Penn State made a valiant run to the third day of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago before falling 64-59 to Purdue on Friday afternoon. The Nittany Lions defeated Nebraska in the tourney's opener on Wednesday before upsetting Iowa, a projected 7-seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, on Thursday. Seniors D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis poured their hearts into their final Big Ten contests, and both exited today's game embracing the grasp of the only head coach they've known in college, Pat Chambers.
Chambers' team didn't quite live up to expectations this year. But between the strong finish to the season and his staff's advances in recruiting, he's now done enough to convince Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour to discuss a contract extension heading into Chambers' fifth season. In an interview with Scout.com's Beth Long after Friday's game, Barbour had this to say about her head coach:
"I think the biggest commitment is just to take a look at everything," Barbour said. "Where are we falling short, where are we not supporting this program enough or not supporting it in the right ways. Certainly, I have made a very public commitment to Pat. And he is my guy. I support what he is doing and I support his long term leadership of this program. Once the season is over - and I don't think it's over yet - once the season is over, we will sit down and talk about his contract because I want to make a commitment there to him."
There is some uncertainty when it comes to the current status of Chambers' current deal - conflicting reports had his deal ending either next summer or at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season - but Barbour's statement above makes it sound as though the first permanent AD Chambers has ever served under wants to give him the opportunity to build the Penn State program for a few more years.
Here at BSD we've discussed the merits of the contract extension, however "undeserved", in college basketball. In so many words, it's important to give coaches ammo with which to recruit. The knowledge that the coach who recruited you is not in danger of losing his job is huge for recruits, and barring an impasse in negotiations, Barbour plans to give Chambers that benefit.
Perhaps more importantly, Barbour's comments indicate that the athletic department is finally ready to support Penn State basketball. For years and years under the direction of Tim Curley and, to a lesser extent, interim AD Dave Joyner, basketball has been an afterthought in University Park. Between her comments after the blowout at Northwestern a month ago, and her reaffirmation of those attitudes today, Barbour is ready to make basketball a priority at Penn State. And that's all Chambers ever could have wanted.