As many of you are by now aware, The 22,000+ pointed out yesterday that Penn State is no longer listed among the participants in the 76 Classic. This has led many people to speculate that Penn State "wimped out" of the tournament in order to fill the schedule with easy wins and pad the NCAA tournament resume.
In order to get an explanation, I reached out this morning to Brian Siegrist, Assistant Director of Penn State Athletics Communication. I asked Brian point blank if Penn State pulled out of the 76 Classic in order to find easier wins and pad their NCAA Tournament resume. The following is his unedited statement.
Penn State decided against participation in the 2010 76 Classic back in December and notified tournament organizers shortly thereafter, it just took the Classic website this long to remove our logo and make the changes to the field. The decision in no way came from the tournament organizers, had anything to do with last season’s record or reflects anything but our desire to play as competitive of a non-conference schedule as we can.
The decision was made by Penn State due to a rethinking of the logistics of playing in a three-day tournament in California, some 2,500 miles away, and then returning to State College to play an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game as little as one day later. Minnesota tried a similar schedule this year, going 1-2 in Anaheim and then flying to Miami (Fla.) and falling to the Hurricanes going 1-3 while playing four games in six days and traveling some 5,000 miles. Coach Smith indicated to Coach DeChellis that his players were exhausted and had no gas for the ACC Challenge game and that he would probably not try that schedule again. Also, at the time, we could not receive an assurance from the conference office that we would have our Challenge game played on Wednesday (the last day of the Challenge). Meaning the possibility existed that we would finish the tournament in Anaheim on Sunday night, return to State College (across the continent and three time zones) to play an ACC opponent at home on Monday or Tuesday night. It was not a scenario we thought was fair to our players or our home fans.
As you and many of your fellow bloggers have indicated, we have tried to replace the tournament games with some very competitive games that we feel will maintain a strong non-conference strength of schedule. We will be able to share those with you in the coming months.
I won't comment on Siegrist's statement. You can all discuss it in the comments and draw your own conclusions.
A similar request for clarification has been submitted to the officials of the 76 Classic. At this time they have not responded. If they do I will post their response on the blog.