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Focus Key to Nittany Lions Finding Success at Home

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11644039.jpeg By Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERISTY PARK, Pa. - After the team's first away meet of the season was canceled this past weekend, the Nittany Lion women's gymnastics team shifts focus to its matchup against the Illinois on Friday in Penn State's third-straight home meet this season. 

"Everyone was so looking forward to getting off campus, going to someone else's arena and competing," head coach Jeff Thompson said.  "The experience in the bus, at the hotel, at the restaurant and in some locker room we've never been before, that's where a team really starts to come together. Then it got canceled and that was a big let down."

Penn State (0-2, 0-1 B1G) was looking to get away from the home crowd and pick up its first win of the season on the road.  The Nittany Lions were hoping to escape some of the added pressure of performing in front of the home crowd in Maryland this past Sunday. 

"When you compete at home, they might feel different than they would on the road.  When you're on the road you don't know anybody.  You go out there, you just let it all hang out and if something happens bad so what? Some other people saw you had a mistake," Thompson said. "But when you're at home, all these people from psychology class are here and this professor, parents and grandparents.  They sometimes try harder."

Because of the cancellation, the Nittany Lions have not competed since their last meet against Nebraska, nearly two weeks ago.  Thompson thought that this week may be a challenge, but he thinks the team is prepared from extra practice for the meet on Friday.

"We are trying to focus on the process of performing the routine and not the result," Thompson said.  "When you try not to fall, generally you're going to fall because you're thinking about the wrong thing. You're thinking about the result."

A gymnast must practice in a meet-like setting in order to escape the comfort of the practice gym. The event that has put the most pressure on the Nittany Lions thus far has been the balance beam.  Thompson wanted to come up with a way to add the same pressure that comes along with a meet when performing on the beam in practice.

Thompson set up an inner-squad scrimmage when the cancellation of the Maryland meet occurred and figured out a way to put some pressure on his gymnastics by telling them that six of seven gymnasts needed to hit their routines in order to have an off-day on Monday. 

"Those kind of teaching moments are hard to create.  Two of the freshmen fell, everyone else hit," Thompson said.  "Everybody looked like they were doing 'meet beam' not 'in-the-gym beam', so it did have an effect and I think it moves them closer to being comfortable for when they compete."

The Nittany Lions have not practiced any differently preparing for their matchup against Illinois than they have for their other meets.  Thompson believes that having the same mindset going into each meet, despite the opponent, is the key to success for a gymnast.

"Having a ritual that they do helps them learn how to get comfortable, so if you change it every week and its always different they might not ever get as comfortable as they would if you kept everything the same," Thompson said. "I mean some people might say I'm crazy for doing that."

Penn State looks to pick up its first win of the season this Friday.  Just like he has all season, Thompson preached to his team all week to focus on only three things entering the meet.

"One thing is we are going to remind them to be where their feet are, number two is to focus on the process of the routine," Thompson said. "And third and final is to go out there and have fun." 

The Penn State Nittany Lions will host the Illinois Fighting Illini at 7 p.m. on Friday in Rec Hall.      

Future 'Beams' With Possibilities For Freshman Mason Hosek

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11627835.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three-year-old Mason Hosek was kicked out of her local dance class. As other kids were slowly getting into dance, Hosek was the rambunctious child that just wanted to do flips. Her dance teacher knew she did not belong in dance. Hosek was a gymnast.

At age six, Hosek's club coach Tami Jaso took her team to Auburn University for a gymnastics camp. Auburn's head coaches at the time, Jeff and Rachelle Thompson, watched the young Hosek gravitate toward the beam and always avoid the bars.

"She was the cutest thing ever," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said.

Assistant head coach Rachelle Thompson competed with club coach Jaso at Louisiana State University. Because of that bond, Jaso took her club team to the Thompsons' camps multiple years at both Auburn and Penn State allowing Hosek to create a strong bond with the couple.

In ninth grade, Hosek committed to the University of Oklahoma to continue her gymnastics career. As a result, all ties with the Thompsons had to be severed because she was no longer allowed talking to other collegiate coaches.

"At that time we weren't ready to pull the trigger on any ninth graders," Thompson said. "As she got closer to graduating her priorities changed."

As her collegiate career inched closer, Hosek decided to decommit from the University of Oklahoma. With Hosek back out on the market, Jaso knew she had to act quickly.

"My club coach called Rachelle and said, 'Hey Mason's open what do you think?'" Hosek said. "Rachelle called me that night and said 'we want you. Come please' and I was like, 'yeah, this is my dream school.'"

Hosek went on to become the national champion on both the balance beam and the floor exercise in her junior year of high school at the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics National Championships, however, during this time, she started to experience some discomfort in her back.

"I had two bulging discs in my back," Hosek said. "I was out for about a year, on and off, during my junior and senior year. That put me back a little bit."

Because of her injury, Hosek debated whether coming back to gymnastics was the right decision. But once Hosek received another phone call from Rachelle Thompson, she knew she needed to compete again.

"Rachelle talked to me and said 'you need to come back. It'll be good for you'," Hosek said. "And it has been. I haven't had any back problems since I've been here."

Hosek has made a quick impact for Penn State as she has performed in both of the first two meets of the 2016 season. She competes in the floor exercise, the vault and the balance beam for the Nittany Lions.

"College gymnastics is so completely different from club because, in club, if you fall it only hurts your score. Then they get to college and its 'oh my gosh, if I fall everybody's going to be mad at me,'" Jeff Thompson said. "There's a period where they try too hard, and I think Mason worked through that in preseason because she's done very well competing."

Hosek's favorite event is the beam. Ever since she was little, she realized the beam was something that came naturally to her even though most kids found it to be the hardest event. For Penn State, Hosek has the second highest score on beam so far this season with a 9.825.

"The season is young. We are not ranked as high as what we know we will be at the end," Jeff Thompson said. "But the opportunities are there for her to be in the lineup every weekend on three events, so she should strive to get as close to 30 as she can."

The Nittany Lions will travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins at 4 p.m. on Sunday. 

Tsang Ties For All-Around Title Against No. 9 Nebraska

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11619053.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's gymnastics hosted its Big Ten opener against No. 9 Nebraska in front of a pink-out crowd Saturday afternoon in Rec Hall. Both teams sported pink leotards for the annual "Flip for the Cure" meet in support of breast cancer awareness.

Despite a 196.150-194.575 Nittany Lion setback, Penn State's Briannah Tsang had a standout performance as she tied Nebraska's Hollie Blanske for the all-around title.

"[Tsang] had an amazing night. That's just Bri. That's just what she does," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We don't expect anyone to be perfect, but she always gives her best. She gives 100 percent every time she goes."

Tsang improved her score on three of the four events from last week's season-opening meet against North Carolina State. She began her stellar night by scoring a 9.850 on the vault. With this score, Tsang won her second straight vault title this season.

"Bri's vault was unbelievable," Thompson said. "We talked earlier in the week that she just needed to calm down and focus on what she does in the gym. Starting on vault, sticking the vault and getting a good score."

Tsang improved from her score of 9.175 on bars last week to a solid 9.775 against the Cornhuskers. She and Mason Hosek led the Nittany Lions on the balance beam with a score of 9.825.

"I guess my mindset was to come in and have fun and do what I do in practice," Tsang said. "I obviously wanted to improve from last time because no one wants to fall."

Tsang closed out her night on the floor exercise, tying for second with a season-best 9.850 and improved her all-around score to a 39.300 from last week's 38.050 to take home the title of co-all-arounder for the meet.

"I was glad to see Bri redeem herself after falling on floor last week," Thompson said. "It is one of her best events."

For the team score, the Nittany Lions needed a near-perfect routine from each of its gymnasts in the final rotation to surpass the Cornhuskers. Entering the floor exercise, Penn State was down 146.800-145.750. Sabrina Garcia, Kiera Brown and Jessica Jones scored a 9.750, 9.825 and a 9.500, respectively. Before Oni Timothy took the floor, there were complications at the scores table.

"Unfortunately for Oni, the judges had a mix up with the judging slips," Thompson said. "One of the judges had their sheets in the wrong order. They thought Oni was Jess Jones and they thought Jess was Oni and the whole time Oni is standing there waiting to go, waiting to go, waiting to go."

Timothy waited for about five minutes for the judges to figure out their judging slips before she was finally able to start her routine. Her five-minute wait was like a football coach calling a timeout right before a kicker goes for a long kick, just trying to "ice" the performer. She started her performance strong before taking a slight stumble mid-way through.

"[Timothy's] full-in was awesome. It was the best I have ever seen her do it by herself. Then in her second pass she just wasn't very good," Thompson said. "We will work on that. But overall, I am super proud of how the kids stick."

Although Thompson believes Saturday's meet was a good meet for where the team is so far in the season, he believes that pressure is going to be something his young team needs to work on.

"We just need to work on getting more consistent under pressure," Thompson said. "We need to figure out a way, as coaches, to get them to feel the same amount of pressure in practice as they do in meets."

Kiera Brown Shines as a First-Time Nittany Lion

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11610393.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - A little girl anxiously waits for her dad to finish signing her up for gymnastics lessons. She sees a foam pit and desperately wants to jump in. She tried to wait for her dad to finish, but she could resist no longer.

Six-year-old Kiera Brown took off for the foam pit and fearlessly jumped in as her dad watched from afar. It was then that Brown and her family knew she was destined to be a gymnast.

With her mom being a former gymnast, gymnastics was in Brown's blood. Aside from her mom, Brown looked up to 10-year member of the United States' national gymnastics team, Dominique Dawes.

"I got to meet [Dawes] at one of my club meets. She signed my first cell phone and I still have it today," Brown said. "She was definitely one of my role models growing up."

From a young age, Brown loved performing floor routines. The floor exercise was the apparatus that she excelled at most, until her sophomore year of high school.

While performing on the floor, Brown ruptured her Achilles tendon. With the support of her family and teammates, she was able to return to gymnastics, but not before tearing her other Achilles tendon two years later.

"That's where most people would say I've had enough of gymnastics," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "The fact that she came back and she's now competing in her third year of college is a testament to her strength and courage."

While battling injury, Brown needed a way to continue practicing gymnastics without always having to be on her feet. That is when she turned to the uneven bars.

"After I tore my Achilles, the bars were the only thing I could do," Brown said. "So it then became my favorite event because I got good at it."

Brown took her talent on the bars to the University of Georgia to start her collegiate career. As a Gym Dog, Brown was named All-SEC in 2014 after tying for second on the uneven bars at the SEC Championship and finished the 2014 season as tied for 19th in the nation on the uneven bars.

After two seasons at the University of Georgia, Brown decided to make a change. She looked at multiple schools in the SEC and had dreamed of going to school in Florida since she was a little girl, but once she visited Penn State, there was no going back.

"Right when I came on the visit it was just like 'yeah this was it'," Brown said. "The campus was beautiful. I loved Rachelle [Thompson] and Jeff [Thompson] and the way they talked about the girls, I knew this was the team I wanted to be apart of."

Coach Thompson knew that Brown's personality and experience would fit in well on his young team. Making a name for herself on the bars in high school and college, Brown knew there were high expectations of her coming to this Penn State team. However, Coach Thompson had even more.

"We told her when she transferred here that we saw her as an all-arounder. She never competed as an all around gymnast at Georgia," Thompson said. "But she's known since day one that those were our expectations of her.

In her first meet as a Nittany Lion this past weekend, Brown led Penn State in the all-around category with a score of 38.950 tying for second overall. Brown scored a 9.60 on the vault, 9.70 on the floor, 9.80 on the balance beam and a stellar 9.95 on the uneven bars.

"I think for her to go 9.95 on bars in the first meet of the year is a testament to her," Thompson said. "We knew she was one of the best bar workers in the country, but this basically tells everybody that it doesn't matter if she's in a red leotard or blue leotard the judges recognize that routine as being outstanding."

The Nittany Lions host Nebraska on Saturday at 4 p.m. during the annual "Flip For The Cure" meet in Rec Hall.


Nittany Lions Find Positives in Season Opener

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11603307.jpegBy Mandy Bell, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team kicked off its 2016 season in front of a whiteout crowd Saturday afternoon in Rec Hall. A close-knit Nittany Lion team came up just short, 194.700-194.125, against North Carolina State in the season-opener.

"We will have meets like this where we have the fall bug," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "But we are going to have meets maybe like next weekend where we upset a Nebraska or somebody that we are not supposed to beat."

The falls came during the third rotation as the Nittany Lions took on the balance beam. Penn State came up short on the event, 49.075-47.950.  It was the only event that the Nittany Lions did not win on the afternoon.   

"To have three falls on the beam at the first meet of the year is disappointing, but it is also something we can learn from," Thompson said.  "Until you have those teachable moments, you can't really advance."

Inexperience calls for teachable moments and the Nittany Lions have just that.  Of the 14 gymnasts on the roster, seven are freshmen and one is a junior transfer.

"Having a lot of freshmen is not a challenge, it's more of an opportunity," Thompson said. "There's eight new people and they will all be back next year."

Besides the seven freshmen, the other half of the Nittany Lion's team is made up of three sophomores and four juniors. Without having senior guidance on the team, Coach Thompson turns to his quartet of juniors to lead his young team.

"I'm making sure I am being a good leader as a junior," Brown said. "But because our chemistry is so close-knit, it doesn't make it as hard."

Brown is not the only person who believes this team is close.  Coach Thompson believes that this is the only team he has ever coached that has gotten so close so quickly.

"This is the closest team that we have ever had at the beginning of the season," Thompson said.  "Normally, it takes until mid February after they have shared a hotel room together and got to know each other, that's when you see the team come together.  But, it's already happened and that's the coolest thing."

"Competing at college is different [from high school] because it's not just for yourself anymore," freshman Sabrina Garcia said. "It's all for your team."

Having the close-knit bond and the "team first" mentality is something that the gymnasts and coaches believe will carry this team throughout the season. 

"We know there are great things in store for this team," Thompson said. "But it's going to be a roller coaster."

Gene Wettstone and Gymnastics Success Recognized in Facility Upgrades

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IMG_5617.JPGBy Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "Throughout his 36 year coaching tenure, Gene Wettstone achieved an unmatched level of success. His dedication to his student-athletes, Penn State, and the sport of gymnastics established him as a pillar among his peers. In honor of his outstanding contributions as coach, mentor, and friend, this facility proudly bears his name."

Those are the words engraved in the gymnastics practice facility located inside the White Building, now named the 'Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex,' to honor the history of Wettstone and both the men's and women's gymnastics programs.

Wettstone was a legendary Penn State men's gymnastics coach. He brought Penn State and collegiate gymnastics to the forefront by leading the Nittany Lions to nine NCAA championships (the most by any men's gymnastics coach), 13 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League victories, more than 200 meet wins, 35 individual national titles, 13 Olympians and three Nissen-Emery honorees.

He left a mark on Penn State that could never be forgotten, and that is now displayed in tremendous fashion at the facility.

Before fully entering the gymnastics complex, curved trophy cases, with blue light glowing from the top and the bottom, can now be seen on both sides. The left side features the achievements of women's gymnastics and the right side shows the numerous accolades of men's gymnastics.

When walking towards the complex, a picture of Wettstone and a short biography of him can be seen. In the complex, on the right wall, images of past men gymnasts are shown alongside the number of Olympians, team national championships and individual national championships. There are also displays for the Nissen-Emery Award winners. Down the hallway are two displays of the individual national champions as well as the Olympians.

"It's just nice to be able to have our story in a visual way now for people to really see and understand," said men's gymnastics head coach Randy Jepson. "We couldn't do that before; we could talk about it, but there was no real visual way to do that, where people could really grasp the success of the program. It's unprecedented the NCAA record of individual titles and team titles, much less the Olympians and the international success that Penn State has developed."

But this renovation does not just inspire visitors, it encourages the current team, too.

"[The team and I] talk about the legacy and the standard of what Gene established and what we want to see continue here, and they walk by it every day. It's a constant reminder of the standard that they're to aspire to," said Jepson. "When you walk into the gym, you see 12 Championship banners for the NCAA and three Big Ten banners. My reminder to them is that it's not the banners hanging there, it's the empty space on the wall. The guys that were outside on the wall earned honors, like the Nissen-Emery or Olympian or a national champion. They are the standard, and you can't walk by that without being inspired and motivated."

On the left side of the complex, the women's gymnastics program is featured. The left wall shows the number of All-Americans, team national championships and national championship appearances seen throughout its history. The individual champions and the female gymnasts that earned a perfect 10.0 score are also honored.

The current women's gymnastics roster is presented on the side wall where each gymnast's individual headshots, name and hometown is shown.

"When you want teams to win championships, you need to treat them like champions. If they feel like  a champion, then they are more likely to perform like champions," said women's gymnastics head coach Jeff Thompson. "So the first day, when the team all rounded the corner saw their headshots out there, you should have heard them...They all had a sense of Penn State pride."

Both programs feature a rich history of success on the competition floor and in the classroom. Donations and fundraising efforts made the enhancements possible.

"That says a lot. That the donors were willing to do that and to give the money and recognize the women's achievements even though we've only been around since the early '60s," said Thompson. "We don't have the long history that the men have, but there are a lot of good things that happened here. For them to give that much money so we can look equal is awesome."

Two years ago, when Wettstone was approaching 100 years old, fellow alumni, especially Ira Stolzer, co-captain of the 1976 national champion men's gymnastics team, wished to create something to honor Wettstone's legacy as well as the future of the men's gymnastics program.

Stolzer and all the captains from the Varsity 'S' Club led the fundraising efforts for the department and renovation. In only 90 days, Stolzer and the committee were able to raise nearly $500,000 from former Penn State gymnasts and former Penn State gymnasts' families and friends. Wettstone passed in July, 2013, less than one month after turning 100.

"Ira Stolzer has just been a tremendous guy to our team and our program here," said Jepson. "He's really done a lot for Penn State, and this is the guy that could do anything he wants, and he puts a lot of effort into this. We're fortunate for him."

There were numerous people that stepped up to help with the program and some names are included on a plaque in the Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex.

"It's just great to be able to showcase [all the accomplishments], and be able to have that support from our alumni," said Jepson. "We're very gracious and appreciative of what they have done. They've just been very gracious with their gifts, and it's really a real tribute to Gene...There's a lot of people that contributed to make this happen, and it just really makes a statement about how they feel about Gene and how he made an impact on the individuals when he was here."

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VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.

Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).

By Tony Mancuso
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's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Inside Look at Success on the Vault

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By Gabby Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Sprinting toward a stationary object might not be something that people typically choose to do voluntarily. For the Penn State women's gymnastics team, that is something that they do best.

Vault is a tricky apparatus to master. If you don't run fast enough, you wont have enough momentum to make a full rotation. If you can't make a full rotation, you might become one with the landing mat. But, if everything goes right, this skill is incredibly impressive.

The Nittany Lions have had an exceptional season on vault, continuously putting up big numbers in the event. Heading into this weekend's NCAA Regional Championships, Penn State is ranked No. 3 on this apparatus.

"We just need to do what we do in practice," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We stick vaults in meets. We stick vaults at practice. This tournament just needs to be an extension of that so we can put up the best score possible."

The vaults that these gymnasts perform are a continuation of a skill set that they have developed since their "club" days. When freshman gymnasts come in, they typically perform a vault, with an added skill, that they had performed before coming to college. For freshman Briannah Tsang, vault is one of her favorite events, one that she has mastered since winning the 2013 Elite Canada Vault Title.

"I love this event," Tsang said. "It is a power event and that is one of my strengths. We work really hard on this event."

Throughout the course of the 2014-15 season, various Nittany Lions have broken the ever-coveted 9.900 mark on vault, with a handful breaking a 9.925.

"We have a lot of variety to our vaults," Krystal Welsh said. "We all don't just do a Yurchenko Full. We have a lot of different skills that we are able to perform well, which helps set us apart."

The Penn State women's gymnastics team will take the floor in the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma.


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