on planes will enjoy the luck o’ the Irish for PSU

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Penn State’s overnight sojourn to Dublin – a bus ride to Harrisburg and flight to Ireland – began Tuesday evening. Like most of the rest of the trip’s itinerary, it’ll be all business.

 

“Get as much sleep on the plane as you can,” running back Bill Belton said. “That’s basically it.”

 

Led by edict from coach James Franklin, Nittany Lions players have repeatedly referred to their four days in Ireland as “a business trip.” Although the team will take a group bus tour of Dublin and have a team dinner at the Guinness Storehouse, players know what will make the rare European excursion most memorable is by beating Central Florida at Croke Park Stadium 1:30 p.m. (Irish Standard Time).

 

Of course, the trip begins in earnest with the charter flight – some seven hours over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

“It’s a little challenging for bigger guys of our stature,” the 6-foot-3, 309-pound center Angelo Mangiro said. “(But) there is a benefit to doing it at night.”

 

PSU’s plan was to depart after an early-evening practice Wednesday. That, theoretically, would lead to tired bodies – all the better to fall asleep early, which is desired because of the five-hour time difference. The team is arriving early in the morning IST – which will feel like the middle of the night in Pennsylvania for the players. They’ll be quickly put to work upon arrival, the goal being to fall asleep at the proper time Wednesday for a “normal” Irish day.

 

“I’m definitely planning on trying to get as much asleep as I can on the plane,” Mangiro said.

 

Franklin estimated that 80 percent of his players were making their first overseas trip. It’s doubtful none have done so as recently Mangiro, who spent a week in Italy with his girlfriend in May.

 

Although everyone figures to be eager to touch down in Ireland, one player might be more relieved than most.

 

“Deion Barnes doesn’t like flying,” Belton said. “He just was complaining about how long the flight is.”

 

Belton added that Barnes “will be all right.” I only hope I can say the same.

 

Me? I’m far from a 300-punder… but at 6-5, I’m not looking forward to my quasi-overnight flight being squeezed into a window seat.

 

Then again, I’m going to Ireland – the homeland of (one quarter of) my ancestors. I won’t complain.

 

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August 26, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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More on James Franklin getting so many to buy in to his vision

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Monday’s Trib features a story on James Franklin and his strengths at relating to people and persuading them to buy in to his vision.

 

The modern realities of the news holes in print mean, often, some interesting things are left out. But that’s why God invented blogs, no? Here are some unused quotes vis-à-vis Franklin and his people-want-to-get-on-board-with-him personality…

 

 

 

 

I asked Franklin about why he feels the need to put pressure on himself and the program with bold calls to sell out “every single game” and #107kStrong hashtags and the like:

 

“I think that’s more than that nowadays it’s more than just winning football games, it’s the whole package. And for us to continue to win, there’s a revenue aspect to this as well. We’ve got to generate revenue, we’ve got to win football games, most importantly we’ve got to graduate our players and make sure they have a great experience here. But I’m a football coach that, I feel like you better have an understanding and you better have a grasp of the complete picture. I don’t see it as… I just see it as part of the job. We’ve got to graduate our players, we’ve got to win football games, we’ve got to sell the stadium out. Selling the stadium out is good for a number of reasons – great for recruiting… we bring in recruits and it’s one of the best atmospheres in the country. It’s going to help us continue to build the program because we’re bringing in revenue and as you know, we have some challenges and issues right now that we’re going to have to overcome and that’s all part of it.”

 

 

 

Tim Corbin, the baseball coach at Vanderbilt who led the Commodores to the College World Series title in June, developed a close friendship with Franklin while he was at Vandy. Corbin had plenty to say about how Franklin reinvigorated not only a woebegone football program but an entire athletic department and university community:

 

“(Franklin) was tapping into every resource he sees as necessary in order to move forward. He was continually thinking –his mind never stops. And he was just a person that asked a lot of questions about the recruiting part of it here at Vanderbilt, the kids, how everything was set up.”

 

“There’s nothing he’s saying that he won’t stand by. He is THAT guy. He is 100 percent committed to the developing every ounce of ability that that program has. I can’t speak to Penn State; I’m on onlooker when it comes to (Joe) Patreno and (Bill) O’Brien, but what I think he has – now, Joe was obviously there a long period of time – but what this guy has is attitude, presence, and an energy level that is very, very high. And you just can get him down – he just undeniably comes back all the time. He’s that fighter who is going to be with you. You think you’ve got him down and the next thing you know he’s back up again throwing punches and that’s why his kids are so resilient is because he’s so damn resilient.”

 

 

 

Longtime East Stroudsburg coach Dennis Douds – Franklin’s coach when he played quarterback in college – told me what everyone already knows. Franklin is a people person, and that shows in recruiting:

 

“He’s able to not only get players interested in Penn State, to come there and play, but the kids that are there now to play and get the whole Penn State Nation excited about supporting that program.”

 

 

 

I talked to sports marketing guru Joe Favorito, a professor at Columbia University. He said he has followed Franklin’s career closely.  I asked him how much a head coach is or can be identified as the “brand” of a team, athletic program or university:

 

“There’s plenty of examples, absolutely: Cal (John Cailpari at Kentucky basketball), Pitino (Rick Pitino at Louisville basketball). I think people go to see then, especially now in a day and age where student athletes are so transient and can be there one year and gone another. The best you have as a face of a program – and Penn State obviously had this for many years – is an imposing figure as coach. James Franklin aspires to be that. Obviously, there’s a lot of factors that go into that. You want someone to communicate and send out your message, and everyone knows this is his program, he’s the CEO.

 

“I honestly think in the world we live in that you have to be of a certain mindset thinking about what makes your program or your business successful.

 

 

 

I asked senior co-captain Miles Dieffenbach if players are compelled to join in with Franklin in promoting the program:

 

“As a senior, we have a lot to do around the community with community service and interacting with the community, and it’s definitely something you love going out into that sold-out stadium, so working with that coaching staff and the media trying to get fans in and incorporate the team and fans together and really make them part of the team – which they are, our fan base is truly unbelievable. And we want to get that stadium sold out, so I think it’s definitely something we can help with as well.”

 

 

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August 24, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State in 2014: For entertainment purposes only

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On Friday, I posted my predictions for Penn State’s 2014 season. But what about the “experts?”

 

I reached out to one, Vegas oddsmaker Steve Merril of ProSportsInfo.com. He provided some game-by-game info for the Nittany Lions, as well as predicted season win total and even a division title line.

 

Some of what I took from all of it: First, PSU is favored in six games, underdogs in six. That said, the Lions are bigger favorites than they are ‘dogs, on average, meaning that a 7 ½ over/under win total makes mathematical sense.

 

I was surprised that Maryland, if the game was played today, would be a favorite at Beaver Stadium. This is especially surprising considering Penn State would be “only” an 8-point underdog at home to both Ohio State and Michigan State – top-10 teams. Being a five-point underdog to Indiana is also, in the Blue & White Nation, akin to sacrilege. Then again, there’s precedent.

 

On the more positive side, I thought maybe Akron would be less of an underdog in Week 2. Also, Western PA Penn State fans can hold bragging rights – in a theoretical Vegas world – against their Pitt and West Virginia fan counterparts. Just for fun, I asked Steve who would be favored if the Lions played the Panthers or Mountaineers.

 

PSU fans can take heart in one last thing: According to Merril, James Franklin has a .641 winning percentage against the spread in his coaching career. With every Big Ten game – plus the UCF opener next week – a spread of fewer than 10 points, expect a lot of close games this season. And if Franklin’s team is covering the spread in them, that COULD mean lots of on-field wins.

 

Enjoy, for entertainment purposes only, of course…

 

Season Wins: 7.5 Over/Under

 

To Win Big Ten East division:  5/1

 

Game Lines (the number listed in each game is the projected Penn State line as either a favorite (-) or underdog (+) in that game:

 

UCF (@Ireland) +1

Akron -18

@Rutgers -6

UMass -31

Northwestern -3.5

@Michigan +9

Ohio State +8

Maryland +2

@Indiana +5

Temple -16.5

@Illinois -5

Michigan State +8

 

 

If They Played (projected line) (Penn State favored in both on neutral field):

Pittsburgh -3

West Virginia -3.5

 

(Note: I followed up with Merril about Pitt-vs.-WVU. He said a Backyard Brawl renewal would “maybe” give Pitt a one-point edge on a neutral field, if not a Pick ‘Em).

 

 
James Franklin (ATS= Against the Spread (pointspread) / SU = Straight-up)

 

Overall: 25-14 ATS

 

Off a Loss: 9-5 ATS (10-4 SU)

 

At Home: 14-5 ATS (9-3 ATS home favorite) (5-2 ATS home dog)

 

Away: 9-7 ATS (3-3 ATS away favorite) (6-4 ATS away dog)

 

 

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August 22, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Fearless (or fearful) Penn State 2014 season predictions

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Eight days before the Penn State season begins (well, is SUPPOSED to begin, assuming Bárđarbunga doesn’t interfere), it’s about time for season preview-type stuff.

 

Saturday’s Trib will have a full two-page insert official paper PSU season preview.  They’ll be some additional coverage in the coming days, too (a James Franklin story coming Monday), but most of next week will be treated like a regular game week. And considering the unusual nature of that particular game week (taking place in Ireland and all), the blog will be mostly devoted to that.

 

So a week prior to the game, I’ll give my predictions for each game this season. Feel free to bookmark it so I can be repeatedly laughed at for being so wrong:

 

 

 

Overall record: 7-5

 

Big Ten record: 4-4

 

Placing: tie-3rd, Big Ten East division

 

Biggest win: Beating a ranked, 6-2 Maryland team in a big way to spark new rivalry

 

Toughest loss: To Northwestern on Homecoming and James Franklin’s home Big Ten debut

 

Christian Hackenberg passing yards: 2,955

 

Leading rusher: Bill Belton, 970 yards

 

Leading receiver: Geno Lewis (68 catches, 920 yards)

 

Breakout player: WR DaeSean Hamilton

 

Breakout true freshmen: TE Mike Gesicki, LB Jason Cabinda

 

Season storyline I: Nittany Lions recover from midseason swoon to finish James Franklin debut campaign strong

 

Season storyline II: Predicted disaster on o-line never materializes, unit is satisfactory and gradually improves throughout year

 

Season storyline III: Early-season injury forces Hackenberg to miss 2 games, eschews Big Ten player of year consideration

 

Season storyline IV: Penn State finishes in top 3 of conference in sacks, fine defensive line earns catchy nickname

 

Season storyline V: Mediocrity, parity reign over Big Ten, which misses out on semifinals of debut College Football Playoff

 

 

Game by Game-

 

Aug 30: LOSS, 26-23, vs. UCF

 

Sept 6: WIN, 31-27, vs. Akron

 

Sept 13: WIN, 37-24, at Rutgers

 

Sept 20: WIN, 45-20, vs. UMass

 

Sept 27: LOSS, 23-20, vs. Northwestern

 

Oct 11: LOSS, 43-40 (4 OT), at Michigan

 

Oct 25: LOSS, 53-14, vs. Ohio State

 

Nov 1: WIN, 38-17, vs. Maryland

 

Nov 8: WIN, 44-24, at Indiana

 

Nov 15: WIN, 38-9, vs, Temple

 

Nov 22: WIN, 35-7, at Illinois

 

Nov 29: LOSS, 22-20, vs. Michigan State

 

 

 

Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? I’m just crazy on something else? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Take care.

 

 

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August 15, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Jordan Lucas: The rock of the PSU secondary

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I wrote about Penn State’s “No. 2” and “No. 3” cornerbacks (for lack of a better way of referring to them) for Saturday’s paper (link up soon). Trevor Williams and Da’Quan Davis are the most veteran cornerbacks on the team – other than Jordan Lucas.

 

Lucas, at this time last year, was merely a converted safety who was an unknown quantity at corner. Twelve games of mostly-excellent play in 2013 later, Lucas enters the 2014 season as a preseason all-Big Ten honoree who is, arguably, the preeminent leader on the team, regardless of position, among those in the junior class.

 

“Definitely a leader,” cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said. “He definitely leads the secondary. He is a guy that all the guys respect. He doesn’t always say things to the team, but when he does, everyone stops and listens. He’s a guy who will help the defense get a lot better and a lot faster.”

 

As last season went on, Lucas – only a sophomore at the time, less than 18 months removed from high school – became more and more a team spokesman. He almost always was available to speak with the media after games, and he almost always gives thoughtful, thorough answers to questions. Remember, too, that he was often representing a Penn State secondary that had its share of poor showings last season.

 

I remember talking to Bob Shoop days after word leaked he would be PSU’s defensive coordinator. Shoop hadn’t seen enough film of the 2013 Nittany Lions, at that point, to give a meticulous analysis of many players on the team. But he did say he was impressed with what he saw from Lucas. Lucas and Adrian Amos were two of the underclassmen who’d surprised him the most with how good they were.

 

Lucas’ expanded and expanding role as a team representative was on display during the signing day festivities James Franklin put on in February. Lucas was on the podium, along with new coach Franklin and Penn State legendary linebacker Lavar Arrington at the Bryce Jordan Center during a de facto pep rally. Lucas stood toe-to-toe with Arrington, who has his own radio show in Washington DC, playfully telling him that Penn State was about to become “Defensive Back U” instead of “Linebacker U.”

 

With the way PSU has been recruiting safeties and cornerbacks since Franklin arrived – both in quantity and quality – the future of the core of the Lions’ defense might indeed be in the secondary. But even before some of the stellar 2014 and ’15 incoming defensive backs make an impact on the Beaver Stadium field, Lucas’ status as a potential all-conference (or all-American?) corner has become the first step.

 

“Jordan’s been working really hard in the offseason,” Smith said. “He’s working to perfect his game and his craft. He studies a lot of film. We’re expecting him to step up and be even more productive than last year.

 

“But we don’t want Jordan to go out and be Superman; we just expect Jordan to go out and be the best player he possibly can.”

 

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August 8, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State supports new “Power 5″ conference NCAA autonomy

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Yesterday’s news that the nation’s five biggest football-playing conferences are going to be granted further autonomy from the rest of the NCAA figures to have wide-ranging implications.

 

As a member of the Big Ten, of course, Penn State is one of those so-called “Power 5″ schools. Yesterday, Pitt athletic director Steve Pedersen said he was “pleased” with the decision, which will weigh votes from the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac 12 and SEC greater than other conferences. It also, for the first time, gives an official voice to athletes.

 

Late Friday afternoon, Penn State Athletics expressed its offical support for the new governance structure when it released this statement to the Tribune-Review and two other Pennsylvania media outlets:

 

 

We at Penn State fully support the governance structure and autonomy provisions passed this week by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

At the core of the decision is the ability to provide optimal care and enhanced opportunities for student-athlete success in the classroom and on the field of play. Anything that puts students first is to be applauded.  Like many things in college athletics, there will be costs associated with change.  It will require that we exhibit extreme discipline and establish a prioritization based on our values. All of this will be healthy for the enterprise, both at Penn State and nationally, and good for our student-athletes.”

 

 

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July 27, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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What I’m looking for at Big Ten media days

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deep-dish-pizza

 

THE WINDY CITY – As I enjoy some precious downtime in Chicago as we all *eagerly* await the start of Big Ten Media Days, a little “preview” of what I’m most watching out for at this made-for-publicity event (in no particular order):

 

 

–I’ll say this right off the top: The only thing I’d bet on happening at the Hilton Chicago over these next 48 hours is that James Franklin will (intentionally) say something that has everybody talking. A shrewd promoter of his own program if nothing else, Franklin is smart enough to know how to get the sports world talking not about College Football Playoff-contending Ohio State, not about defending conference champion Michigan State, not about the elite running backs at Nebraska (Ameer Abdullah) or Wisconsin (Melvin Gordon) and not about the new kids in town (Rutgers and Maryland). Nope, expect Franklin to go out of his way to say something to ensure that the news/debate/talking heads cycle from ESPN to Twitter and everywhere in between is talking about Franklin (and, by extension, Penn State). Take it to the bank.

 

–How will Maryland coach Randy Edsall and Rutgers coach Kyle Flood handle questions about competing with Penn State after Franklin brashly said he considered Maryland and New Jersey to be “in-state.”

 

–Urban Meyer is one of the biggest names in college coaching. Let’s see if he responds to any prodding about whether he sees a Franklin Penn State as an eventual threat to the Buckeyes’ hold on being The Big Ten’s Marque Program?

 

–Speaking of Ohio State, forget PSU and the longterm. What team – in 2014 (the Nittany Lions aren’t ready yet) – has the best chance of unseating the Buckeyes, who are preseason Big Ten favorites?

 

–Will Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany follow the lead of his Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby and make a splash with remarks about the changing landscape of college athletics? Probably not in those terms – but Delany likely will come out hard with some thought-provoking points on issues such as paying players, unionizing players, NCAA enforcement and the idea of a creation of a “Division 4” of big-time football schools separating from the rest of Division I.

 

–Along those lines, will Northwestern’s players talk about the unionization movement that’s Ground Zero is on their campus? Will any other of the conference player representatives speak out on it (be it positively or negatively)?

 

–Will any coaches come out in support of a further lessening of Penn State’s sanctions? (They’d have to be asked directly about it, which is so sure thing. I will try to at least ask a couple).

 

–What is the reaction of the conference media (and, to a point, the national media) on hand to PSU linebacker Mike Hull? The Lions’ biggest name could be poised for a breakout senior season. But is he just another face in the crowd among the 42 players (three from each school) in Chicago? Will Hull draw plenty of attention? Will be embrace it if so?

 

–Conversely, will anyone talk to Sam Ficken? The senior Nittany Lion is the only kicker represented at Big Ten Media Days.

 

–Just how much deep-dish pizza will I eat in my approximately 60 hours here?

 

 

 

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July 27, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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PSU’s new AD (and president and football coach) on a variety of topics

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3 most powerful people at PSU?

 

If the tenure of new Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour is half as successful as the secretive manner in which she was hired – almost unbelievably, word of the choice to succeed Dave Joyner did not leak until about an hour before her introductory press conference – Penn Staters will be proud of their AD.

 

Penn State president Eric Barron – himself 10 weeks into his job – beamed with pride when he said that search firms have told him that his methods for making such hires (he recently hired an AD while president at Florida State) were “model” searches.

 

Barron, Barbour and Nittany Lions football coach all were available to the media Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The printed story covered many of the key points, and here is a transcript of the entire “podium” portion of their remarks (Barron and Barbour fielded questions for about 25 minutes, but later those two and football coach James Franklin were made available for more informal questioning).

 

Some highlights of what each said from the proverbial cutting room floor…

 

I asked both what their positions were on some national college sports issues such as compensating athletes, the player-unionization movement and the prospect of the so-called Power Five conferences might break off (in full or partial fashion) from the rest of NCAA Division I:

 

Barbour— “Obviously these were things that Dr. Barron and I talked about through the process, and we are absolutely in sync and we’re in sync with the Big Ten with our position.  I believe that student-athletes ought to have access to cost of attendance.  I have been part of the governance structure that pushed for that.  I stood up at the convention four years ago and advocated for it.  I do not believe that unionization has any place in college athletics.  Our student-athletes are students; they’re not professionals.  We’re going to be about students and about students first.”

 

Barron – “I think cost-of-attendance (stipends), you’ve got to make sure you define it. There’s a lot of wiggle room in there for things that depending on how you define it, so do it carefully. But I think what’s important is, I worry very much becoming over commercialized. I’ve listened carefully to a lot of the debates even about the Power 5 having a different governing structure – does it promote greater commercialization – or more of a focus on the ‘student’ athlete because you’ve got a limited number of presidents and they’ve all got to look each other in the eye and say, ‘We’re not a mini-NFL. We’re here to make sure these students are successful and can come to agreement on that.’

“I’m not a fan of unionization, I think it would be a mistake. We’re here for the student experience, and athletics is a wonderful part of the student experience, and so we want to do it really well. But we’re not here to have people come in the door and go out the door and forget their education. This is another reason why I like the Big Ten proposal that even if you did go into the pros, you could at any time come back and get your degree and still have it paid for. I think that’s a strong message that you want this to be focused on the ‘student’ athlete.”

 

 

Barron more in-depth on the search process:

“About the time when Dave announced he was not going to be continuing past August, almost simultaneously with that I was interviewing head hunters (search firms) and then that person that we chose from Collegiate Sports Associates met with screening committee and talked with a lot of people across campus to get an idea of the person that they believe will be a really good fit. And so he basically developed a set of criteria that he was working to match with candidates and then he came down with that list after talking to 30-40 I suppose as well as nominations and two weekends ago, I flew to Detroit and did interviews and then last week the committee flew to Detroit and did interviews and then during this week I was negotiations.

 “Three people were (candidates) at the end. And… I met with (the search committee) and I typically try to focus conversation not on the people who aren’t going to be successful but who they think will be successful so I do a straw poll. I give each member of screening committee a piece of paper and I say tell me who you think would work well at Penn State and if there’s any one of those names on the list that you believe will be exceptional put a check mark by it – every single committee member passed me the pierce of paper with Sandy’s name on it, a check mark. That, in my experience, is unusual.”

 

 

Franklin on concerns about Barbour’s former school, California, having the lowest major-program football graduation rate in the most recent NCAA figures:

“The most important thing is there is history and there is a culture – and there is a tradition at Penn State of tremendous academic achievement, and that will continue. I know it’s important to our president, I know it’s important, obviously, to our athletic director and it’s important to all our coaches. So that history at Cal… my focus is on Penn State, and I know what’s important to our administration, our athletic director or president and our university as a whole.”

 

 

Barbour, deftly ducking a question about whether the NCAA football sanctions were too harsh:

“Having not been privy to the internal conversations – and when I say internal, I mean between the NCAA and the Board, and the NCAA and the president, I certainly can’t speculate on that. We will work with what we’re given, we will get better everyday, and we will comply with all of the provisions of not only the NCAA sanctions but of the various other reports and structures that are part of how we do things now. And we will get better. We will learn from it.”

 

 

More from Barbour on post-Sandusky PSU:

“I think all the good things that have happened here in the last several years have been a great tribute to the university’s response and how the university stepped up, owned it and set apart to get better from that every day. I think it’s a very different place than it was two years ago – but with a whole lot of work still to be done. These are educational institutions, and they’re about 17-22 year olds. And we’re constantly learning and adjusting, and we’ll do that everyday – we’ll do it the Penn State way.”

 

 

Notes:

  • Barbour’s identity might have remained a mystery right up to the end, but the slam dunk of all slam dunks easily was that former AD Dave Joyner was going to stay on with a title that included the word “consultant.” Sure enough…
  • Joyner has an extra 16 days on the job than previously thought. His last day will be Aug. 17 and not Aug. 1
  • The reason for that delay appears simple: Barbour needs to move. She said she still has all her things in Northern California and had spent previous days visiting family in Maryland. (Barbour said she will be in contact with PSU’s coaches by phone.
  • Despite speculation that Barron was perhaps targeting someone with a marketing background or otherwise thinking outside-the-box in this search, Barron said all the finalists were in already athletic administration
  • Details of Barbour’s contract are available here.
  • Canned quotes Penn State distributed about Barbour are here

 

 

 

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July 17, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Watching for Penn State on watch lists

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I poke some fun at the preponderance of “Watch Lists” we are forced to endure this time of year. The threshold for some of these awards seems to be little more than merely being a returning starter at a major program. Plus, there are sometimes goofy requirements (the Rotary Lombardi’s are as follows: “A player should be a down lineman on either offense or defense or a linebacker who lines up no farther than five yards deep from the ball”).

 

That said, I shouldn’t be so harsh in marginalizing some nice little recognition for some of these players – particularly ones who aren’t going to win it and who aren’t going on to pro careers. Sure, they’re silly, space-filling PR vehicles for schools and quarterback clubs from across the country. But that doesn’t mean that most of these players named aren’t worthy of some praise.

 

Also, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a team’s strengths can be gleaned merely from a peek at which one of its players are on what watch lists.

 

Take Penn State. The Nittany Lions are deepest at running back and tight end (hence, two players each on the Doak Walker and Mackey Award watch lists). They have one proven, experienced player each on both the offensive line (Donovan Smith) and at linebacker (Mike Hull). Smith and Hull are on watch lists – no one else is, though.

 

#Watchlistwatch is also a barometer of how some of a team’s players are viewed from outside the blue-and-white bubble. For example, sure, those who watched Penn State game-in and game-out last season took note of Jordan Lucas’ brilliance. Validation came in the form of a Bednarik trophy watch list appearance. But while Adrian Amos’ versatility and athleticism stood out in 2013, will he be immortalized in form of a “watch list” recognition?

 

 

Penn State players’ appearances on preseason watch lists so far:

  • Bill Belton  (Walker Award – Nation’s Top Running Back)
  • Kyle Carter (Mackey Award – Nation’s Top Tight End)
  • Christian Hackenberg (Maxwell Award – College Football MVP, O’Brien Award – Nation’s Top Quarterback)
  • Mike Hull (Butkus – Nation’s Top Linebacker)
  • Jesse James (Mackey Award – Nation’s Top Tight End)
  • Jordan Lucas (Bednarik – Defensive Player of the Year, Thorpe – Nation’s Top Defensive Back)
  • Donovan Smith (Outland Trophy – Nation’s Top Interior Lineman)
  • Zach Zwinak (Walker Award – Nation’s Top Running Back).

 

 

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July 10, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State football to get $2 million facilities upgrade

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Friday is the six-month anniversary of James Franklin being named as Penn State’s 16th football coach.

 

It hasn’t taken him long to have his voice heard – both by fans and by university accountants.

 

A pair of bits of news came out Thursday concerning the program, and both seemingly have Franklin’s fingerprints on them: Penn State intends on spending $2 million to upgrade its football facilities, and some encouraging numbers were released concerning the Nittany Lions’ season ticket base.

 

First, the upgrades. According to the agenda for Friday’s university board of trustees meeting (I first saw it reported by Mark Wogenrich), the board’s committee that deals with capital planning has recommended the expenditure of $2 million to renovate the team meeting room and lobby of the Lasch Football Building and add new paint and seating to the team training table at the on-campus Pollock Dining Commons.

 

The project is almost entirely cosmetic – the agenda says the work “includes new carpeting, lighting, furniture, finishes, and wall graphics” at the 89,000-square foot Lasch Building. I can’t say that I’ve set foot in scores of big-time Division I football facilities (I’ve been to Penn State’s, Pitt’s and West Virginia’s), but PSU’s weren’t by any means extravagant — but it also wasn’t the embarrassment that Franklin tried to paint it as when he dropped an our-facilities-need-upgrading bombshell at an alumni event in Pittsburgh in May.

 

At the Sheraton Station Square that evening, there were almost audible gasps when Franklin explained that the facilities at his former head-coaching stop, Vanderbilt, were better than PSU’s – and that Vandy’s were the worst in the SEC. It was the lone “downer” for the alumni and supporters on hand during what was otherwise largely an everything’s-rosy pep rally.

 

Franklin that night (and at subsequent stops along the Coaches’ Caravan tour of Pennsylvania and neighboring areas) suggested he was embarrassed to show recruits their indoor practice facility. He talked about the “branding” and repeatedly implied that to stay a “first-class” program, the Nittany Lions needed to spruce up the facilities. He implored media and alumni to do a YouTube search of the football buildings at Oregon, Oklahoma State or Auburn, for example.

 

Before he’s even coached a game, Franklin is appearing to get his way. That said, there’s no indication this might not have happened regardless. When I was in the building in March, a large mural of Bill O’Brien still stood. New coaches are routinely given new latitude to change details as they please.

 

And as for the cost? Two million dollars sounds like a lot for some paint and carpet and chairs. But that ties us into the second bit of news from Penn State Sports Information on Thursday: Season tickets from last season have renewed at “more than 94 percent” and that “more than 4,000” new season tickets have been sold.

 

The release implores fans to buy their season tickets prior to Tuesday, when new partial (four-game) season tickets and public single game tickets go on sale. Short of purchasing a full-season plan, the partial-season route is the lone avenue of ensuring a ticket to the Ohio State game Oct. 25 under the lights at Beaver Stadium. The game against the Buckeyes is tied to buying the four-game pack of that and games versus Akron, Maryland and Michigan State.

 

According to Vivid Seats, Penn State’s average ticket price of $141 (its median price is $115 and tickets are available for as low as $40 for the Akron and Massachusetts games) is 14th-highest in the NCAA. At $141 a ticket, it would take approximately 14,000 tickets to earn $2 million.

 

If 4,000 people have bought season tickets since Franklin was hired – much of that based off the palpable buzz he’s created in State College – that’s 28,000 total game tickets sold. So, in a way, Franklin has paid for his desired upgrades himself.

 

 

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