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Midweek Musings: Is Penn State Basketball a Smart Investment?

A long-term turnaround of the PSU hoops program would likely need a large influx of money. Is the investment worth it?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

I am on the record, many times, as a critic of current Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers.

I’d prefer the program look in another direction and I believe that a different coach could get more out of the scant resources that the men’s hoops program has.

And make no mistake, those resources are scant.

As of 2015-16, the Penn State basketball budget ranked 83rd among all Division I programs, behind powerhouses such as Rutgers and Northwestern.

While there’s a chance a new coach could catch magic, and I do believe there’s room to improve tactically, luring a coach with any real history of success would take a further financial investment that the university has never shown to be willing to make.

Additionally, that coach would almost certainly ask for facilities and staffing upgrades to compete with the rest of the Big Ten Conference.

Many fans of the PSU hoops program have been screaming out, understandably, for these investments for years. Decades, even.

But would that investment be a smart one? Should Sandy Barbour make men’s basketball an area of focus?

I’m not so sure that she should.

Penn State sponsors 31 Division I sports programs at University Park.

And it’s no secret that football is king. The football program serves as the driving force to fund a number of thoseprograms.

Currently, the winter sports season is ruled by the very successful hockey and wrestling programs, both of which are either self-funded or supported heavily by sport-specific donors.

Recently, the university announced plans for $69 million worth of upgrades to football facilities.

So, without a sport-specific basketball booster like those who funded the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex, Pegula Ice Arena and most recently Panzer Stadium, the funds would likely have to be diverted from the football program.

Now, at schools like Ohio State and Michigan this isn’t an issue. So why should it be at Penn State?

Well, there are a plethora of issues.

The first being that Penn State isn’t on the level of those two when it comes to funding its football program and has been trying desperately to get to that level since James Franklin arrived.

The program has made inroads, but it’s still an uphill battle and taking money away from that cause and from a program that’s already stretched thin (again, 31 programs) would anger a fair few people with deep pockets who want to see the program reach heights not seen in this century.

Secondly, it’s a massive gamble.

An investment in Penn State basketball isn’t the same as investment of some of the recent programs we’ve seen on the rise.

Pennsylvania is fine enough, but it isn’t exactly the cream of the crop when it comes to basketball recruiting. The elite talent is typically localized to the Philly area and for the most elite players you’re recruiting against teams you don’t have a shot against.

Additionally, the state is occupied by a number of other strong basketball programs. Both Temple and Pitt have a far superior basketball history and, oh, did I mention the state is occupied by the program that has won two of the last four national championships in Villanova?

Texas Tech, Auburn and South Carolina all took advantage of states where there’s no true king where it comes to basketball and programs sharing their state have fallen on hard times.

If Penn State were to take a swing on basketball, it just can’t afford to miss. I’d love to the program to do an about face and put the past in the past, but unless someone who matters (read: someone with money) shows up, I’m just not sure it’s a prudent investment.

What say you?