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Big Ten Media Day Takeaways

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CHICAGO -- It's perhaps the unofficial sign that Penn State football is nearly back, as the Nittany Lions traveled to Chicago for the annual Big Ten Conference Media Days. Penn State opened the first day with a full schedule of media obligations before concluding the afternoon with podium interview sessions.

Quarterback Trace McSorley, safety Nick Scott and cornerback Amani Oruwariye joined Penn State head coach James Franklin on this year's annual trip.

In preparation for training camp in just a few weeks in Happy Valley, check in for a few key storylines from the day.

New Faces, Next Man Up
For McSorley, amid all the speculation of who's back and who's gone, the only thing that has changed this year are the faces. Otherwise it's business as usual, as the starting signal caller gears up for another year. 

"That's really been the biggest difference," McSorley said. "I remember walking out the first spring practice and really looking out an not seeing [Jason] Cabinda over there or Marcus [Allen] and [Troy] Apke, guys who I have looked at for two, three years. Not having Saquon next to me or not looking out and seeing DaeSean [Hamilton]. That was the biggest difference but it got through practice three, four and now you're used to looking out and seeing DeAndre [Thompkins] or Nick [Scott] out at safety."

Having to embrace a sort of "next man up" mentality at various points throughout the last few seasons, that's just the approach McSorley and the offense are taking when it comes to reshaping the offense following some key departures.

"I think the same thing pertains to guys graduating and moving on to the next level and finishing their time in college," McSorley said. "I think that's something we've been able to bring with us this offseason, that the standard is the standard. That championship standard is what we've always operated to and we're not going to lower that because a guy like Saquon [Barkley] is gone. That's what we expect out of our running backs and that's what they expect out of themselves." 

A Veteran Offensive Line
Equipped with an offensive line that has big time game experience, depth and cohesion, McSorley noted that it opens the Nittany Lions up to the ability to push the envelope. 

"Everyone wants to know how you replace a guy like Saquon but it's obviously the running backs taking some ownership but our offensive line is taking on a big responsibility right now and putting a lot of weight on their shoulders to make it easy on our running backs," McSorley said. 

From Franklin's perspective, Penn State's offense has been explosive and led the conference in passing but negative plays, tackles for loss was an area Franklin felt the Nittany Lions could improve.

"The other thing is, we had games where the running game disappeared against upper tiered talent in our league," Franklin said. "I think it's going to help us develop the running back position. I think it's going to allow wide receivers who are developing who may have a little more time to create separation and get open."

Special Teams to Starting Safety
Scott found his home at Penn State on special teams and it all came from a desire to be noticed.

 "I never wanted to be on the field and people not know I was on the field so I always had the mentality that if I was on kickoff or punt coverage or anything like that I wanted to make the play and hear my name called," Scott said.

Now poised to be a starting safety for the Nittany Lions, for the once recruited running back, it's just the way it worked out.

"I tell people all the time, there's 26 reasons why I moved to safety," Scott said. "Saquon Barkley came in the room and it's worked out for me so far. When he [Barkley] jumped over that safety at Buffalo, I had already been hearing murmurs of me possibly playing safety. I literally turned to coach Smith, who was next to me and I was like do you guys still have room in the safety room. I was half joking but at the same time, I was like I might need to have to come back and have that conversation." 

Defensive Identity
Cultivating the identity of the 2018 Penn State defense doesn't happen overnight and for Oruwariye it's a process that takes time. 

"I think over the winter and summer we developed a great work ethic and competed a lot but coming into camp it's a different ball game," Oruwariye said. "You have to find that cohesion in the defense, we have to find that chemistry and then ultimately leading into the first game we can start building our identity as a defense."

Spring ball was the perfect place to begin the process, with Oruwariye noting young Nittany Lions taking advantage of opportunities to work alongside the first team only helped shape the progress.

Penn State Visits the State Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - A pair of Penn State championship teams visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol Tuesday afternoon for a recognition celebrating a year of standout accomplishments. 

Representing the NCAA national champion Penn State wrestling team, All-Americans Nick Nevills and two-time Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford joined head coach Cael Sanderson. Penn State men's basketball NIT Champions John Harrar and Lamar Stevens also joined head coach Patrick Chambers for the trip.  

The day began in the Pennsylvania House as the group made its way to the floor on a busy day. Led by Pennsylvania's Rep. Mike Hanna, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff and Rep. Scott Conklin, the three read aloud an uncontested resolution congratulating both Nittany Lion squads on historic seasons.

Passing through the bustling halls of the national historic landmark, the Nittany Lions arrived at the Governor's Reception room next. Following a few photos, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf greeted the room to welcome the Nittany Lion champions. 

"My favorite part of today was meeting the Governor and seeing how much detail goes into the Capitol building," Harrar said. "It's really neat seeing all the architecture from the early 1900s."

As Governor Wolf made his way throughout the room visiting with each Nittany Lion, it was a first time experience for all.

"It was amazing to meet the governor, it was my first time meeting him," Chambers said. "It was exciting for me and my players and again, exciting for Penn State basketball to be here on this stage to meet so many prominent people and so many great leaders who help us in what we're trying to accomplish in the world today."

Penn State closed out the afternoon in the Pennsylvania Senate with a lunch hosted by Sen. Jake Corman in his office. Corman welcomed the Nittany Lions before a steady stream of senators popped in and out of the room to greet the group. 

"Today has been such an awesome day," Nevills said. "I'm hoping we get to continue to do this in the future with the success coach Cael and the coaching staff has helped us to and it would be nice to come back again."

Making its second consecutive trip to the Pennsylvania State Capitol for recognition, the Nittany Lions saw a total of 21 Penn State teams compete in either NCAA competition or a bowl game in 2017-18. The Nittany Lions recently closed out the 2017-18 Penn State athletic season with a standout showing at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Nittany Lion junior Isaiah Harris became the seventh individual national champion of the year with his first career title in the men's 800-meter run.

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ESPNW Campus Conversations Visits Penn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A palpable sense of positive energy filled the Greg Sutliff auditorium inside Penn State's Lewis Katz Building last Monday. In a unique opportunity for Penn State's female student-athletes, the Nittany Lions welcomed ESPNW for its Campus Conversations series. 

From exclusive interviews with panelists, ESPNW founder Laura Gentile and Nittany Lion student-athletes take a closer look back at the exclusive event.
ESPNW Campus Conversations visits Penn State

Black History Month Features: Green Inspiring Through Impact

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Charmelle Green, Black History Month means sharing unique stories that inspire others.

When it comes to inspiration though, there's perhaps no better story to share than Green's.

A student-athlete, coach and administrator, it's these experiences that have shaped both a successful career and a drive to give back to those who gave so much to her along the way.

"I get inspired by those who really worked hard to beat the odds," Green said. "I get inspired by those who said I can do it, I can be the one. I get inspired when Black History Month comes around because I know that we're going to be filled with all of these stories that remind me of the challenges people have faced and overcome to create the opportunities for me as a senior associate athletics director at Penn State."

An All-American student-athlete, Green spent four years on the softball team at the University of Utah.

"Utah was a place where diversity wasn't very prevalent," Green said. "I didn't see a lot of diversity, so often times I felt alone."

As the only black student-athlete at Utah, often times Green felt a majority of the challenges she faced were different from those her teammates were confronted with. That hardly slowed her stride, as Green proud looks back on her experiences at Utah, even drawing from the challenges she overcame with the help of her head coach and teammates.

"Jo Evans was a huge part of my life," Green said. "She was a coach who got me, who understood that my experience at the University of Utah might be very different than my teammates' experience. I was the only black student-athlete on the team and she embraced that. She allowed me to be who I was." 

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With the guidance of a head coach who instilled both confidence and perseverance, Evans helped create an environment where everyone could thrive, including Green. 

It's that sense of empowerment that led Green to a career in coaching, serving as an assistant softball coach at Notre Dame from 2001-05.

"Having a tremendous experience and being coached by Jo Evans and others who inspired me every single day, who brought out the best in me - I wanted to do the same for others," Green said. "Coaching was a natural gravitation for me because I knew that I could make an impact and I wanted to do for others what Jo did for me. I wanted to inspire, I wanted to bring out the best in others."

Surrounded by the leadership of familiar faces like Sandy Barbour and Kevin White at Notre Dame, Green decided it was time for something bigger. 

"I got to see them interact with others, I got to be around them when they were making critical decisions for the athletics department at the university," Green said. "So I went to Sandy Barbour and I said you know what, I want to get into athletics administration."

Passionate about the opportunity to impact a greater group of individuals outside of the student-athletes on her team, Green spent six years as part of Notre Dame's athletic administration overseeing the student development program.

In 2011, Green decided to accept an opportunity at a place she had always considered a legacy program.

"Penn State always valued athletics and academics, all the things that I believe are so important to a student-athlete's experience," Green said. "It had everything that I was looking for and Penn State has everything that I always thought Penn State would be." 

As Penn State navigated tumultuous times shortly after Green's arrival, she never wavered in her decision to continue to make a greater impact. 

"I had the opportunity to go other places and say this could be really tough," Green said. "When I saw all the people come together to say, hey let's make Penn State better, let's be the ones who change the story, I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't want to run, I wanted to be right in it. Knee deep, right in it. I wanted to roll up the sleeves."

That's just what she did.

By August 2014, Penn State appointed Sandy Barbour as director of athletics, presenting an opportunity for Green to join a leadership team that she always looked forward to.

"Sandy Barbour as the director of athletics at Penn State and having the opportunity to be a part of her leadership team is a dream come true," Green said.

Under the mentorship of Barbour, Green has only expended her responsibilities, nowing including oversight of the Intercollegiate Athletics Student Welfare and Development unit among sport administrator responsibilities and oversight of the Intercollegiate Sport Performance unit. 

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"Everything within my job description is everything that I love to do," Green said. "It has provided me with the opportunity to impact a student-athletes life every single day. The health and well-being of our student-athletes is most important to us and is something that's incredibly important to Sandy as she was thinking about the restructure of the organization. It's something I value tremendously. I take a great deal of pride in making sure that we are getting better every single day."

For Green, the greatest area of improvement has come in the development of life skills programing for student-athletes as well expanding Penn State's staffing and resources in sport science.

Most inspiring though, has been watching her team come together to work toward one common goal, enhancing the student-athlete experience.

"My team is inspired, they work hard and they want to be great," Green said. "To see them communicate and work together through challenges and problems, seeing those areas get better within the sport performance team, seeing those areas of expertise and those disciplines change for the better is something I am really proud of. Most importantly, it is that they're working together to impact the lives of our student-athletes." 

Beyond her staff though, it's making a difference among student-athletes that Green finds the most pride in. 

"I'd say most gratifying to me is when I get the opportunity to sit down with our student-athletes who are departing," Green said. "When student-athletes tell me that this has been the greatest experience of their life. When they say that they couldn't imagine spending their undergraduate career's someplace else, that Penn State provided them everything they needed to be incredibly successful while they were here. To leave this place with the confidence that they need, that's what makes me most proud."

To view all of the Black History Month content from the entire month please click here.

Penn State Athletics at THON 2018

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State saw its 2018 THON weekend come to a close shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday. Moments after revealing a combined fundraising total of more than $10 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund and childhood cancer, the 700-plus dancers were finally off their feet. 

Among the dancers to reach the finish line of the 46-hour dance marathon were six student-athletes as well as members of the cheerleading and dance team. Recap their memorable weekend below. 

Penn State Athletics at #THON2018

Celebrating Academic Success

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hosted a special ceremony Monday evening at the Morgan Academic Center. In a gathering featuring student-athletes, administrators and Penn State faculty, Penn State celebrated its recent historic academic achievements.

Since the Morgan Academic Center opened, hanging on the far north wall in the entrance for all to see is a panel of numbers. The numbers are far from ordinary though, serving as beacon of academic success and pride. Side-by-side horizontally displayed, there's Academic All-Americans, followed by Academic All-Big Ten selections with Penn State Athletics' graduation success rate completing the display.

Come Monday, all three set of numbers were due for updates.

Last November, the NCAA reported Penn State student-athletes have a 90 percent graduation rate, which ties the Nittany Lion all-time record, marking an increase of two points from the 2015 report. Additionally, nine Nittany Lion teams earned a perfect 100 percent Graduation Success Rate, up from five teams two years ago.

For perspective, the average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2007-08 through the 2010-11 academic year is 86 percent, placing Penn State well above the average with the Nittany Lion graduation figure seeing a one point increase in each of the past two years. 

Also during the fall semester, a fall school record total 117 Nittany Lions were selected Academic All-Big Ten for earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average.

"I think that every opportunity we have to celebrate the academic efforts of our students we should do that and that's really what tonight is about," Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour said.

Joined by Penn State president Dr. Eric Barron, both he and Barbour took to the podium to congratulate the group of gathered student-athletes on their academic success.

Boarding a mechanical lift, Penn State CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Haleigh Washington (women's volleyball) and Zain Retherford (wrestling) flipped the far left figure to reflect a new total. Both Washington and women's soccer's Emily Ogle were selected as Academic All-Americans this fall with Washington's third consecutive honor marking Penn State's 200th selection all-time.

NCAA Faculty Representative Dennis Scanlon did the honors updating Penn State's Academic All-Big Ten total, while Barbour closed out the reveal with the graduation success rate. 

Among Penn State's widely documented growing athletic success, it's also well known the emphasis Penn State places on excellence in the classroom too.

"That's the beauty of it, that as we get better and better athletically, we're also getting better academically," Barbour said. "Historically, Penn State Athletics has always been known as a place that combines high level academic achievement with high level athletic achievement and that's as true today as it's ever been."

For someone like NCAA Champion Retherford, who also won the prestigious 2017 Hodge Trophy, there's perhaps no better way to describe the combination of pursuing both academic and athletic success than in the word culture.

"Penn State is a place that not only provides you the resources, but allows you to achieve your goals," Retherford said. "I think these numbers up here are a good representation of that and I think the culture here is just that way, so it's awesome to be a part of and I'm extremely grateful for it."

SAAB Hosts Third Annual Lip Sync Battle

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is tradition, Penn State's Student-Athlete Advisory Board hosted its third annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle to benefit THON at the HUB earlier this week.

A total of nine Nittany Lion teams put on a show in the Freeman Auditorium to benefit Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon, which kicks off February 16 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Following a full slate of performances, a panel of esteemed guest judges featuring Penn State sports medicine's Dr. Roberta Millard, Mike Herr or better known around campus as, "Mike the Mailman" and Penn State cheerleader Francis Alvare made their selections.

Penn State's men's swimming team took home the golden microphone this year with their rendition of Flo Rida's "Low." Men's volleyball and women's volleyball finished second and third, respectively.

"We've been working on this since October," said SAAB THON chair Tess Kearns (track and field/cross country). "Teams started signing up right before winter break so that was a lot of fun seeing who was coming together and the acts they were doing."

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

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