Blue White Illustrated

June-July 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 49 of 67

5 0 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M E D I T O R I A L MATT HERB I wouldn't want to take this metaphor too far, but in some ways, watching the introductory news conference for a coach or a high-level administrator at a major college is like watching your fa- vorite Shakespeare play performed. You know all the lines; it's in the delivery that the magic happens. Patrick Kraft said all the things you probably expected him to say when he was introduced as Penn State's next athletics director at an April 29 news conference. Having accepted the PSU job after pre- vious stops at Boston College and Tem- ple, he offered profuse thanks to both his new school and his old schools, and to all the people who have helped him develop into the kind of administrator who could take charge of a sprawling and ambitious Big Ten athletics department. He spoke in reverent tones about the history and reputation of Penn State. He vowed to emphasize the academic performance of the student-athletes whose teams he will be overseeing. And he promised that the Nittany Li- ons would compete at the highest level in every sport. On that last point, he was particularly emphatic. "Make no bones about it, I'm here to win," Kraft said, "I'm here to win, and we are going to win. We are going to add to the 80 national championships and the 303 conference championships." That he said all those things was in no way surprising. But at least as important as the words was Kraft's demeanor. He came across as a heart-on-sleeve kind of guy, someone who never lost the passion and conviction that he displayed as a college football player at Indiana. Does the ability to communicate pas- sion and conviction matter? It does if you're trying to convince would-be financial backers that your athletics department is worthy of their philan- thropy. In her introduction of Kraft, incoming university president Neeli Bendapudi highlighted his qualifications, one of which she described as "a record of fun- draising that's going to be critical as we grow all 31 of our programs." During his tenure at Boston College, Kraft was instrumental in helping raise more than $80 million, including money for 11 capital projects. At Temple, he helped raise more than $55 million for construction and renovation projects. That was surely one of the factors that made him a prime target for Penn State. At PSU, he'll be faced with two key fi- nancial imperatives. The first imperative is to field a broad- based athletics program. That's a big part of the department's identity, and Penn State clearly wants to maintain it. But it's hard to be successful if resources are spread too thin. Penn State fields 31 varsity teams and is currently in 18th place in the Direc- tors' Cup standings. The school at the top of the standings — Michigan — fields 27 teams. The school in second place — Notre Dame — fields 20. The school that's just ahead of Penn State in 17th place — Minnesota — fields 21. The other imperative is to field a team that is nationally competitive in the sport that Penn State alumni and fans care about the most: football. However, football is the most re- source-hungry sport on any college campus, and that's particularly true at the relatively small number of Power Five schools that have realistic aspirations of competing for College Football Playoff berths. Penn State is one of those schools, and James Franklin has made it clear that he sees ongoing investments in facili- ties and payroll as absolute necessities if the Nittany Lions are going to get to the sport's highest level and stay there. One look around the nation at the facilities projects that have either been completed in recent years or are on the drawing board suggests that Franklin is right. While it might seem counterintuitive, one way to help out the nonrevenue pro- grams would be to pour more money into the football program. As Kraft noted, "It's a driver. Nation- ally, it drives the brand. Football game- day helps with recruiting for all the other sports. It starts, and then I think every- thing else falls in there. Cael [Sanderson] has shown it with wrestling, that it leads to success elsewhere. But Penn State is Penn State football." If Penn State is going to have it all — a maxed-out football program and a broad-based athletics department full of nationally competitive teams — it'll need to increase its revenues. A new Big Ten media rights deal will certainly help with that, but the Lions will also need some of their support to come in the form of gifts — big gifts, the kind that could help get a few of the items in its facilities master plan shovel- ready. That's where Kraft comes in. From what we've seen and heard so far, he's got a lot of charisma. He came across as both gregarious and down to earth at his presser. That should play well on the banquet circuit and in meetings with the sort of people who can help Penn State reconcile its imperatives and achieve its goals. ■ Patrick Kraft views the football program as an asset that helps Penn State compete in all of its varsity sports. PHOTO BY RYAN SNYDER Fundraising Will Be Crucial To PSU's Success Under New AD VARSITY VIEWS

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