On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania State University announced its football team’s uniforms would undergo the most extreme change they’ve seen since the university switched from a black-and-pink color scheme in 1890: players will for the first time wear their names on the back of their jerseys as well as sport a blue ribbon to support and raise awareness for victims of child abuse. Penn State player names
The decision was made by first year head coach Bill O’Brien in conjunction with some returning members of the football team. A statement from O’Brien:
“We want our fans to know and recognize these young men,” O’Brien said. “They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown. Moving forward, I’m deeply committed to honoring Penn State’s traditions, while building a bright future for our football program.”
The school was handed a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and heavy scholarship losses in addition to the forfeiture of every win that came between 1998 and 2011 after the release of the infamous Freeh Report a few weeks ago.
That’s exactly why it’s a good idea to put player names on the back of their jerseys.
O’Brien is spot on: the players who stayed at the university despite the NCAA allowing them to transfer immediately without penalty need to be recognized and praised.
The university is facing the harshest set of penalties in NCAA history. There are no more indifferent feelings among Americans about the school: either you attend/attended/will attend Penn State or you despise it.
“Us against the world” has never been more prevalent, despite the university owning the largest alumni association in the world. These kids know it and the aren’t backing down.
Any of them could have taken the easy way out and jumped ship to the no. 3 team in the nation (sorry, Silas). Any player could have left the winner of the 2011 Academic Bowl (highest team graduation rate, 87%) for a school that doesn’t graduate 50% of its players (sorry, Justin).
These kids knew that.
But they didn’t. And for that they deserve to be recognized.
Non-fans around the country will know just by glancing that the player wearing number seven is quarterback Paul Jones, that State College native Alex Kenney is the man behind number 15 and that Michael Mauti is the one terrorizing opposing players in number 42.
Penn State purists will be upset. Hell, current Penn Staters and alumni will be upset. The players haven’t had names on their jerseys for the first 125 years, why ruin that tradition now?
Because it’s time.
It’s time to separate from the past. It’s time to get over the school’s “Football First” culture that has become so painstakingly clear.
At this point, change can only be good.
This change may ruffle some feathers, but it will be good.
Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff for more Penn State as well as NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates content