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Chambers Leading the Fight Against Cancer at CVC Golf Outing

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VIDEO: Patrick Chambers Press Conference at CVC Golf Outing | Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Attitude is everything for Patrick Chambers.

He and the Nittany Lion basketball program live by the motto of approaching any type of adversity with a choice.  You can either face challenges with a positive attitude or dwell on them with a negative attitude.

For Chambers, there really is no choice.

Everything he touches has a positive tone involved with it.

chambers_cvc_1.jpgThe atmosphere at Friday's 18th Annual Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament at the Penn State Golf Courses was living proof of that.

Chambers was hired on the day of the CVC golf outing in 2011, and a sun-splashed Friday provided the setting for another positive step for he and the outstanding event held at the Penn State Blue and White Golf Courses.  More than 300 golfers took the courses on Friday, including several Penn State head coaches.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, women's lacrosse's Missy Doherty, men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik, women's hockey's Josh Brandwene, women's gymnastics's Jeff Thompson, men's golf's Greg Nye and men's soccer's Bob Warming participated in this year's outing.

For Chambers, this year's version of the tournament took on a different meaning.  Chambers lost his brother, Greg, to lung cancer at age 60 on March 18, and the CVC event touched him personally unlike the previous three years.

"For the first time in my life, this event hits close to home," Chambers said.  "It hit me at home with one of your older brothers.  It's been a trying time, yet a time to reflect on great memories with him growing up...I'll mention this today, I saw a Johns Hopkins study on this.  Not only do you need to eat well and stay in shape and take care of yourself, but you need to laugh and have to keep your mind clear of any negativity.  I needed to see something like that heading into last night's event and today.  I feel like he knows that I'm here putting forth more of an effort."

Chambers spent the morning session making the rounds on the golf course saying hello and greeting the participants before playing golf in the afternoon in a group with five-time NBA champion Ron Harper.  Chambers has the perfect attitude to lead a fight against a deadly disease.

"I want this to be a happy event.  I want this to be a celebration.  I want people to have a good time," Chambers said.  "It's a first-class event that everybody looks forward to every year."

harper_CVC_1.jpgChambers and Harper kept the mood light in their six-man group.  Harper provided music in a portable speaker system as the group made its way around the Blue Course.

Beyond the laughs and lighthearted talk on the course, Chambers is among a group of many leaders who play an integral role in a battle much bigger than a win or loss on the court or field of play.  A great deal of credit goes out to former Nittany Lion basketball leaders Bruce Parkhill, Jerry Dunn (both of which were in attendance on Friday) and Ed DeChellis for helping lead the Penn State CVC into what it has become today.

"This runs like a well-oiled machine right now, so I can't even fathom what they went through to get this thing off the ground," Chambers said.  "The level that it is at now is unbelievable...To get this thing off the ground the way they did, and now have $2 million raised in the 18th year.  That's pretty amazing with what these coaches have started.  I am going to carry the torch as long as I can to keep it going. 

The CVC Golf Tournament is the flagship event of the organization created to raise funds year-round to support the American Cancer Society affected by the disease in Centre County through the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund (BCAF).  In addition to the golf tournament, Coaches vs. Cancer conducts a year-round calendar of seven events.

The golf tournament has more than doubled in size since it began in 1996-'97, and there could not be a better man with a better attitude continuing to lead the Penn State CVC fight than Coach Chambers.

With the funds raised last year, the CVC eclipsed $2 million raised in the fight against cancer.  While it was a fun day on the golf course, the bigger fight cannot be stated enough. 
To get involved as a sponsor or participant in Penn State Coaches vs. Cancer please visit CVCPENNSTATE.ORG or call 814-330-3337.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Patrick Chambers Press Conference at CVC Golf Outing

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Hear from head coach Patrick Chambers as he addresses the media at the 18th Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Outing on Friday.

Beloved Caldwell's Dedication to Penn State Football Unmatched

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Few men have poured more time, effort and energy into the betterment of Penn State Football than Brad Caldwell.

Affectionately known as "Spider" around the program, the beloved equipment manager of the Nittany Lions left a mark on the program that no one may ever touch. 

For the past 31 years, Caldwell didn't do his job for notoriety or recognition.  He worked, often from sun up to sun down, in Happy Valley because he loved his profession, and more importantly, he loved making a positive impact on those around him.

His journey to the Penn State sideline started at Curwensville High School (45 miles west of State College).  Caldwell's eighth grade science teacher talked him into being a manager for the junior high football team.  Before finishing a season with the junior high team, Caldwell was invited to become the manager of the Golden Tide's varsity team.

"I was a manager in high school for four years for three different sports, and I fell in love with it," Caldwell said.  "My eighth grade science teacher, who was a junior high coach, called me going into my ninth grade year and said I'd love to have you be a manager for my team...The varsity coach saw me, and then I went straight into varsity that year.  I did football, wrestling and baseball during my four years there.  I just loved it.  I think it was something I was supposed to do, and I really enjoyed it."

spider_4.jpgAfter graduating from Curwensville in 1982, Caldwell spent one year at Penn State's DuBois campus.  He watched the Nittany Lions win their first national title, and he knew that he wanted to be a part of the program.  Caldwell enrolled in classes at the University Park campus in the fall of 1983 with an eye on becoming a student manager.

Caldwell's first game on the Penn State sideline was at the 1983 Kickoff Classic in Giants Stadium against No. 1 Nebraska.

"Here I am, I'm from small Curwensville, and I'm in awe standing in Giants Stadium," Caldwell said.  "I'm standing there looking at the New York City skyline saying, 'what the heck am I doing here.'  What a dream come true."

On the heels of a national title, the Nittany Lions opened the '83 season with losses to Nebraska, Cincinnati and Iowa.  Staring at a 0-3 mark, members of the team and staff jokingly blamed the new guy on the block.

Penn State went on to finish 8-4-1 in Caldwell's first season as a student manager, including a victory over Washington in the Aloha Bowl.  He was part of Penn State's second national title during the 1986 season as a student.  Caldwell had classes with All-Americans Shane Conlan and D.J. Dozier.

"It was a dream come true to be a part of.  That was just so special to be a part of," Caldwell said.

For his efforts as a student, Caldwell was hired as Assistant Equipment Manager after receiving his bachelor's degree in recreation and park management in 1986.  And he has perfect attendance.

"I've never missed a game since I started," Caldwell said.  "I've been sick at a couple games.  I missed family weddings for games.  I haven't missed one since I started."

Caldwell's rapport with the players on the roster is what makes him so special.  For more than 30 years, Penn State Football and its student-athletes have been central figures in Caldwell's family.

spider_3.jpg"The thing that has made this so special is the players," Caldwell said.  "There really, truly is a Penn State family.  Karen and I never had any kids.  These were my kids.  It's kept me young.  It's the same with the student managers.  I still have four or five student managers to this day that still call me dad."

The players knew they could count on Caldwell to be at his post in the equipment room when they needed something.  He greeted them with a smile time after time after time when he tossed a new pair of socks or fixed shoulder pads.  He looked out for the players because he genuinely cared for them.

"I've outfitted more than 1,000 Penn State Football players, and it is just such a rewarding feeling.  It's a family," Caldwell said.

Spider and Karen are both members of the football community.  Karen's behind the scenes role speaks volumes about the type of people the Caldwells are.

She has sewn the bowl patch on Penn State's jerseys for 11 games, beginning with the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl when the Nittany Lions wore a Big Ten shield to promote joining the conference one season later.

"At the time, the players didn't really want the patches because they thought it was sacrilegious to put something on the uniform," Caldwell said. 

Karen Caldwell sewed all of the 100th anniversary Big Ten patches on the Penn State's 1995 Rose Bowl pants, in addition to the 1997 Fiesta Bowl jersey patch.  Beginning with the 1999 Alamo Bowl, the Nittany Lions have worn a patch on their jerseys in the past nine bowl games.

"Karen has sewn every single bowl patch," Caldwell said.

Spider packed 30 jerseys at a time into a travel bag and took them home to Karen, who sewed each patch in their log cabin outside of State College.

Prior to the 2012 season, Karen was busy.

"I took all of the jerseys home and had her sew the Big Ten patch on them," Caldwell said.  "Then, Coach O'Brien decided to go with the names on the jerseys.  I took them all home again in August, and Karen sewed all of the name panels on."

spider_1.jpgSpider did not have time to send the jerseys to Nike for the stitching of each name onto name plates, so he heat pressed them prior to the season-opener.  Nonetheless, the letters started peeling off, so he took the jerseys back home to Karen.

"I took them all back, and she started sewing each individual letter on every jersey," Caldwell said. 

A man who has a lifetime of memories as a member of the Penn State Football staff, Caldwell pinpointed one season as a favorite.

"The 1994 year was the most fun to watch," Caldwell said.  "To be on the sidelines, those guys were just machines.  I don't ever remember seeing 11 guys do everything exactly the way they were supposed to on every single play."

"I still have Kerry Collins's wristband from the Rose Bowl, and it had 10 plays on it.  That's it.  They were goal line plays," Caldwell said.  "It was just so much fun watching those guys go up and down the field."

Sifting through 31 years of memories, Caldwell's proudest moment may have come on Nov. 12, 1994 in Champaign, Ill., when the Lions rallied back from 21-0 down in the first quarter in what is likely the program's greatest comeback.

Down 31-28 and a perfect season on the line at their own 4-yard line, the Nittany Lions started an infamous drive with 6:07 on the clock.  Penn State fans across the country can envision Kerry Collins leading the team down the field for a game-winning score at Memorial Stadium, but Caldwell had a slightly different view of "The Drive."

As Collins took the snap of the first play at the 4-yard line, it began to rain.

"At the time, that game was on AstroTurf.  We had these turf shoes for the rain called 'Destroyers'," Caldwell said.  "We would change the players' shoes as it started raining because the turf would get slippery."

"So on that day, we were literally on the sideline cutting shoestrings off to get their shoes off...during the series," Caldwell said.  "We started on the 4-yard line and started working our way up during a 96-yard drive."

spider_2.jpgAs the Nittany Lions marched down the field, Caldwell was busy on the sideline feverishly cutting shoestrings off the first pair of game shoes and then putting players in the "Destroyer" rain shoes as they came off the field.  Just as the ball reached mid-field, Caldwell had changed the shoes of the last guy - All-American tight end Kyle Brady.

"I really felt part of that drive," Caldwell said.  "We were exhausted on the sideline, but to watch the score, it was just so rewarding.  I was part of that drive.  It was a neat feeling after the game to be a part of that win."

Collins finished 7-for-7 on the 96-yard drive, leading the Nittany Lions to a 35-31 victory over Illinois, and Caldwell will forever have a place in history during the epic comeback.

"Penn State is a special place because of how this program feels," Caldwell said.  "It is a classic team.  When you run out of that tunnel, you feel it.  I've been so proud to be the caretaker of the Penn State uniform."

Caldwell's place in Penn State Football history will be as an unsung, behind-the-scenes leader, but the impact he had on the student-athletes for more than 30 years is truly special.

"To think a guy from Curwensville can have the keys to Beaver Stadium is so humbling," Caldwell said.  "It's just so special to think about how many fans and alums have reached out to me over the years.  I just can't believe it.  I'm just a guy who fixes helmets and shoulder pads.  People related to me, and they made me feel so special."

To say Caldwell is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Penn State Football for more than three decades doesn't do him justice.  The equipment room and sideline were home to him.

"I can't thank the fans, former players, former managers and coaches who made me feel so special," Caldwell said.  "It's tough to walk away from that, but I know that I have so many great memories."

Now, Caldwell's next chapter will enable him to do something he has never experienced.

"I can actually come back and watch a game without having to worry about fixing something that breaks," Caldwell said with a laugh.  "I'm going to be able to tailgate for the first time in my life."

We wish Caldwell the best of luck in his relocation to Vermont and new position at Fair Haven Union High School.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Sean Spencer on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with defensive line coach Sean Spencer at the Coaches Caravan stop in Lehigh Valley.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with John Donovan on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan at the Coaches Caravan stop in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IX - Erie

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VIDEO: Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre | VIDEO: East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

Erie Photo Gallery

ERIE, Pa. - After more than 2,000 miles on the road, the 2014 Coaches Caravan drew to a close on Thursday night on Penn State's Behrend campus during a sold out evening event.

Nearly 6,300 fans attended the 17 stops, which spanned across 13 locations in Pennsylvania, in addition to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York City.  In all, 11 different Penn State head coaches joined head football coach James Franklin during at least one stop since the Caravan began on May 1 in Pegula Ice Arena.

Thursday's finale featured a new lineup of coaches, which included Franklin, baseball's Rob Cooper and softball's Amanda Lehotak.  Director of Athletics Dave Joyner joined the group, as well, addressing the crowd prior to hearing from the three head coaches. Take a look through some highlights from the final stop of the 2014 Caravan.

Stop No. 17 - Erie (Penn State Behrend)

20140522_155416[1].jpgA sold out crowd inside the McGravey Commons heard from three of the newest coaches on the Nittany Lion roster in Franklin, Cooper and Lehotak. Cooper and Lehotak each finished their first seasons at the helm of their respective programs, while Franklin will lead the Blue and White onto the field for his first game on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

"The reason we are able to do the things we do and have the success in the classroom and on the competition front is because of the support and encouragement we get from our alumni and fans," said Joyner.

It may have been the last stop, but the three coaches were received with great energy and shared the visions they had for their programs. They spoke about competition, academics and representing an incredible university as a whole.

"It is an honor to represent Penn State and we all want to do what is best for this university," said Lehotak. "Coach Franklin has an incredible vision and we need to help him achieve that by packing Beaver Stadium this fall."


Thank you to the nearly 6,500 loyal Penn State fans and alums that made the Coaches Caravan a resounding success for the third-straight year.  And a big tip of the cap goes out to Fullington Trailways ace driver Gottfried Fodor, who did a superb job behind the wheel of the Caravan bus for the third-straight year.  We look forward to seeing the fans on the road again in 2015.

"This caravan has been outstanding," said Franklin. "These three weeks have really helped me build some great relationships with other coaches, our support staff, members of the media, and most importantly, our alumni and fans."

Miles Traveled:

Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles
Day IX - 426 miles

Total - 2,186 miles


2014 Coaches Caravan Day VIII - East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

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VIDEO: Highlights from Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

East Stroudsburg Photo Gallery | Lehigh Valley Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan rolled through East Stroudsburg and the Lehigh Valley on the penultimate day of the 17-stop tour through the region.

Wednesday's lunch stop was a special one for head football coach James Franklin, who returned to his alma mater, East Stroudsburg University.  Head coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey) and Mark Pavlik (men's volleyball) joined Franklin in East Stroudsburg.  Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers paid a visit to the Lehigh Valley event on Wednesday evening.  Take a look through highlights of the eighth day on the road.

Stop No. 15 - East Stroudsburg (East Stroudsburg University)

Coach Franklin returned to his old stomping grounds for the first stop on Wednesday.  When the Fullington tour bus exited Interstate 80 it moved past the Budget Motel, which is owned by Barth Rubin.  Rubin is the man who provided the financial backing for Franklin's scholarship to play football at East Stroudsburg.

Franklin recognized Rubin as the man who provided the opportunity to kick-start his playing and coaching careers.  A 1995 graduate from ESU (psychology), Franklin was a four-year letterman at quarterback and a two-time All-PSAC selection at East Stroudsburg. He set seven school records as a senior to earn team MVP honors and was a Harlon Hill Trophy nominee as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. Among the records he set were for total offense (3,128 yards), passing yards (2,586) and touchdown passes (19).

"It's awesome to be home.  Since we got the job, it's been great to be able to get back here on a couple of occasions," Franklin said.  "I just felt like this made a lot of sense for the Coaches Caravan to visit.  And I thought it would be great for one of our state institutions and a place I am really proud of.  I'm glad that we were able to be here."

caravan_esu_1.jpgFranklin played under legendary head coach Denny Douds, who spent some time with Franklin on Wednesday during the Caravan stop.  Douds has been at ESU for 37 years.

"Denny has been a father figure to me for a very long time," Franklin said.  "Denny has been a mentor as a father and a mentor professionally."

"The thing that makes James special is his passion for what he does," Douds said.  "He cares so much about everything he does."

In the shadows of Eiler-Martin Stadium, more than 100 Penn State and East Stroudsburg alums filled Mattioli Recreation Center to hear from Franklin and the other Penn State head coaches on Wednesday.

"To think 20 years ago that I would be sitting here in this position right now, I would have had no idea," Franklin said.  "I think what we did do is wake up every single morning and try to be the best we could possibly be, learn and ask a lot of questions.  I've always been a passionate, driven, motivated guy."

caravan_esu_2.jpgCooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik each took time during their speeches to honor Franklin during his visit to his alma mater.   

"It's really cool to see the imprint Coach Franklin is going to leave on Pennsylvania football," Cooper said.

At the conclusion of the event, East Stroudsburg president Marcia Welsh presented Coach Franklin with a resolution of recognition for his career accomplishments.  The recognition was voted on by the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Coaches Caravan bus paid a visit to Rudy's Tavern in East Stroudsburg before the group left town.  Franklin treated the group to the infamous pork roll and cheese sandwiches at Rudy's, one of his college favorites.


Stop No. 16 - Bethlehem (Sands Bethlehem Event Center)

Nearly 600 fans were treated to a show inside the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Wednesday night.  For the first time in the Caravan's three-year history, five head coaches were on stage for the festivities at stop No. 16.  After the introductions, Coach Chambers was the leadoff man to get the crowd fired up.

"I'm saying this right now.  This is going to be the best night of the Caravan," Chambers yelled.

As the crowd rose to its feet, the tunes of Pharrell Williams's "Happy" began playing.  From there, Chambers moved away from the podium and began dancing to the beat across the stage.  The other coaches on stage and the fans in the crowd erupted.

caravan_lv_1.jpgChambers is made for the Coaches Caravan setting.  He loves interacting with the crowd, and he has a knack for filling the room with energy every time he steps to the microphone.  The leader of Nittany Lion basketball spoke about the progress the program made during the 2013-'14 season, including a sweep of Ohio State for the first time since 1998.

Additionally, Chambers said that he lived in Allentown 20 years ago when he started in the workforce.  He was a medical salesman with his home region being in the Lehigh Valley.  Chambers also hinted at a possible Penn State hoops game in December at the PPL Center in Allentown, which is slated to open in the fall.

The first speech closed with Chambers urging the crowd to show unrivaled support for Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium.

"Let's make sure Beaver Stadium is packed every single time his team takes the field in the fall," Chambers said.

With the sports season rapidly coming to a close, the 2014-'15 campaign is just around the corner.  Fan support in Beaver Stadium provides an atmosphere unlike anything else on campus.  The same is true for each venue in Happy Valley.  Success on the field of play is a byproduct of a number of factors, and the fan atmosphere is a big piece.

"You guys create more passion and more pride than any other University in the world," Gadowsky said.

caravan_lv_2.jpgIn true hockey player form, Gadowsky closed out the speech at his final stop in the Caravan by ripping out his front tooth and screaming into the microphone.

"Get to Beaver Stadium and rock that joint!" Gadowsky said.

Coach Franklin walked to the podium to a standing ovation.

"Now that is a hockey coach!" Franklin said.

It's rare to get the head coaches of football, men's basketball, men's hockey, baseball and men's volleyball in the same room.  The fans inside Sands enjoyed an evening of entertaining speeches.  The coaches feed off of a great crowd, and the Lehigh Valley fans were superb.

"The pride and passion within the Penn State fan base in unbelievable," Franklin said.  "All the success we are having is a credit to you."

The 17th and final stop of the 2014 Coaches Caravan will take place on Thursday evening at Penn State Behrend in Erie.  

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles

Total - 1,760 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

From My View - Big Tens

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By Bernard Bennett-Green, Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Competing in my last Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships was definitely an experience that I will always remember. As a team we've been through a lot this year. As a result of everything that we've had to go through, we've become a stronger and closer group. As a unit we finished sixth overall, but we gave everything we had and that's all you can ask for at the end of the day. We had some individual champions with Darrell Hill in the shot put, Steve Waithe in the triple jump, and Michael Shuey in the javelin.

Watching all three of those guys become champions was a very special moment because they all have different stories of where they started out from to where they are now. Darrell started his career at Houston and transferred to Penn State last year. Steve started out at Shippensburg and transferred to Penn State this year. Michael started out as a multi last year but decided to dedicate all of his time and effort to the javelin throw this year. Watching these three guys put together successful performance makes me excited to keep tabs on their futures here at Penn State.

Another great moment that happened during the championships was that the women's team captured another outdoor title. I don't know what's in the water on the women's team, but they always seem to get it done when championship season comes along. To win Big Ten outdoors last year, indoor this year, and outdoor this year is an incredible feat. My hat goes off to them because they know how to get it done when it matters. The men's team has the necessary pieces to capture its first team title some time soon its just the matter of putting them together and everyone being one the same page at the right time. The season is not over yet. We will be back in action in two weeks in Jacksonville, Florida for first round competition.  

Triple Plays, Senior Day and a Challenge

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Ell-Zach (2).jpeg

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team celebrated Senior Day on Saturday (May 17) after a 7-6 loss to Michigan State, but from the looks on the players faces they knew the outcome could have been different. Five unearned runs ended up being the difference, but head coach Rob Cooper knows the program made progress during his first season at the helm.

"I was happy with our progress and some of the things we were able to do this season," said Cooper. "The guys that are returning know there are things they need to work on and our coaching staff knows there are things we need to do better, as well. The biggest thing in changing a culture and a mindset is to get the players to play hard and compete each day and I feel like this team did that."

All weekend, Penn State had their opportunities to take down the Spartans, falling by scores of 4-2 and 4-1 in a doubleheader on Friday. However, in each of those games the Nittany Lions brought the game tying run to the plate in the ninth inning. On Saturday, they entered the ninth trailing by just a run and three seniors coming to the plate.

The trio of Sam August, Alex Farkes and Steve Snyder were unable to get anything started against MSU closer Jeff Kinley and Penn State's season came to a close. Cooper honored each senior after the game, but before the contest he let each of them know just how much they meant to him and to the program.

"I just told them that I love each one of them [the seniors]," said Cooper. "I told them that moving forward I want to be able to help them in any way I can. If that is a letter of recommendation, a phone call or anything else, they deserve it for what they've given to this program."

Special Tribute on Senior Day
Head coach Rob Cooper had said a few times leading up to the Nittany Lions' final home weekend that Senior Day is a special day to him. It is a chance for him to show his appreciation for those who gave four years of hard work to help build a program.

With just one year at the help of the Penn State program, this group of seniors was a little different for Cooper.

"It's an emotional day," said head coach Rob Cooper. "For some of these guys it will be the last time they put on the uniform...they put a lot of time and energy into making this program better. I don't like Senior Days because it means you're saying good bye in a way and this group has brought tremendous energy and effort all year. I wish I had more time with this group."

All eight seniors on the roster played over the weekend with seven penciled into the starting lineup at some point. Tim Dunn and Ian Parvin started on the mound on Friday and Sunday, respectively, while Greg Welsh collected the final out in Saturday's season finale. Sam August, Alex Farkes, Zach Ell, Colin Keefe and Steve Snyder each started at least two games on the weekend.

"Those eight seniors are guys that everyone in the locker room looks up to," said Taylor Skerpon. "We all went through the same changes this season, but for them to show so much maturity and leadership through the coaching change is something that everyone can keep with them. They showed us how quickly and easily it is to buy in to a system and make it successful."

Accepting the Challenge
Prior to Senior Day, each departing player was presented with a challenge coin; a medallion usually issued by military unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of that unit. The coin is a symbol that they can carry with them showing their standing, and this group was the first honored with the token under Cooper.

Cooper also addressed the seniors in the locker room and lauded them for their attitude and effort while going through something that not many players have to go through. He praised them for accepting change and, in some ways, being "freshmen" again and having to learn a new system.

"The challenge coin was a way to show our guys that they are all connected through this special journey," said Cooper. "The challenge coin is a way to distinguish them as Penn State baseball alums and the only way to attain it [the coin] is to play baseball and graduate from Penn State. It shows them they are a part of something special."

The coin represented more than just admittance into the Penn State baseball alumni family, but it confirmed what many of those seniors already knew about coach Cooper: he cared.

"I grew so much as a baseball player and a person this season," said senior Zach Ell, "I can't thank the coaching staff enough. To see the coin, with the Penn State logo on one side and the baseball alumni on the other, is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. It's a token to show all the hard work we all put in the last four years and that really means a lot. I love [Cooper] to death and I appreciate all he has done for us."

Pair of Triple Plays Land Lions Atop #SCTop10
Penn State has fielded a baseball team for 127 seasons and never before have the Nittany Lions turned two triple plays in a single game. In fact, only once in Division I baseball history - 2006 when Gonzaga did so at Washington State - has it happened.

The plays helped the Blue and White nail down the top spot on SportsCenter's Top 10, appeared on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and was highlighted on the MLB Network in their evening coverage.  The YouTube video had over 232,000 views as of May 21.

On Friday, May 16th in the first game of a doubleheader, Penn State equaled that feat with a pair of triple plays vs. Michigan State. In the fourth inning, the Spartans had runners on first and second with no out when Tim Dunn got MSU's Blaise Salter to line out Jim Haley at shortstop. With both runners breaking on the play, Haley stepped on second base and threw across to J.J. White at first base to complete the triple play.

In the eighth inning, Haley was again part of the three-out play when a single and an error put two runners for the Spartans Jimmy Pickens. Penn State's Ryan Harper watched Pickens line a ball towards center field that Taylor Skerpon made a leaping catch on, tossed to Haley who then threw to White to write Penn State into the NCAA record books.

Penn State ended the season with three triple plays, also turning one at Santa Clara on March 15.

"It's pretty surreal to be a part of something like that," said junior Taylor Skerpon. "Waking up today I had about 100 notifications about being on SportsCenter. You sometimes don't believe it happened. I joked around a little with Jim (Haley) about not flipping the first ball to me, but to see it happen twice in one game and to be a part of it is a lot of fun."

Applying Pressure
First year head coach Rob Cooper will admit that he wasn't exactly a baseball prodigy during his time as a college player, but in his 21years the dugouts his teams have produce a lot offensively. The reasons for the turnaround at Penn State can be attributed to sound offensive players, but Cooper approach and coaching philosophy also plays a role in that.

In his nine seasons at Wright State, Cooper's teams set five of the school's top 10 team batting averages, while also accounting for five or more seasons in the top-10 of season doubles, sacrifice hit, sacrifice flies and hit by pitch.

This season, Cooper took a nearly identical lineup and watched them improve in nearly every statistical category. They ended the year just shy of last season's batting average and slugging percentage, while topping their 2013 totals in on-base percentage (.338), walks (184), hit-by-pitch (40), stolen bases (50) and sacrifice files (22). They also cut down on their strikeouts in 2014.

"What we try to do is be a smart offensive team and take advantage of what the other team is giving us," said head coach Rob Cooper. "Today we did a good job hitting with two outs, we took advantage of some things like delayed steals and we used our short game well. It's about taking what the other team is giving us that day and making it work."

Working Within the Zone
Pitching coach Brian Anderson said early in the season that his pitching staff would attack the strike zone and look to start bats. His pitchers reiterated that point throughout the season, saying they had "trust in the defense behind them" and that trust equated into a lower ERA, less runs allowed and over 100 free passes fewer than they had in 50 games in 2013.

As a staff, Penn State improved their ERA from a season ago. The Lions staff ended the year with a 4.77 earned run average, allowing fewer runs (304), earned runs (226) and walks (141) in 50 games. The staff also hit fewer batters and threw fewer wild pitches during the season.

From 2013 to 2014, Penn State pitches walked 97 fewer hitters and hit nine fewer batters for a total of 106 fewer free bases. The defense also did a better job of taking care of the baseball, committing 12 less errors on the year, limiting the extra outs supplied to the opposition and building a trust with their mound workers.

"Our pitching staff made a large commitment in the offseason to be strike throwers," said assistant coach Brian Anderson. "We made a lot of strides during that time and throughout the season and I am proud of them for buying into our philosophy of attacking hitters." 



2014 Coaches Caravan Day VII - Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE - The final leg of the 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off with a sold out lunch stop in Williamsport and a dinner event in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Week three will feature a new lineup of Penn State head coaches joining James Franklin on the road.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik boarded the modified Fullington bus on Tuesday morning when it rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m.  Take a look through highlights of day seven on the Penn State Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 13 - Williamsport (Pennsylvania College of Technology)

A sold out crowd of 270 Penn State fans filled the Field House on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus for the first of five stops during week three.  What makes the Caravan so unique is the variety of head coaches who entertain the crowds.  With the addition of Cooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik to kick off this week, nine head coaches have now been a part of the 13 total stops.

Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion men's volleyball team to a 25-7 overall mark and a spot in the NCAA semifinals, Pavlik is on the Caravan for the third-straight year.  The men's volleyball squad battled eventual national champion Loyola to a 3-2 setback on Loyola's home floor during the semifinals.  That being said, Pavlik has firsthand experience of what a home crowd advantage can do for a team.  He can relate to Franklin's vision of a sold out stadium during every home game.

"I know what a great home crowd can do for a team.  We experienced it," Pavlik said.  "A sold out venue makes it so much more of a challenge for an away team."

williamsport_1.jpg Cooper, who finished up his first full season as head coach of the Nittany Lion baseball team on Saturday, addressed the sold out crowd following Pavlik.  The Lions made significant progress from 2013 to 2014, and Cooper is excited for what is ahead.

"Being a part of the Penn State family is unbelievable," Cooper said.  "This coaching fraternity is an amazing thing to be a part of."

It was fitting for Cooper's first stop to be in the home of the Little League World Series.  Cooper joked with the crowd that his two young sons both asked him immediately after being hired at Penn State if they could attend a game at the Little League World Series in August.

"Here we are in the epicenter of youth baseball," Cooper said.  "You know what it is like to be a part of a championship event...There are good things ahead (at Penn State)."

Gadowsky stepped to the microphone following Cooper.  Still fired up after his first season of leading the Nittany Lions inside Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky could not be more appreciative of what the fan base does for the men's hockey program.

"The atmosphere you created in Pegula made me a cool dad again (with my kids)," Gadowsky joked.

"The best part about Pegula is that it takes a little piece of Beaver Stadium and puts a roof over it," Gadowsky said.  "It's awesome.  I love being in there...The reason it is so addictive is because of Nittany Nation."

williamsport_2.jpgCoach Franklin headlined the 13th stop with the final speech of the afternoon.  The fan response to his message has been superb during all three weeks, and Tuesday's lunch was no exception.

"This has been great getting out here on the road and connecting with as many people as possible," Franklin said.

The bus moved east across the state to Wilkes-Barre for the first evening stop of the final leg.

Stop No. 14 - Wilkes-Barre (Genetti Hotel & Conference Center)

The second stop of the day took place inside Genetti Hotel & Conference Center downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Nearly 400 enthusiastic fans filled the Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night.  Luzerne County is home to more than 8,500 passionate Penn State alums.

Wilkes-Barre will forever have a place in Penn State hockey history.  Coach Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to their first victory as a Division I program on Oct. 13, 2012 against American International.  David Glen's goal 38 seconds into overtime sealed the first win.  That game took place inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.

"Forever, this place will have a soft place in my heart," Gadowsky said.

wilkesbarre_2.jpgIn 2013-'14, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to three victories over Michigan and one over Ohio State during the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.  The fans inside the room on Tuesday are excited about Penn State hockey's future, and Gadowsky's peers are tremendously impressed with the progress the program has made in such a short period of time.

"These coaches are ordinary people who do extraordinary things with their programs," Pavlik said.

"To compete in this conference, we need all of your support," Gadowsky said.

The fan base plays a paramount role in supporting all of Penn State's teams.  Pavlik, Cooper and Gadowsky each reminded the fans in attendance of what a full Beaver Stadium every Saturday in the fall does for their programs.  The atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium during a game before a sold out crowd speaks for itself.  The same is true for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and Medlar Field, in the case of the other coaches on the Caravan Tuesday night.

That being said, the Coaches Caravan is an opportunity for the coaches to not only talk about their programs, it is a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  Like Coach Franklin has said throughout the Caravan, the people make Penn State special.

"Penn State is like a community...It gives us an opportunity to interact with you," Franklin said.

wilkesbarre_1.jpgFranklin took time to recognize offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who were in the Wilkes-Barre area recruiting on Tuesday and stopped by the event to say hello to the fans.

The Caravan rolls into Coach Franklin's alma mater, East Stroudsburg, on Wednesday for lunch before an evening reception at the Sands in Bethlehem.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles

Total - 1,499 miles

caravan bus_williamsport.jpg

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony