Nearly every time Penn State loses an important basketball game, Twitter goes ablaze with the #FireEd hashtag and angry rants appear all over the message boards and blogs. People take their frustration out on the head coach, Ed DeChellis, who is currently working on his eighth straight season in Happy Valley without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Certainly, a lot of the criticism is justified. With arguably the best player in the Big Ten in Talor Battle and perhaps the league's most versatile player in Jeff Brooks, DeChellis' team is barely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The program still isn't pulling in big time recruits and the Bryce Jordan Center often struggles to reach half its capacity for most games.
However, it's not all Ed's fault. In fact, it might not even be mostly his fault. Not when the Nittany Lions only get to practice on their own court only four times this month thanks to scheduling conflicts keeping them out of the Jordan Center. Not when the team is forced to play in Penn State's bomb shelter of an IM Building, and certainly not when garbage like this happens, as Nate Bauer of BWI reports from DeChellis' news conference yesterday (you might want to check out Nate's photo, too).
Knowing that nothing could be done to change the reality of having to practice at the IM Building, today, the debate centered around whether to view film in preparation of Thursday night's game against Minnesota before or after practice, because the team needed to be finished by 5:30 p.m. because the IM Building also had scheduled other activities for 6 p.m. today.
"We're trying to figure out whether to watch tape before we practice or after we practice. Will we have enough time on the practice floor? But, in the same sense, a couple of the staff guys said, We have to see it before we go over there and do it because they won't get it, they won't understand. It's the first time we played Minnesota," he said at his noon press conference today. "If we had played them before, it's a little easier, OK, remember this, and it all comes back to them. But, this is the first time we play. It's a 30-40 minute presentation before we play them and I'm not there yet whether we watch tape before in our film room and then walk over, or, go practice, and then bring them back after, let them shower up and watch tape after we watch practice.
So let me get this straight. A Big Ten basketball program which just happens to be part of one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country can't even get the time it needs at an intramural building with crooked rims?
I don't seek to make excuses for anyone. DeChellis makes a lot of money to play the hands he's dealt. That said, what's happening to his program right now is beyond an embarrassment, an embarrassment completely outside DeChellis' control.
The problem here, folks, is not a coaching issue or a talent issue. It's a commitment issue that goes straight to the top of the institution. What Nate Bauer describes above shouldn't be even close to happening for all the money being poured into this athletic department.
It's a sideshow, and there are a lot of people in line ahead of Ed DeChellis who deserve to be fired for it.
While We're On Basketball
As Bauer points out in his article above, the Lady Lions have to practice at the IM Building, too. Yes, those playing-fot-a-Big-Ten-title Lady Lions. In the face of the circus, however (and don't laugh, because that might be the next thing to force the basketball teams out of the Jordan Center), coach Coquese Washington has her team primed to head back to the NCAA Tournament this season, and she hopes more.
"Realistically, we're about where we want to be," she said. "It takes time. If you want to be in the national championship [picture], you got to have the talent and the chemistry and the leadership. You have to have a lot of things in place.
"I think we're starting to get those elements in place."
"National Championship" is the type of thing you like to hear, even though Penn State is probably a ways off in contending for that. Fans shouldn't be happy with NCAA Tournament appearances for the Lady Lions. They're allowed to expect more because of the program's rich history. The team's resurgence from the ditch Rene Portland left it in back in 2007 speaks volumes of Washington and the job she and her staff are doing.
Hockey Gets More Coin
Penn State hockey got some more good news Tuesday.
The Penn State Ice Campaign took another significant step forward recently as Paul and Nancy Silvis of State College, Pa., pledged $1 million to the project. The contribution was the first major gift on the heels of an $88 million contribution from Terry and Kim Pegula last fall for a new ice facility at Penn State as well as the start of Division I men's and women's ice hockey programs in 2012.
The main lobby of the Pegula Ice Arena will be named after the Paul and Nancy Silvis family. The couple will also co-chair the Penn State Ice Campaign Committee, which will help to raise an additional $10 million to complement the gift from the Pegulas for the ice arena and ice hockey program endowments.
Obviously, the Pegulas' donation is a big deal, but it's good to see other people jumping on board with the project as well. Penn State hockey might suffer the same sad, painful existence of Penn State basketball if it's left to the suits at Old Main and the athletic department, so seeing more than a few people now take matters into their own hands to make the programs viable is encouraging.
O, and there's this cool video.
In Scores Of Other Games