Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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M A Y 2 0 2 3 5 3 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 M A T T. H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M I t's a tale nearly as old as college athlet- ics itself: An up-and-coming coach takes over a downtrodden program, succeeds where others have failed, finds himself garnering attention as an attrac- tive job candidate, leaves for a program with more resources and a richer history, and shows up at his new job in a state where he has deep roots vowing to do what he did at his previous institution. The Micah Shrewsberry story? Yes, of course. But also the James Franklin story. There are striking parallels between Shrewsberry's decision in March to ac- cept the men's basketball head coaching position at Notre Dame and Franklin's move from Vanderbilt to Penn State in 2014. Both Shrewsberry and Franklin were given their first major-college head coaching opportunities by schools with checkered histories in their respective sports. Both turned their programs into winners in Year 2, and both ended up returning to their home states when op- portunity knocked. It remains to be seen whether Shrews- berry's ascent will continue in South Bend, but Franklin received a 10-year, $75 million contract extension in 2021, so it's safe to say he's doing OK. And really, so is Penn State, gener- ally speaking. While Shrewsberry's loss stings, PSU has typically been the kind of school that lures away rising stars from other places, not the kind that gets jilted when a rising star departs. In 2010, the Lions upgraded their men's lacrosse program by bringing in Jeff Tambroni, who had previously guided Cornell to three NCAA Final Fours. Of Penn State's five all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, three have taken place in Tambroni's tenure (including the 2019 Final Four), with a fourth looking possible this spring. The school has also hired two ice hockey coaches away from Princeton — Guy Gadowsky on the men's side and Jeff Kampersal on the women's side. Both have led their teams to the NCAA Tour- nament. Three years ago, PSU hired softball coach Clarisa Crowell away from Miami (Ohio). Penn State hadn't posted a win- ning campaign since 2016, but heading into a doubleheader against Ohio State on April 11, Crowell had gone 52-33 since the start of the 2022 season. And then there's the most successful hire of them all. Cael Sanderson seemed to be doing just fine at Iowa State, having led his alma mater to top-five finishes at the NCAA Wrestling Tournament each of his three seasons. But at Penn State, the pastures were greener, the mats softer, and so he accepted the Lions' head coaching position in April 2009. Sanderson has since guided Penn State to 10 national team championships. Nittany Lion fans have reveled in the program's success, but back in Ames, the Cyclones have been left to imagine what might have been. Since 2011, they've not had a top-10 finish at nationals, and they've placed 20th or below in four of the past 11 tournaments. Penn State's success in luring and re- taining so many talented coaches helps explain why Shrewsberry's exit hit so hard. When people typically want to be in your company, it hurts to get dumped. Speaking to BWI website editor Nate Bauer in early April, Penn State trustee Brandon Short expressed strong feelings about Shrewsberry's exit, describing it as a "wake-up call." "When he chose Notre Dame over Penn State, I felt heartbroken and em- barrassed that a school could come and take our coach," Short said. "We're Penn State. We're not a stepping-stone job. Penn State is a destination job, and I think we need to do everything that we can to make sure that never happens again." Penn State has shown over the years that it can provide coaches with a plat- form for national success, but among the high-profile sports, men's basketball has been a stubborn exception. Shrews- berry's three full-time predecessors — Patrick Chambers, Ed DeChellis and Jerry Dunn — all compiled losing records in their time with the Nittany Lions. The last Penn State coach to leave with a winning record was Bruce Parkhill, and he coached only three seasons in the Big Ten. Given that history, new coach Mike Rhoades will have to overcome long-held preconceptions about PSU's potential. Years ago, a sportswriter memorably de- scribed State College as "the outback of dribbledom," and in addition to its mid- dling basketball pedigree, PSU must now work to overcome the perception that it isn't doing enough in the name, image and likeness realm. Which is not to say that the Nittany Lions' basketball team is consigned to the same fate that befell the Iowa State wrestling program. Rhoades, a Mahanoy City, Pa., native, could turn out to be the right man for the job. The anticipated NIL investments could pay off. The transfer portal could provide a shortcut to on-court success. Sometimes, everything coalesces to produce a winner where one didn't pre- viously exist. That, too, is a tale nearly as old as college athletics itself. ■ James Franklin built Vanderbilt into a winner in his three years at the school, then headed to Penn State, where he has gone 78-36 in nine seasons. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE For PSU, A Lesson In How The Other Half Lives VARSITY VIEWS

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