I had the honor of going to the Penn State v. Wisconsin game last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. After going to to the game, experiencing the crowd, and the listening to the media…all trying to blame you, I just wanted to write to you and tell you how much of an inspiration you have been to me over the years.
I grew up in New York, while my grandparents lived in Pennsylvania. My grandparents, although never attended college, wanted the best for their grandchildren, and began taking my sister and me to Penn State at the young age of three. I remember one of my first Penn State games…I stood on the seat and was as tall as my parents who were seated next to me. From then on, I always got excited each year to go to a Penn State home football game and to see you coach year after year. Shortly after the public could only request two seats together (from four), my grandfather wrote a letter to the ticketing office requesting four for he could sit with his granddaughters “who are very interested in Penn State”. We were never sure how it happened, but we got four tickets together, and I knew by that point that I would attend Penn State.
I am writing to you because I wanted to let you know that regardless of what the media says, you are, and have been an inspiration to Penn Staters on and off the football field. While my classmates in grade school were doing biography reports on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I did mine on you. While the media blames you for a decline in recruiting, I know there are other students at Penn State, football players and non football players that go to Penn State because of you. You are such a presence on campus, and even to me now that I live in Chicago.
When I hear the sports announcers try and point fingers at you about the past few years, I get so frustrated. What most people do not remember is that the media has never liked Penn State. If there was a chance to bash Penn State, the sports casters did. If there was a time to compliment Penn State, they hurried over it and began talking about the beloved Notre Dame. Thank you for not stooping to their level.
You bring Penn State more than wins and losses, you bring and often demand honor, tradition, and respect, something that the media often overlooks. You have kept the uniforms simple. Your football players have one of the best graduation rates of any university (only public university to be ranked in the top ten of graduation rates). Your football players show up to class, take off their hats while in class, travel in suits, and are 99% of the time very respectable and upstanding young men. You spark a great sense of unity and honor in Penn State fans of all ages every weekend.
I will never forget the 1987 Fiesta Bowl where Mr. Testeverde and team dressed up in camo and tried to intimidate the Penn State team as they were getting off the plane in suits before the game that decided we were National Champions. I was shocked then to see the behavior of other atheletes, and have never been so shocked until this past weekend when I was at Camp Randall. To hear the students cheering the team on, and then also cheering against us, using foul language…I was never so disgusted since the Fiesta Bowl. I know you would not have stood for it at Beaver Stadium, and I thank you for that. These past few seasons have been tough on all of us. We all hear everyone’s opinion on why Penn State has had a bad record the past few years, but I all say to them is “how many football games have you won”? “How many football games has your coach won?”. I also realized this weekend, that while those questions are valid, they miss the point that you have always tried to make. It was easier to miss with our winning seasons, but more evident and important now. It is not about wins and losses…it is about honor, tradition, and respect. Thanks for teaching me so much. We have had our good times and we will surely have them again, but in the past few weeks, I have learned an equally important lesson: how to lose with class, and again I have you to thank for it.