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A Year in Review: Looking Back at 2016-17

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the 2017-18 Penn State academic season draws closer each day, take a quick look back at some of the top highlights from all the excitement and some of the most unforgettable moments of the 2016-17 season. From a strong showing in Rio at the Olympic Games to conference titles, a national championship and academic success, Penn State fans from far and wide witnessed history in the making. 

A Year in Review

Champions Visit State Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Penn State hit the state capitol today for an afternoon of recognition, celebrating Nittany Lion conference champion student-athletes and head coaches following a record-setting 2016-17 season both in competition and in the classroom.

Joined by select head coaches and staff members as well as student-athletes, the group toured through the Pennsylvania House and Senate, stopping in for lunch with Sen. Jake Corman in his office. Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate before remarks from Corman, welcoming the group to the state's capitol following a few early proceedings.

Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania House, which holds all 203 members, including Pennsylvania's Rep. Mike Hanna, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Rep. Rich Irvin and Rep. Scott Conklin, who read a resolution to again welcome and congratulate the Nittany Lions on an all-around successful season, one that drew a standing ovation from the members on the floor. 

"I want to congratulate the teams for not only what they do on the field but what they do in the community, the outreach they give, the coaches who oversee them," Conklin said. 

Nittany Lion director of athletics Sandy Barbour only echoed the all-around success in her remarks in the main rotunda later in the afternoon, noting that the individuals surrounding her representing a combined 2016-17 total of nine conference titles, among a few other crowns, are only one part of the story.

Penn State was recently slated fourth in the first spring update of the Learfield Directors' Cup standings following a year that saw seven Nittany Lion squads earn Big Ten Championships or tournament titles in seven sports, the most of any league institution and the third-highest total in school history.

As head coach Cael Sanderson brought instantaneous cheers from the floor of the Pennsylvania house upon his introduction, the room was reminded of Nittany Lion wrestling team's stunning second consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship, marking its sixth in the last seven years, with five individuals earning NCAA titles along the way.

As Barbour pointed out though, the impact of the Blue and White extends much further than excellence in competition.

Nearly a month ago, a school record 114 Penn State student-athletes graduated, bringing the 2016-17 total to 142, with more students on track to cross the stage in August. Penn State also revealed its 89 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate this year, which stands just one point below its all-time program mark. 

"Penn State student-athletes, not unlike their student colleagues and their servant hearts, have dedicated themselves to service," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes served over 6,200 hours of community engagement this last year. This comprehensive excellence is embraced by our Penn State and Pennsylvania community. It's truly Penn State's point of difference. It has historically motivated a state and a community, connected passionately to each and every one of our programs and each and every one of our student-athletes who wear the Blue and White."

Representative of just a small piece of a variety of community engagement close to Penn State student-athletes is THON, a beloved annual event that encompasses the entire university and Happy Valley community.

Led by the efforts of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB raised $59,679.49 for THON in 2017, which ranked third among the 400-plus general organizations represented. Surging past a fundraising goal of $50,000, the 2017 figure is SAAB's second-largest total in the history of the organization, adding to a career total of $680,000, all for THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, with four Penn State student-athletes joining the 703 dancers on the floor this year.

Among those dancers this year was women's soccer's Megan Schafer, a Big Ten Champion from Langhorne, who joined the group today for her second trip to state capitol, but first as a Nittany Lion. 

"A couple of years ago I got recognized for winning a state championship, so I think it's pretty cool coming back at the collegiate level to get recognized for our hard work all season," Schafer said. "I think it's really cool everything that people put together just to recognize us today."

Prior to Penn State, Schafer scored the overtime game-winner to lead Neshaminy high school (also the alma mater of Penn State head football coach James Franklin) to a Pennsylvania state title.

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The entire group of Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes were treated to a personal meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf, who stopped by the steps of the main rotunda to greet the champions before heading back to Happy Valley.

A Road Map to Continued Student-Athlete Excellence

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com 

Penn State Facilities Master Plan Website I VIDEO: Public Presentation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics unveiled details for its Facilities Master Plan this afternoon, sharing results of a comprehensive study highlighted by five priority projects among the culmination of plans spanning the next 20 years. 

"This facilities master plan will have a huge impact over a significant period of time," director of athletics Sandy Barbour said. "It will have a huge impact on not only students and student-athletes in particular and their conditions for success, but across our entire community. "

Central to the focus of an exhaustive 17-month study, Penn State partnered with one of the world's leading architecture and sport event planning firms (Populus) to develop its road map, designed to best enhance student-athlete academic and athletic performance and fan experience, among a variety of other needs.

With careful consideration and input from multiple stakeholders, Penn State ICA also reflected the University Park campus, tailoring its vision to reflect to the materials and structural design aesthetic of its master plan.

"We're at this juncture and very excited to be at this juncture because it means we're one step closer to having these facilities, whether they be renovations or whether they be construction, for having these facilities available to our students and fans and community," Barbour said. 

Monday inside the Hintz Alumni Center, Barbour, along with deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, Phil Esten and associate athletic director for facility and event operations management, Mark Bodenschatz detailed five priority projects during the initial five years, while also providing an early look at proposed Beaver Stadium renovation renderings, among other projects within the 20-year plan.

Penn State's top two priorities both involve new construction, including the addition of a second indoor practice facility as well as the Center of Excellence, which Barbour highlighted as the cornerstone of an aspirational vision. 

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Since arriving on campus, Barbour has shaped the primary Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics approach to its purpose around its "Why," which focuses the efforts of dedicated coaches and staff members directly to the benefit of student-athlete health, welfare and development. 

Along with the Nittany Lion leadership team, Barbour has been instrumental in embedding the "Why" into the fabric of the rich tradition of academic and athletic success at Penn State.

With the mission to prepare students for a lifetime of impact, Penn State's Center of Excellence embodies all things central to creating conditions for success, providing a centralized location for student-athletes to continue to thrive.

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Anticipated to be the new hub for Penn State's 800 student-athletes, staff and coaches, the 450,000-square foot Center of Excellence is set to be constructed in the location of the current East Area Locker Room. A five-story structure, the proposed renderings including

locker rooms for seven different Nittany Lion programs as well as a centralized home for a nutrition center among other student-athlete services.

Building program and site design also includes a basement level parking garage with approximately 500 spaces.

Attached to the Center of Excellence, plans for a proposed 108,000-square foot indoor practice facility similar to Holuba Hall, highlight the second priority project. 

Perhaps unnoticed to the public, the current Holuba Hall might just be one of the busiest ICA facilities on campus. Serving up to eight programs in the fall, through the winter and spring months, Holuba Hall currently accommodates the practice, conditioning and the occasional competition schedules of up to 20 of Penn State's 31 varsity sports, while also serving rugby and the Blue Band from time to time. Hectic scheduling and unexpected weather changes also keeps the building's tightly packed schedule in full operation from as early as 5 a.m. up until nearly midnight daily.

A proposed second indoor practice facility provides space for baseball, softball, men's and women's golf, lacrosse and soccer programs in addition to an indoor workout space, putting a significant ease to a variety of aspects spanning several Nittany Lion programs. 

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Penn State's three other priority projects include the construction of a 10-lane, 50-meter Natatorium as well as a 10-court Indoor Tennis Facility. Renovations and upgrades to Jeffrey Field, home of Penn State men's and women's soccer, also round out the the projects falling in the next five-year capital plan, which is set to begin in the 2018-19 academic year. 

Strategic and exhaustive in its design and development, Penn State's facilities master plan not only provides a path to best-in-class facilities, but also aims to enhance the gameday experience for the greater community, all while looking toward future growth.

"We've identified the programming and our programming needs to provide the conditions for success for our students and student-athletes," Barbour said, noting that the plan has determined which programs fit in certain places with purpose and functionality in mind.

As Barbour noted though, with any road map comes the possibility of detours and even a little rerouting. What's undoubtedly certain though, is the step Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics has taken to ensure a bright future for its student-athletes, and like every path guided by a road map, the journey begins with a single step forward. 

"The passion at Penn State, the numbers that we represent, the community that we represent and the passion around intercollegiate athletics, I have no doubt in my mind that this community is going to support in many different ways," Barbour said. 


Reach Arielle @ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Penn State Athletics THON 2017 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All weekend long, Penn State Athletics will be heavily involved in THON 2017 at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

THON's 700+ dancers, including four student-athletes and members of the cheerleading and dance teams all come together in support of the 46-hour IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON, including $9.7 million in 2015-16, and at least 95 percent of the funds raised at THON are donated directly to Four Diamonds.

SAAB THON DANCER FEATURES:
Carly Celkos (field hockey)
Megan Shafer (women's soccer)
Charlie Shuman (football)
Jess O'Neill-Lyublinsky (women's fencing)

Each year, more than 400 Penn State student organizations and 16,000 student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. 

Catch up with all things THON and Penn State Athletics all weekend long with extensive coverage below.

Friday, 6 p.m - Dancers Are You Ready?
More than 700 dancers went from sitting to standing Friday night at 6 p.m., embarking on the 46-hour no sleeping, no sitting challenge to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. All dancers will remain on their feet until the event closes at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. 

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We caught up with SAAB representatives Carly Celkos, Megan Shafer, Charlie Shuman and Jess O'Neill-Lyublinsky as they took their feet at the Bryce Jordan Center, sticking around for the first few minutes of dancing.

Friday, 8 p.m. - Lip Sync Battle with Special Guest DNCE
Quarterback Trace McSorley and linebacker Jason Cabinda took to the stage at THON for a lip sync battle with a few THON family members. Prior to the Nittany Lion football team's performance, the Lionettes debuted a lip sync dance to open competition.

The lip sync battle quickly turned to from competition to fun as DNCE, led by lead singer Joe Jonas surprised the crowd with an upbeat an energetic performance. Check out some highlights from the event below.

Saturday, 10 a.m. - Checking in with Nittany Lion Dancers
Come Saturday morning, Penn State's SAAB representatives were all in great spirits, having already been on their feet for more than 15 hours. The Bryce Jordan Center was just as busy and energetic as ever at 10 a.m. with upbeat music blaring, balloons floating through the air and even the occasional spritz of water from a water nearby squirt gun battle. 
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Among the dancers and volunteers all brightly colored on the floor, Four Diamonds families cheerfully spent time with any and all, laughing and sprinting through even the tiniest of openings in the crowds. 

"It means so much to be able to hang out with the families," football's Charlie Shuman said. "THON is something that's bigger than us, bigger than athletics and bigger than Penn State, it's all about the kids and just being able to hang out with them has been an unbelievable opportunity that we all have." 

Check in with Shuman, O'Neill-Lyublinsky, Shafer and Celkos from the floor for an update on what's happening at THON. 


THON Explorers Photo Gallery

Saturday, 1 p.m. - Football THON Explorers 

A highly anticipated of the year for Penn State Football, the Nittany Lions welcomed nearly 50 THON families for a fun-filled afternoon at the Lasch Building.

Together, the Penn State football staff transformed the home of the Nittany Lions into a Candy Land themed event decked out with exciting games and even an ice cream bar at the fueling station.
Several members of the team lined the meeting room hallway welcoming each of the families with high fives and hugs. After gathering in the squad room, linebacker Jason Cabinda introduced the team and paired the Nittany Lions with each family before sending everyone out to explore.

THON families were treated to a limbo contest and miniature golf just to name a few, as they toured through the building taking time for a sneak peek at the Penn State locker room.

"Walking into the weight room and the locker room and seeing the jaw drops, seeing the big smiles running around, it's awesome," Ryan Bates said.

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The tour eventually spilled out into the practice field where the team joined families and children on a perfect day outside in Happy Valley.

"Coach Franklin does a really good job putting us in positions to give back so we really appreciate the time that we have with these families," Mark Allen said.

Check out a few sights and sounds from the THON Explorers event.


Saturday, 5:30 p.m. - Penn State Student-Athlete Hours
The courts inside the Nittany Lion tennis center filled with families and Penn State student-athletes as athletics paired up with THON for more games and fun into the afternoon and early part of the evening. 


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Representatives from all different Penn State athletics programs hung out with families, dancing and playing games at various stations throughout the building. 

Go inside the tennis center to recap the event below. 

Saturday, 9:30 p.m. -  THON Pep Rally
Another highly anticipated THON event, the 2017 pep rally kicked off around 9:30 p.m. at the bustling and packed Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers opened the event before the Blue Band and the Lionettes performed to get things under way. 


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Men's gymnastics claimed the top spot, while men's soccer and women's volleyball also earned spots in the final three selections. 

Watch all the dances below!

Sunday, 11:25 a.m. - James Franklin Addresses THON 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just before 11:30 a.m. on Sunday Penn State Football head coach James Franklin dropped by the Bryce Jordan Center for a quick moment on the stage. Kicking off the final four hours of the event, Franklin brought daughters Addison and Shola on stage with Nittany Lion dancer Charlie Shuman. 

"What you guys are doing is unbelievable, 46 hours dancing straight to make a difference in families and children's lives and to beat pediatric cancer is unbelievable," Franklin said. "I'm so proud of you guys."

Franklin also gave a special shoutout to Shuman, who will have completed the 46 hour dance marathon in just a few short hours. 

"Your commitment to sacrifice and serve others is what THON is all about and why we're so proud to be a part of this Penn State community."

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Shola and Addison closed out the appearance leading the packed BJC in a "We Are" chant. 

Browse a few more pictures from the session below. 

Sunday, 4 p.m. - Dancers Sit Down!
At the conclusion of an emotional final four hours, all 703 dancers on the floor at the Bryce Jordan Center were finally off their feet. Getting their first opportunity to sit since 6 p.m. Saturday, members of the executive board revealed individual organization titles before hoisting cards to show the final THON 2017 total. 

Our SAAB representatives helped to bolster the final total to $59,679.49, marking the fifth-most of any general organization. In total, THON raised more than $10 million for the fight against pediatric cancer. 

Celebrating Student-Athlete Academic Success

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's brand new Morgan Academic Center received a few more updates Monday evening as the Nittany Lions unveiled a reflection of its most recent success in the classroom. Hosting its first academic center celebration, Penn State flipped a trio of academic totals, revealing its honors through the fall semester.

In a unique ceremony, Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour, NCAA faculty representative Linda Caldwell and CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Haleigh Washington (women's volleyball) and Tyler Yazujian (football) all participated in the total changing event. 

A central piece of the Morgan Academic Center, the far north wall includes a large set of numbers fixed near the ceiling, reflecting Penn State's NCAA graduation rate, all-time CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and all-time Academic All-Big Ten honorees.

While maybe just numbers to an average visitor off the street, the totals serve as a visual reminder to all Penn State student-athletes, coaches, staff and guests, displaying a total commitment to academic success.

"It's part of Penn State's DNA," Barbour said. "It's part of our success with honor, it's who we are, its always been a part of our culture, its always been a part of the standard here and I certainly as the athletic director today, want to make sure I do my part to uphold that. So it's going to be a huge priority for us every day."

Together, Washington, Yazujian and Caldwell all boarded a mechanical lift to take two trips to the top of the wall to peel off the old set of numbers, proudly revealing a new set of numbers each of which showing a positive increase.

In November, the NCAA released its annual national graduation rates study, which revealed that Penn State student-athletes earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to the 84 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2006-07 through the 2009-10 academic year. The 89 percent graduation figure was just one point off Penn State's 90 percent all-time graduation record mark and one point higher than last year's figure. 

Both Washington and Yazujian earned Academic All-America honors this fall, marking the second time each has received the prestigious honor. Penn State's 195 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans ranks 5th among NCAA institutions from all divisions and 4th among all Division I schools. 

Penn State also saw a total of 78 Academic All-Big Ten honorees among seven fall sports this past semester, brining the Nittany Lion total to 5,654 selections since joining the conference in 1991-92. The mark also leads all Big Ten institutions.

The Nittany Lion commitment to academic achievement isn't something that yields success by one single individual, but rather as Barbour noted, a group of people who all believe in the same rich tradition.

"It's not like you have a really good academic year and it's like 'okay we're done, we're there,' it's an every day thing and I'm really proud of the effort of student-athletes, our coaches, our faculty, our staff, our Morgan Center advisors, it's definitely a team effort," Barbour said.

For Washington, the support not just in terms of athletic performance, is what makes all the difference.

"It's so cool that we have such a strong University that supports everything that we do," Washington said. It's really amazing that they don't just push us to be really good on the court or on the field, or wherever we're playing, they push us to be good in the classroom and it's amazing to have a support system like what we have at Penn State."

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Check out a few more notes on Penn State's academic achievement.

- Twenty-eight Penn State student-athletes from 11 sports earned their degrees in December 2016, bringing the total number of graduates to 153 since last May. 

- The NCAA also released in November the federal graduation rates for students and student-athletes as it has for the past 26 years. The four-year federal graduation rate average for Penn State student-athletes was 78 percent, No. 3 among Big Ten institutions, and significantly above the 66 percent Division I average.

- The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from seven Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, an increase of two from last year's five teams. The seven Nittany Lion squads posting perfect graduation scores were: men's basketball, field hockey, women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's soccer, softball and women's tennis.

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