No TailGreating Allowed


Apparently, Penn State Athletics has decided not to continue the tradition of TAILGREAT at the Bryce Jordan Center.  This was a pre-game pep rally of sorts featuring the Blue Band and cheerleaders at the BJC before each home game.

According to WJAC:

“We [were] notified that the Tailgreat would be no more due to some budgetary concerns,” Blue Band director Richard Bundy said.

It was the plug being pulled on Penn State Blue Band’s Tailgreat show, a free pep rally before every home game.

“I think it was an event that was rather unique in the way it was presented so we are working on trying to see how that will affect our game day activities for the Blue Band,” Bundy said.

I think the BOT notified the Blue Band by a note delivered by a messenger in the dark of night.

A statement from Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Football Communications Jeff Nelson said Tailgreat wasn’t giving the Blue Band enough exposure. “We did not feel that Tailgreat was accomplishing the level of interaction among our more than 100,000 fans and exposure for the Blue Band that is deserved,” Nelson said.

Onward State provides more specific speculation on the costs . . .

A Blue Band source tells us that the reason for this cut given by the Athletic Department was primarily financial. Tailgreat costs approximately $70,000 to put on each year, most of which goes to BJC staffing and rental, and the Athletic Department decided that this cost was too great. This comes just days after the Athletic Department purchased more than 800 iPads for student athletes, which, even conservatively at $300 each (much less than retail), still runs more than three times what Tailgreat cost.

The source also indicated that the Athletic Department says it’s working on a “new event” for the Blue Band to participate in during the pregame hours.

Opponents of cancelling the tradition cite the ability of band parents to see their son or daughter perform when they might not be able to afford the cost of a Penn State football ticket.  Others liked being able to hear the band’s halftime show, which they might not be able to do as well or as clearly inside the stadium.

What I found interesting in the whole bit was the allegation that the price tag was a problem.  Granted, $70,000 looks like a huge figure (and considering what we are now paying our head coach, the sanction costs, and those darn iPads it is certainly not a negligible amount) but that works out to $10,000 or less per game depending on whether there are 7 or 8 home games in a season.

And weren’t there corporate sponsors at one time???

A little googling found me this excerpt from a book about the Blue Band, A Century of Pride and Precision, where on page 169 it talks about this “new tradition” in 1996.  The book notes that the event was a joint project sponsored by AT & T, Wal-Mart, the Alumni Association, and the Nittany Lion Club.  The original TailGreat charged an admission fee that was dropped in it’s second year to promote better attendance.

I would think Penn State, even in this sanction-era, should be able to find a half-dozen or so sponsors to pony up $8000-$10,000 to keep the show going if they wanted to.  Which makes me wonder if they don’t want to.

I have to be honest here.  I’ve never been to a TAILGREAT.  Talked about going to it.  Thought about going to it.  Had it on my Penn State Bucket List, so to speak.  Alas, I will never have that chance, barring a change of heart by the athletic department.

Maybe attendance and interest has waned in recent years.  Maybe they will come up with a new tradition that is even better.  Maybe no one will even notice.

Have you ever been to a TailGreat?  How do you feel about losing this gameday event?

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The Game Will Love You Back

Maybe THIS is why I’m really looking forward to this season!

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Life (and football) Goes On

I want to apologize to my faithful legion of readers, small group of readers, some guy in Quincy, MA who actually reads this blog, for the paucity of posts this summer.  I posted a guest column a few weeks ago, but I have not actually posted since May!

In my defense, my dad passed away on July 27th. after suffering multiple strokes.  I have not felt like blogging much.  You can read about my amazing golf ball story on my other blog.

My dad won’t be attending games with me for the first time in my life.  He has missed a few games the past couple of years for various reasons.  He pretty much gave up the 8pm games since 2005.  But I always knew he COULD go.  There was a game against Michigan State back in the mid-1990’s when we had travel plans to go to Disney.  My dad and I went to the game anyway.  We had to leave before the game was over to make our flight out of University Park Airport.  My daughter asked my wife what would happen if I didn’t make it to the airport in time.  She answered, “We’re going without him.”  When she asked my mom what would happen if Pap Pap didn’t make it, my mom replied, “We’re going without him.”  We did make it.  Barely.

And while I know he will be there in spirit, any son who has lost their dad will tell you it is not the same.

Yet, I find myself looking forward to this season starting.  Perhaps it is the anticipation of James Franklin and the opportunity to see what he can do with this team that many have written off as the “worst year of the sanctions.”

Or perhaps it is this article about James Franklin leading Penn State back to glory.

Brick by brick. This is how one of the nation’s premier college football powers will be resurrected. It won’t happen today or tomorrow or even next year, but it will happen. It’s only a matter of time before a small, power-packed foundation grows into something more.

You see a family, 16 grown men functioning as a unit. And it’s not just these men. It’s the wives and children who have celebrated the highs and lows in football and in life, at schools and at barbecues.

You see this same family expanding, embracing open wounds with open arms, listening to those who have endured unspeakable change before worrying about more pressing football matters.

You see a staff that was crafted to work in this very location. It’s as if this group were constructed for this purpose and this purpose alone, and the geographic familiarity is already paying dividends.

You see a quarterback with a golden arm, an enormous Band-Aid at a time when it’s needed most.

And you see why, eventually, this will all be so much bigger than it is now. You can’t help but admire the bricks being laid, one strategically placed block at a time.

Perhaps it is the news that Braxton Miller will be out for the season.  As if we needed any more of an advantage over those Buckeyes ;)!

Perhaps it is the news that the Holier-Than-Everyone-Else Notre Dame is investigating 4 football players for academic fraud.  Slightly amusing.  Probably deserved.  But after the glass house built by the media and Jerry Sandusky, it’s really tough to pick up a stone right now.  But maybe I’ll have some fun with this later.

Perhaps it is Penn State’s 6th ranked recruiting class (according to Rivals) which beats the nearest Big Ten competitor by 10 slots.  If Franklin can coach half as good as he can recruit . . .

Perhaps it’s the report that an Icelandic Volcano could threaten the travel plans for the match-up in Ireland against UCF.  I blame this on Joel Myers.  It’s weather related–volcanic ash or some sort of excuse.

Or maybe it’s this copy of a letter supposedly written by Peggy Bauer Glaser to Dr. Barron:

Whereas in 2012 the NCAA, based on the flawed Freeh report, criticized Joe Paterno and others for not investigating the allegations of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of a child, now the NCAA is saying that no members of athletics should attempt to direct or intervene in a sexual abuse investigation. So now, they have concluded that Joe Paterno was correct in reporting the allegation and then stepping aside. If you will read my letter from 2012, that is exactly what Joe Paterno should have done–and what he did.  So Joe Paterno was fired for doing what he should have done from an HR policy position and from the ultimate position of the NCAA.

Whereas in 2012 the NCAA, based on the flawed Freeh report, criticized Joe Paterno and others for allegedly covering up Sandusky’s abuse, the Pennsylvania state prosecutor Frank Fina addressed the question of whether or not there was any evidence of the involvement of Joe Paterno in a cover up and he replied that no such evidence was found.So Joe Paterno was fired even though there was no evidence of a cover-up.

Now is the time to formally recognize Joe Paterno. Recognition can be achieved by such actions as: return the statue, name the stadium field Paterno Field, seek the rightful return the 409 record built by success with honor, seek to overturn the sanctions, adopt a culture of standing up for the University, and let the alumni community know the University also believes in success with honor.  Do the honorable thing. . .

Not going to hold my breath on this, lest I turn bluer than I already am.

I don’t know what it is, but I am really looking forward to this season!

What think you????

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Paterno to O’Brien to Franklin. Is history on Franklin’s side?

It is hard to believe that I haven’t posted since May 27th, but such is life.

A few weeks ago, a sports writer/historian sent me an article musing that Franklin may be in a better position than O’Brien if sports history has anything to say about it.

The article is reprinted below. I thought I was pretty special, having a guest contributor, but alas, my site is not the only one Mr. Baranowski contributed.

Unfortunately, while the concept and comparisons are interesting, the situation at Penn State is unique. None of the other programs discussed–Nebraska, Notre Dame, Alabama or USC–faced the near-death penalty and crippling sanctions that Penn State faced. O’Brien’s tenure must be examined from that perspective. Hunk Anderson, Ron Zook, Ray Perkins nor Frank Solich faced the uphill battle that O’Brien faced. And the fact that Bill was modestly successful despite those odds only argues to success rather than failure. Moreover, the University did not “part ways” with Bill O’Brien nor was the fan base viewing his efforts as being “not good enough.” Bill O’Brien chose to leave. That is not to say that there weren’t some rumblings amongst some alumni, but most of Penn State’s dissatisfaction was aimed at the NCAA, the sanctions, and the Board of Trustees that enabled that situation.

While I certainly was not happy to see O’Brien leave, I cannot understate how important his tenure was to the Penn State football program. He held the ship together with some duct tape and a couple guys like Mike Mauti. I think there are more than a few “successful” coaches out there who would have been unable to keep things together or who would have jumped ship altogether after the sanctions came down from Emmert Almighty and the Gospel According to Freeh.

That said, I do think James Franklin will benefit from being the next hire. The situation is less “toxic” and the sanctions have already been reduced with whisperings of perhaps a reduction in the bowl ban to come in the next month or so, although I ain’t holding my breath on that one.

But any success that Franklin has must be measured in terms of what he would be able to do if someone other than Bill O’Brien had been at the helm. I don’t think many coaches could have survived or done as well as Bill. To call O’Brien’s tenure less than a success because you measure him against Paterno is unfair.

But you may draw your own conclusions . . . read on:

Paterno to O’Brien to Franklin. Is history on Franklin’s side?

There is an axiom in sports that it is better to be the coach who follows the coach that followed a coaching legend rather than the coach that followed the coaching legend. I would venture to guess that Bill O’Brien and Lane Kiffin would concur with that notion.

There was no doubt that whoever followed Joe Paterno as Penn State head coach at Penn State would certainly have big shoes to fill. O’Brien went 15-9 in two seasons and bolted for the NFL. Kiffin at USC had a 28-15 record following Pete Carroll’s record of 97-19. Kiffin’s .651 winning percentage wasn’t enough to keep him from being fired not after losing nearly as many games in less than four years than Carroll did in nine. Beginning this season, Penn State’s new head coach James Franklin and Steve Sarkisian at USC will have the opportunity to test that coaching axiom. But how true is it really?

Looking at examples that support the axiom, in 1931, Hunk Anderson had the unenviable task of following Knute Rockne as head coach at Notre Dame. Anderson’s 16-9-2 record with a winning percentage of .630 at many schools would be welcome but not following Rockne’s coaching record of 105-12-5. In three seasons, Anderson lost nearly as many games as Rockne did in 13. Rockne’s winning percentage of .881 just happens to rank first among Division I coaches all-time. Good luck following that. Elmer Layden, the coach who took over after Anderson, had a 47-13-3 record. This was more to Irish fans’ liking.

At the University of Florida during the ‘90s, the Fun ‘N Gun offense was in full force as Steve Spurrier won 122 games in 12 seasons and racked up a winning percentage of .817. His successor, Ron Zook, lasted only three seasons going 23-14 and that set the stage for Urban Meyer. Meyer in six seasons as Florida’s head coach won 65 games and two national championships and had a winning percentage of .813.

The situation at the University of Alabama was slightly different. One can say that the shadow cast by Bear Bryant affected the next two men that succeeded him or at the very least set a near impossible standard to follow. In 25 seasons, Bryant won 232 games with a winning percentage of .824. Ray Perkins could relate to Anderson at Notre Dame as Perkins lasted only four seasons as his teams compiled a 32-15-1 record for a .677 winning percentage. That is not nearly good enough at Alabama, particularly after following the Bear.

Bill Curry followed Perkins and even with a 26-10 record and a .722 winning percentage, Curry lasted only three seasons. Gene Stallings followed Curry and despite having a slightly lesser winning percentage than Curry, .713 to .722, Stallings lasted seven seasons, no doubt aided by winning a national championship in 1992.

At Michigan, it was an interesting situation as well. Following Lloyd Carr proved to be more difficult than following Bo Schembechler. Schembechler paced the sidelines in Ann Arbor for 21 years and amassed a 194-48-5 record for a winning percentage of .796. Following Schembechler was not going to be easy. Gary Moeller did so for five seasons, winning three conference titles, and had a winning percentage of .758. Moeller resigned in May of 1995 and the head coaching job now belonged to Carr. Carr won five conference titles in 13 seasons and a national championship in 1997, Michigan’s first since 1948. Carr’s head coaching record was 122-40 for a .753 winning percentage.

Rich Rodriquez, “a non-Michigan man” succeeded Carr. Rodriquez brought a radically different offensive mindset to Ann Arbor and some might say a non-defensive mindset as well. After three seasons and a 15-22 record, Rodriquez was replaced.

There are numerous examples where a coaching legend’s successor did well but the following coach did not.

Perhaps a long-time successful coach creates such a well-oiled machine that it helps facilitate success for his immediate successor but by the time the next head coach comes along, significant fall-off begins.

John McKay at USC compiled a 127-40-8 record for a winning percentage of .749. One would think trying to match McKay’s winning percentage would have been very difficult. However, John Robinson nearly did just that succeeding McKay. Robinson’s record was 104-35-4 for a winning percentage of .741.

The fall-off at USC came following Robinson under Ted Tollner. Tollner, in four seasons from 1983 to 1986, went 26-20-1 for a winning percentage of .564. That is not going to cut it at USC.

Another example was at the University of Texas where Darrell Royal became a coaching legend winning 167 games losing 47 with five ties for a winning percentage of .774 over 20 seasons. His successor, Fred Akers, was 86-31-2 for a .731 winning rate over the next

The fall off in Austin came following Akers. David McWilliams managed only a 31-26 record over the next five seasons for a .544 winning percentage.

Meanwhile in Norman, Oklahoma, Chuck Fairbanks won 77% of his games compiling a 52-15-1 record. His successor, Barry Switzer, took that to an even higher level winning nearly 84% of his games with a record of 157-29-4. Switzer’s successor, Gary Gibbs, managed only 44 wins over the next six seasons going 44-23-2 from 1989-1994.

At Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian’s .836 winning percentage from 1964-1974 was followed by Dan Devine who produced a .764 winning percentage. Following Devine, who was under a hot seat following Parseghian until he won a national championship in 1977, proved too much for Gerry Faust. Faust’s 30-26-1 record just was not good enough for Notre Dame.

Then enters Lou Holtz, the last head coach to lead the Fighting Irish national championship in 1988, and his coaching record at Notre Dame was 100-30-2. Succeeding Holtz was Bob Davie and then Ty Willingham, and each had an identical .583 winning percentage in their short tenures as Notre Dame’s head coach.

Tom Osborne roamed the sidelines as Nebraska’s head coach for 25 years compiling a 255-49-3 record and a winning percentage of .836. Following the legendary Osborne would not be easy. Keep in mind that Osborne followed Bob Devaney who won national titles in 1970 and 1971 and had a 101-20-2 record in 11 seasons and a winning percentage of .829.

Osborne was succeeded by Frank Solich in 1998 and in six seasons Solich won 58 games losing only 19 for a .753 winning percentage and was fired by then Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson. Pederson hired Bill Callahan and over the next four years, Nebraska went 27-22-0, which definitely did not sit well with Husker fans.

So perhaps more importantly than simply being the coach who follows the coach that replaced a coaching legend, it is more important to have the right coach for the job.

Nittany Lion and Trojan fans hope and believe they do.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

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Premature Anticipation

Last week, we saw Sports Illustrated’s Campus Union roll out their list of “100 things we’re most excited for in the 2014 college football season.”

From that, we found a new definition of Pitt football at #82.

This week, they have finished off their list, and Penn State makes an appearance at lucky #13:

13. James Franklin’s impact at Penn State. Franklin redefined expectations during his three-year stay at Vanderbilt. Now, the Nittany Lions new coach has a chance to revitalize Happy Valley. The Langhorne, Pa., native has wasted no time making an impact: His 2015 recruiting class ranks second in the nation, according to Better yet? Franklin inherits an ultra-talented quarterback in Christian Hackenberg and a trio of pass-catching tight ends in Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman.

I don’t know about you, but the anticipation of this 2014 season is killing me!



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Definition of Pitt Football

From Sports Illustrated’s Campus Union . . . 100 Things We’re most Excited for in the 2014 Season . . .

82. Pittsburgh’s attempt to enter ACC contention There are certain college football teams that exude confidence, precision and ferocity. Oregon is a screaming attack fighter. Alabama is a fearsome, unyielding tank. Pitt, on the other hand? Pitt is an overweight mail clerk rolling backwards down a hill in an office chair. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is pretty good, though.

Pitt Football . . . Are you ready to RUMBLE?

Pitt Football . . . Are you ready to RUMBLE?

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The Lion Has Landed


From Lions247.

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