Could there be more changes in Happy Valley and could those changes involve the Penn State football jerseys? The Reading, Pennsylvania Eagle reported that new Penn State coach Bill O'Brien told parents of his players he has reached out to Nike about altering the uniforms as soon as this season. "It might be easier said than done," the newspaper quoted the coach as saying. "I'm not sure we can get it done this year."
The uniforms. Blue and white, no names on the jerseys and no logos on the helmets. The most indentifiable uniforms in all of college football and they want to change them. It would be like telling Speedy Gonzalez to slow down.
But after the recent conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on sexual assault charges and the severe NCAA sanctions that followed this month, those uniforms mean something different than they have for so many years. And that's why they may be changing.
The Eagle reported O'Brien told parents the updated version may even have names on the back, something Paterno never went for even though nearly every other team in the nation does it.
Some purists are saying that any change, even the smallest, would be of a purely cosmetic nature and could be a diversion from the real problems that the school faces at present. Others are saying that this would be a fresh start for a program that is going to be on probation for the next four years, grounded like a school kid that brings home a bad report card or comes home late after curfew.
"By changing that uniform it gives them a chance to chart a new course," says Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "It actually makes a lot of sense. It's one of the most visible ways the university communicates its identity."
First the issue with the statue outside of Beaver Stadium. Now the jerseys. Really? Even something as simple as the names on the uniforms would make that point in time clear.
"If the overarching theme here is a culture change, the uniform is a piece of that culture," Swangard says. "To alter it may speak volumes."
Here's my suggestion. If it aint broke, don't fix it. Changing the uniforms serves no true purpose. They're still going to be Penn State. They're still going to be in Happy Valley and they're still going to be in the Big Ten. They're just not going to be able to get a share of bowl revenue, win the Ledgends Divison or go to a bowl game. It's sort of like getting to go to the prom but having to dance with the ugly girls.
Even in death, Joe Pa has his defenders and they feel that this is about as Paterno defenders may feel a uniform change is yet another unnecessary olive branch to those who simply want to attack the program and there are some students that still
wear T-shirts supporting Paterno around campus and a recent poll reported on by The Harrisburg Patriot-News found a surprising amount of statewide support for Paterno.
But even some incoming freshmen strongly feel a new direction is needed and they want to be a part of that. And from the video put together by some of the senior athletes this week, it seems there is a groundswell of support for moving forward.
I do agree that they do need to move forward and not only help Sandusky's victims but help themseleves. I disagree with the idea of changing uniforms. We've already had our share of UGLY uniforms from last year (remember Georgia and Boise State? What were they thinking?). Like I said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Move forward? Yes. Change the uniforms? NO!
Whether the uniform change happens or not, credit O'Brien for calling the parents together and conveying the message that nothing about Penn State's recent past is sacred except the tradition of great football. "I definitely feel a bond with your sons," O'Brien said, according to the Eagle. "I'm here for your sons and I will continue to be here for your sons. We'll fight through this adversity together."
When Fall Semester gets underway August 27 and Penn State kicks off their Big Ten schedule against Ohio University September 1st at Beaver Stadium, let's hope that common sense reigns over change for the sake of change.
(Helmet courtesy Penn State University Football)