By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team started its season off with a bang on Sunday afternoon in exhibition action with a 5-2 win over international opponent Windsor.
After falling behind 2-0, senior Curtis Loik set the tone for the Lions' scoring agenda striking first for the Nittany Lions. However, it would be junior David Goodwin who would take the lead in front of the Lancers' net.
Goodwin, playing on a new line after the departure of Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, has had to quickly find his groove with new line mates. In the exhibition Sunday, Goodwin played alongside senior captain David Glen and freshman Alec Marsh.
"We've been practicing kind of all week [as a line] and I think for the first game it felt pretty good," said Glen. "I thought we had a lot of chances and worked the puck down low pretty well."
Head coach Guy Gadowsky has looked to his upperclassmen to replace departed talent and fill holes in the depth chart. As for their performance Sunday, Gadowsky was pleased with his starting line of forwards.
Gadowsky was confident in pairing Glen alongside Goodwin because of Glen's history of consistency and willingness to get the puck to the net.
"[Glen] showed that he can generate points; he can generate chances and he can get people the puck," said Gadowsky. "I think that's what David [Goodwin] needs."
Goodwin scored two points on a goal and an assist during the 60 minutes of play against the Lancers. Glen added to the top line's performance by notching two goals of his own, as well as an assist
The top line performed well in the exhibition game, something Gadowsky hopes to continue into the season.
As for Goodwin's individual performance, he knows there is pressure on him to score, but that pressure is something he will use to build off of for the regular season.
"There's obviously a little bit of pressure on me but I'm totally fine with that," said Goodwin. "I feel confident going into the year."
Another aspect of Sunday's exhibition game that went well for the Nittany Lions was the freshman class' overall performance.
Freshman Vince Pedrie stood out not only as a defenseman, but as a player who when given the puck will make plays and get the puck in the hands of someone who can take it to the net. Pedrie finished the game with two assists.
"He really shoots the puck and I think his assists came off of that, for shooting the puck and so we expected that he would be a guy, it's no secret that we like to shoot the puck, we led the nation in shots last year, and he fits that mold extremely well," said Gadowsky.
Another freshman defender who made his presence noticed was Kevin Kerr. Kerr embodied the mindset Gadowsky wanted his defensemen to be in when it comes to keeping the puck out of Penn State's zone.
"If you look at the way Kevin Kerr thinks the game like you can just see how he generates so much possession and offensive chances just by the way he thinks and moves the puck and that's something by design and something we're been after," said Gadowsky.
While the Nittany Lions are less than a week away from the regular season Gadowsky is positive about how his team has performed so far.
"We didn't have an exhibition game last year, I thought it showed in our first NCAA game," said Gadowsky. "It's great to get a little experience like a dress rehearsal out of the way."
Recently in Men's Hockey Category
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team is set to begin its 2015-16 season on Sunday at noon against Windsor in what is the first international matchup in program history.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky emphasized that opening day against Windsor will be a test to see how well captains David Glen, Luke Juha and David Thompson have done preparing the rest of the team. The first official practice of the 2015-16 NCAA hockey season isn't until Oct. 3, which gives Gadowsky merely hours to work with his team before their first time competing against an opponent this season.
"[The captains] have been doing a tremendous job," said Gadowsky. "...The number of hours that we actually can spend as coaches with them until Oct. 3rd is limited. So you need your upperclassmen not only have to be good examples they have to actually teach really well."
Alternate captain and senior defenseman Luke Juha explained the team takes matchups one game at a time. As for now, the team is working toward opening night in Pegula Ice Arena against the Lancers.
"We've been working really hard over the summer and into the fall and it's just good to put it all together at some point," said Juha. "That's what I'm working towards."
With the dawn of a new season approaching, the Penn State men's hockey team is preparing for a schedule that pits them against new opponents like Notre Dame, as well as traditional Big Ten foes.
As opening day inches closer, Gadowsky explained some key details to setting the tone early in the season.
Gadowsky hopes David Goodwin can build off of his successful 2014-15 campaign, where he was named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. With the departure of his line mates Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, Goodwin will now have to find synergy with new teammates.
"I think our challenge is to find another line that can have the same chemistry or find strong chemistry with him," said Gadowsky.
Another area of focus Gadowsky wishes to further build off of is the Nittany Lions' defense. With veterans on defense including Juha, David Thompson and Erik Autio, Gadowsky is confident the defense will continue to make important plays in the defensive zone.
"As we are continuing we talked about the creativity of offense being part of our identity, we also want to be very good and very consistent in suffocating defensively," said Gadowsky.
The Nittany Lions also look forward to some schedule consistency this season. During the 2014-15 campaign where Penn State went more than a month without a home contest, this year's schedule provides more of a balance between home and road matchups.
"The schedule is tough because it's often made three years in advance and sometimes you don't have as much flexibility as you think," said Gadowsky. "We're very happy with this schedule."
Gadowsky was quick to point out that although a schedule can seem ideal on paper, it is up to the team to perform and take advantage of its schedule.
"Often you look back on the year and you decide how happy you are with it," said Gadowsky. "Just because the schedule, you might like the balance at the start, and it really depends on if you win those games you love the schedule, if you don't you can blame the schedule."
One thing Gadowsky and the rest of the Nittany Lions are ready for is to be back on home ice in front of their loud and loyal fan base.
"I'm excited to play in Pegula," said Gadowsky. "Every game here, it's very exciting. I love it. It's awesome."
Although Pegula will play host to some great teams in the coming season, Gadowsky knows no matter the opponent, the fans will show up enthusiastically at every game.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing I know that this place is gonna rock," said Gadowsky. "It's so much fun to coach in this building, it's way more fun to even play in this building and every game we play here I look forward to."
Penn State will take on Windsor in the International Game Sunday at noon.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman forward Andrew Sturtz is poised to make an immediate impact during the Penn State men's hockey 2015-16 season. After two successful years with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL, Sturtz is ready for the challenging but rewarding transition into college hockey.
Sturtz, known for his effectiveness in front of the net, tallied 72 points in 58 regular-season games during the Canadians' 2014-15 campaign. Head coach Guy Gadowsky emphasized that Sturtz has been a player that Penn State was highly motivated to recruit.
"He was on the radar for a long, long time," said Gadowsky. "He has been someone that we've been very excited about for a while."
There are many reasons for the program to be excited about such a coveted recruit. Sturtz was named CCHL MVP and CJHL Player of the Year in 2013-14 by leading the league in scoring (104 points). Sturtz has made a major impact in the CCHL and he hopes the success he has seen will transition well in to NCAA-caliber games.
"It's obviously a big jump from [CCHL] to college, speed and strength wise," said Sturtz. "But [my teammates] are helping me out a lot and I look forward to seeing what I can do at this level, whatever role that is."
Gadowsky hopes that Sturtz's established talent blends in quickly with returning players like Dylan Richard and David Glen. The 2014-15 Big Ten Coach of the Year had taken his time studying Sturtz and his development before giving him the nod to be a Nittany Lion.
During the 2013-14 season with the Canadians, Sturtz was a standout team member, but his stats leveled-out during the 2014-15 campaign. This didn't deter Gadowsky however, but instead reflected opportunity to develop the young player.
"If you talk to his coaches and people around their junior program they said that he was a much better all around player [in the 2014-15 season], so he's the guy for us," said Gadowsky. "We're absolutely looking for some of that offense because we know that he can do it at high levels."
For Sturtz, the transition into college life off the ice has been equally as challenging as on the ice.
"It was tough for me at first," said Sturtz. "I battled with trying to find places a lot and I kept getting lost."
Once he found his way around campus, navigating hockey practices and workouts was something veteran team members helped Sturtz with. Sturtz has quickly fallen in to pace with the Penn State hockey ways.
"Adjusting to the hockey part of being here has been great," said Sturtz.
Being one of eight freshmen on the team this year, Sturtz has been able to learn from and bond with both his rookie and veteran teammates alike. He explained that even on his first visit to Penn State before committing, the players made Happy Valley feel like home.
"A big thing for me was when I came to visit all the guys came up to introduce themselves to me," said Sturtz. "You don't get that a lot at other schools, which shows this team has good character. I liked what I saw right when I got here and I knew this is where I wanted to play hockey."
Veteran players made Sturtz feel welcome during his first visit to Penn State and now those players have become his teammates. Sturtz explained who on the team he has become close with and who has given him a few pointers about transitioning to college life.
"Since I got here, David Glen is a good guy I look up to," said Sturtz. "He's good on the ice and off the ice, he's a good role model. Also, David Goodwin and Luke Juha are good players but also good students and I look forward to taking after their lead as the years go on."
With the Nittany Lions set to open their season this weekend, all of Sturtz's training will be put to the test. His offensive prowess will be something coaches and fans will be looking toward to help the Nittany Lions this season. If his hard work training for the season pays off, Sturtz will be an impactful player during his first season with Penn State.
"He someone that we're looking for to putting the puck in the net but also helping us with our identity," said Gadowsky. "He's someone we're very, very excited about."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a full house on Wednesday afternoon, Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky fielded questions from the media.
Gadowsky talked about replacing high-impact players from last season, the starting goaltender situation and how the largest freshman class in program history has transitioned so far.
Here are some sights and sounds of this year's men's hockey media day.
Replacing Casey Bailey
The Nittany Lions lost their all-time leading goal scorer Casey Bailey to the NHL at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Gadowsky and company will now take on the challenge of strengthening team unison and skill to fill the space Bailey left behind.
"Obviously we're thrilled for him," said Gadowsky. "We did lose him a year earlier than expected and certainly for this year that's not ideal but I think for our program it's extremely important and to have him play in the NHL after only three years of our program, I think it's a great testament to him, I think it's great for our program."
Gadowsky will now look toward veterans and rookies alike to work together in replacing that momentum on offense. Notably, the Nittany Lions return their second-leading goal scorer, David Goodwin.
"I think not only are we looking toward him, but I think everyone will understand that he's the guy that's gonna have to have a comparable year for us if we're going to score as many goals as we did," said Gadowsky.
Scheid Out to Start Season
The Nittany Lions will be without redshirt senior Eric Scheid to start the season. During the 2014-15 season Scheid posted career highs in goals (14), assists (15) and points (29).
"Just recently, he sustained a lower body injury that's going to have him out at least six weeks," said Gadowsky. "[It's] a real blow to us but everybody else at this point, other than minor bumps and bruises, that's the only thing that we have to report."
Scheid is expected to be back in the lineup come the middle of November.
As for the starting goaltender spot, Gadowsky emphasized that both Matt Skoff and Eamon McAdam will get their chances to play in net to start the season. Gadowsky noted that neither goaltender, at this moment, is favored above the other.
"I'm very happy to say that both Eamon McAdam and Matt Skoff have come in in tremendous shape," said Gadowsky. "We feel very good about the work that both goaltenders have put in in the summer. They will both have an opportunity as we start the season to both play a lot of games and then we'll see what happens after that."
The Nittany Lions also added a third goaltender to the roster in freshman Chris Funkey.
"He is a tremendous teammate. We wanted a tremendous teammate that's very supportive in that role. If for some reason whether it's injuries or performance that [Skoff and McAdam] aren't getting the job done he will be asked to come in and see what he can do."
Having a third goaltender option is important for Gadowsky, but he also hopes that his two more experienced players at that position can trade off starting positions and play the majority of the season.
Freshmen Making an Impact
Gadowsky noted that with eight new players this season comes the opportunity for the class of 2019 to start making an immediate impact on the ice. Andrew Sturtz will be one of those skaters that Gadowsky will be looking toward early on. Sturtz spent that past two seasons with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL, being named CCHL MVP and CJHL Player of the Year in 2013-14.
"He is someone we've been very excited about for a while now," said Gadowsky. "If you talk to his coaches and people around their junior program they said that he's a much better all-around player so he's the guy for us. We're absolutely looking for some of that offense because we know that he can do it at high levels."
Several other freshmen will be filling in the depth chart come October. Gadowsky looks to create more momentum on offense with help from several other freshmen skaters.
"We want to get a little more offensively creative from the back end and Vince Pedrie, Derian Hamilton and Kevin Kerr are exactly that," said Gadowsky. "...As we grow as a program obviously you try to get the best players you can but as you continue to grow you try to look at pieces of puzzles and we're getting there."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Building off its most successful season to date, Penn State men's ice hockey will look towards new captains to lead squad into the 2015-16 campaign.
Senior David Glen received the nod at captain for the season, while senior Luke Juha and junior David Thompson will serve the Nittany Lions as alternate captains.
After being voted the third captain in program history, Glen felt honored to be included in a small group of highly regarded players.
"For me it was always an honor to be named captain," said Glen. "It shows a lot of I guess what your teammates feel about you. Hopefully you did a good job over the past few years and are deserving of it and I think [Juha and Thompson] as much so. We're just honored and really proud to be picked."
The Alberta native, who has served as an alternate captain the past two years, will be taking on a greater leadership role this campaign. Juha and Thompson, new to the alternate captain roles, have quickly embraced their new duties.
"One of the biggest things for us is NCAA rules don't really allow coaches to practice with us right now," said Juha. "So one of our biggest roles right now is to get everybody on the same page as far as systems and having really good practices and having a good tempo on the ice to make sure that we're improving every day."
Thompson explained, similarly, that the roles of captain are displayed on the ice, but off the ice their roles serve a more holistic purpose.
"Right now you're always the first one, you're kind of the middle man to go through when it comes down from higher ups, whether it's from the marketing department or the coaching staff or hockey operations," said Thompson. "When there's something that needs to be presented to the team, instead of them going out of their way or having to take time out of their busy schedules, they'll contact us and it's our job to relay that message and make sure that everyone is on the same page from top to bottom."
Getting everybody on the same page can be challenging, especially this season with eight freshmen joining the team. When the players returned for the summer and fall semesters it fell on Glen, Juha and Thompson to get the freshmen up to pace with the program.
Glen explained that although the freshman class is large this season, so far they have worked hard and have proven their dedication to the system that is Penn State hockey.
"We have a character group of guys and I think they're pretty fun to be around," said Glen. "[The freshmen] are smart hockey players and smart people and I think they're good learners so it makes our job pretty easy."
Thompson also wanted to give credit where it was due, as the level of difficulty in their jobs is defined by which freshmen join the program.
"I think you have to credit also the recruiting staff who really like to emphasize high quality and high character in this program," said Thompson. "So when you bring guys in that's what you expect, that's where you set the bar, and so far all our freshmen, they've come in and have met those expectations."
Penn State's captains have demonstrated qualities of high character themselves, like Glen's selflessness that led him to donate bone marrow in the middle of the 2013-14 season. Each has developed a personal identity within the team they hope comes to light during their time in the leadership role.
"I think I bring a lot of positivity around the dressing room," said Juha. "I try to keep guys lighthearted and excited to be at the rink everyday and ready to work hard."
Lightheartedness has its place in the locker room, but for more serious matters, Thompson hopes he's the player guys can count on.
"I like to think of myself as an outlet for people to come talk to, whether it's hockey or off the ice, academics, and personal issues," said Thompson. "I like to feel that they can come to me with any issues or just anything that's bothering them so they can get it off their chest so we can work and figure out ways so we can come to some solutions."
Lastly, Glen hopes that now that he has begun his senior season, he no longer has to vocalize his role, but rather display it.
"I think for me it's more about leading by example," said Glen. "I'm not a big yeller or screamer or anything like that and I just try to go about my business and hopefully show guys how to do it and do everything the right way."
As for leading their team in the right direction, the captains hope that all their hard work during the preseason will culminate in success both on and off the ice.
"Now that we've formed that foundation we need to start moving upwards," said Thompson. "Obviously records and winning percentage is a big deal in this league, so having success on the ice is a major factor, but we need to make sure that we stay focused and all our qualities that made us successful in the past we have to continue to hold those close so we can continue to prosper."
Wins may mean a lot to the team and program, but so do the teams such games are played against. The three captains explained which games they're most looking forward to this season.
"All the Big Ten rivals are a lot of fun for us," said Glen. "Home and away those are awesome games to be a part of a great atmosphere."
Although Juha and Thompson agreed that Big Ten games take the prize for most thrilling and most looked forward to by the fanatical fan base, they also emphasized that their first matchup against Windsor will set the tone for the months to come.
"I'm most looking forward to the exhibition game against Windsor," said Juha. "We've been working really hard over the summer and into the fall and it's just good to put it all together at some point. That's what I'm working towards."
Until then, the captains will continue to lead both on and off the ice in preparation for what they hope will be the best season in program history to date.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey will once again be backed by one of the most dedicated student sections in the country, the Roar Zone. On Sept. 3, the student ticket sales for men's hockey season tickets sold out in a mere five minutes.
Selling 1,000 student tickets in single digit minutes for two consecutive years is an extremely admirable feat. It reflects not only the University's dedication to excellence, but also the student body's interest in the fast-paced sport.
Among the student ticket sales were many freshmen seeking to attain season tickets for the very first time. But a large number of ticket sales went to students who were eager to be a part of yet another successful season of Penn State hockey.
"I've had season hockey tickets for one year, but had gone to a few games the year before coming up from Altoona," said junior Jordon Hodder.
Hodder, who hails from New York, grew up a fan of hockey. When he transferred from Altoona to University Park his sophomore year, buying season hockey tickets was high on his list of things he wanted to do. After a successful first season in the student section, Hodder was excited to return once again.
"The atmosphere is crazy for every game," said Hodder. "It's a great time watching Big Ten college hockey and some of the best teams in the country."
Another upperclassman that was attracted to the atmosphere was senior Anthony Duivenvoorde, who's had men's hockey season tickets for the past two years.
"It's definitely the atmosphere," said Duivenvoorde. "Hockey fans are a unique breed of people and having a group together [at the games] makes every dollar worth it."
Duivenvoorde thought that finishing out his senior year by once again returning to the student section was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
With several memorable games from past seasons in Pegula Ice Arena, including a dramatic win over Michigan during the 2014-15 campaign, students look forward to certain promising matchups during the season.
"The games I'm looking forward to most are the Michigan and Ohio State games," said Hodder.
Conference games usually prove the most popular among students because it's a chance to witness such a competitive level of college hockey. Students also enjoy the season's Big Ten games because it's another opportunity to give some notable rivals a hard time.
This season's schedule also includes a few high-profile non-conference matchups. One game this coming season in particular is proving popular among Penn State students.
"The chance to [give a hard time to] Notre Dame will be a fun game to be a part of," said Hodder.
Whether it is a conference matchup or not, the Roar Zone will be ready with their chants and taunts. The heckling is what many students enjoy, but it's all in good fun.
Duivenvoorde enjoys being part of the student section because he gets to cheer on his Nittany Lions, but also because he knows how important the fans are to the game day atmosphere.
"Knowing Coach Guy and the players enjoy [the Roar Zone] as much as we do makes it even that much better," said Duivenvoorde.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky is known for verbalizing his support and admiration for the dedicated student fan base Penn State hockey has. Often times, Gadowsky can be seen around campus interacting with students and promoting the team he loves so much.
For many students, the Roar Zone gives them the opportunity to be part of an organization to watch the sport they love with fellow fans of the game.
Duivenvoorde will be spending his senior year in the student section and says it's one of the things he'll miss most about Penn State after he graduates.
"It was awesome to be a part [of the Roar Zone] from the start and being able to brag to friends about it makes it memorable," said Duivenvoorde.
Other members of the famed student section still have a few more seasons left to enjoy, and for those students it's time they will not take for granted.
Hodder said, "Every game is different which makes it fun to see what will happen when the puck drops."
Being a season ticket holder as a student comes with many opportunities to be a part of Penn State hockey history. One-thousand strong, the student section comes alive every time the team hits the ice.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While many of his teammates have spent their summers relaxing, working out or conditioning for the upcoming season, men's hockey junior David Goodwin spent the first half of his summer studying in Mexico. The forward, who notched 15 goals during the 2014-15 campaign, found his niche while taking classes towards his Spanish degree.
Goodwin stayed with a host family, which he said was one of the most appealing parts about choosing this abroad experience.
"I stayed with a Mexican family who was only able to speak Spanish," said Goodwin. "It's a little bit different from other programs where you get to stay in an apartment or a dorm. I really thought that staying with a Spanish speaking family would be the best for me to immerse myself in the culture and in the language."
Although his host family hadn't heard of Penn State hockey before they met Goodwin, they quickly learned about the program. Goodwin taught the family everything they needed to know about the famed Hockey Valley.
"I don't think they knew I was on the hockey team, but they definitely figured it out since I wore a lot of Penn State hockey stuff around the house," said Goodwin. "Eventually I was showing them videos of our games and they were just in awe. They thought it was really cool and they're going to try to come up for a game in the next couple years."
Goodwin talked about his favorite cultural aspects of his time abroad. He emphasized that the slower pace of life was what he enjoyed most, especially when it came to bonding with his host family. Mealtimes in Mexico, Goodwin learned, were the cornerstone of family interaction, and the time around a meal is valued as a vital part of a family's relationship.
"After the meals, sitting at the table and just chit chatting in Spanish, in Mexico that's a big cultural thing called 'sobre la mesa' where you stay at the table afterwards for an hour, hour and a half, and just talk with each other," said Goodwin. "That was a great experience for me."
No stranger to living with host families, Goodwin spent his years in junior hockey, before playing for Penn State, staying with host families. Goodwin explained that he felt he had an advantage when it came to getting used to living with a host family, since he had done it many times before.
"I felt like I definitely had a leg up on the other students that were with me because this was probably my fifth time kind of going in to a situation where I was going to be living with a host family who I didn't know before," said Goodwin. "The first few hours and couple days are a bit awkward but I definitely felt I was more comfortable because I had done it so many times prior."
Since his time in Mexico was part of a study abroad experience, Goodwin had the opportunity to take classes and learn more about Mexican heritage and culture. Goodwin took two Spanish classes, one on Mexican literature and another on Mexican history.
"I also took an art class on Mexican art, but that was taught in Spanish so I basically took three Spanish classes," said Goodwin.
His time learning and experiencing a new culture didn't confine the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention hockey player to just a classroom. During his final weekend in Mexico, Goodwin and others in his study abroad program traveled to the state of Puebla.
While in Puebla, Goodwin and his fellow students spent a full day at a local school, immersing him further into a culture he had started to become familiar with. This experience resonated with Goodwin in a life-changing way.
"We did some tourist things, but we volunteered at a school for a little over a day," said Goodwin. "We brought them some food and worked with the kids in the classroom, talked to the kids a lot, and we played a lot of soccer at recess. It was pretty powerful, so I was really happy we did that."
The students at the school taught Goodwin some new soccer tricks, which he believes will come in handy by the time the 2015-16 Penn State men's hockey season rolls around.
"When [my teammates and I] are warming up before the games and we're playing soccer, I'll show them some of my moves I learned in Mexico," said Goodwin.
Goodwin's time in Mexico was a transformative experience, both educationally and personally. Having started out with his own preconceived ideas of the Mexican culture and peoples, Goodwin quickly learned that not everything he had in his head was a proper portrayal of such a wonderful country.
Goodwin explained that the people he met and lived with, along with the beautiful countryside, including mountains and waterfalls, have changed how he will forever look at the country he called home during his summer.
When asked what aspects of the Spanish culture he would bring back to Penn State, Goodwin highlighted that the most important things he learned were about prioritizing time and relationships.
"I think just the awareness of how other people live in the world, experiencing that there's way more to life than the material things, there's way more to life than hockey," said Goodwin. "To see the joys the families had in each other and spending time with each other was something that I felt had been lacking in my life in America, so just bringing back that joy and appreciation for the smaller things in life I think Americans take for granted."
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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.
"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.
"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."
The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
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