It doesn't matter what it's for, an $88 million contribution for anything is going to get people talking. While many in the athletic community are feeling warm and fuzzy over the announcement of funding for a new ice arena, not everyone is so enthused, namely some guy named Oren M. Spiegler from Upper St. Clair in the Daily Collegian's opinion page this morning.
What a glorious day it would have been if Pennsylvanians had been able to read one of the following headlines: "Philanthropists donate $88 million to ensure sound footing for Pennsylvania public libraries for years to come" or "Philanthropists establish $88 million fund to ensure that all qualified students will be able to attend a university."
By endorsing and devoting such a mammoth amount of money to a violent sport, which contributes nothing to society, some would consider the donation being made to have been squandered. It is sad that a family like the Pegulas is contributing to a society in decline.
Rhetoric like that has the potential to get pretty political, so let's try to avoid that, but I think the issue of big donations for sports is something that should be addressed.
If this summer of expansion has taught us anything, it's that college athletics is big business. It's about, as Adam Rittenberg likes to say, "branding." Enhancing the athletic brand enhances the academic brand. That's why applications surge after a good football season. That's why things like whiting out Madison Square Garden for the NIT get people in a hub east coast city excited about the university. For as intelligent as those in the academic community like to think they are, they're pretty out of touch if they can't see that their own job security is inextricably linked to athletic success.
If the Pegulas' donation leads to greater exposure for college hockey though the Big Ten Network or maybe even some national institutions like ESPN or VS., that means greater exposure for Penn State and ultimately, it's academic profile, which is obviously the most important thing.
"Knowing that we have three points in our hip pocket, you want to be careful that you don’t put him in a situation where a blitz gets to him and all of a sudden the ball is on the ground," Jay Paterno said. "But now that he’s done some things in the clutch, we’ll open some things up as we go forward."
Perhaps more important than that, though, to improving Penn State's play deep in their opponents' territory will be developing freshmen tight ends Kevin Haplea and Garry Gilliam into respectable pass catching options. If there's one thing that this Penn State offense clearly doesn't have that that last year's did, it's pass catching tight ends like Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless. Brett Brackett has stepped in at tight end a few times, but considering he's hardly a desirable run blocker, packages that include him at tight end can really sell out passing downs. Gilliam and Haplea don't need to be Shuler and Quarless, but they need to start contributing something in the passing game to keep opposing defenses honest in the middle of the field.
Perhaps one of the more maligned figures on the defense early this season was safety Nick Sukay. However, after two picks in Saturday's win over Temple, it looks like he's beginning to get on track at the perfect time heading into the Big Ten season.