© 2014 Jay Paterno

Penn State Alumni Association Southern New Jersey Chapter

“This is Why We Fight”  

October 19, 2014

Thanks. It is great to be here, it is great to be back in South Jersey and among so many loyal Penn Staters.

 

It is always great to have a chance to talk to a room full of Penn Staters. We share a common home, and a common history.

 

Many of us are old enough to recall doing a Case Study at….The Skellar. Some older vintage alums probably recall the Phi Psi 500 or The Regatta or even Gentle Thursday. You have to be a certain age to remember $1 pitcher night at the Den or 10 cent wings at the G-Man or even $5 all you can eat pizza and beer at The Brewery. That was all part of the education we reveled in that took place outside the classroom.

 

I am fortunate that I still live in State College so that part of my life and the memories are refreshed when I pass Fiji, or Chi Phi or Pika or South Halls where Chi-O and Tri-Delt were located or Pollock Halls where the Thetas and Pi Phis lived….

 

The memories are so fresh it is like you can still touch them. Fall is the time of nostalgia.

 

Autumn is always electric in State College. The first cold snap on a fall night reminds me of long ago days walking to a party or home from the stadium after another win, seeing my breath as I exhale passing under the glow of a streetlight. If it was an early game I recall walking down McKee Street where my parents’ home is and the sunlight falling through the arched branches that looked like a vaulted cathedral ceiling—the leaves providing a canopy of gold, red, orange and browns.

 

Penn State is home. Even for those who no longer live there it is a home that harbors some of our life’s sweetest memories. It draws out a connection to the place and to each other that evokes love of place, love of self and love of each other and loyalty to the school and to the values that have been espoused by great men and women at the University across the generations.

 

You can take any given point in time and stand astride the intersection of your history and your future, your yesterdays and your tomorrows. History is a finite thing, what has happened is done and can never be undone. As for tomorrow, tomorrow is neither known nor promised to anyone.

 

But these are interesting times in College football. The game is bigger in many ways than it has ever been. On television it is everywhere on ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN 2, ESPN News, Fox Sports 1, The Big Ten Network, The SEC Network, the Pac-12 Network….and I could go on and on. Television dollars are driving the schedules of the games and driving the increases in revenue.

 

The cost of doing business in big-time college sports is accelerating. College coaching salaries have escalated well beyond the rate of inflation. In 1994 Coach Phil Fulmer signed a contract for $1 million a year; the first publicly known contract to surpass that barrier.

 

Today salaries routinely cross the $3.5 million threshold and have topped out near the $7 million a year range. While the NCAA  limits the size of coaching staffs, schools find exceptions and loopholes and staff sizes have ballooned .

 

Beyond that the headlines about College Football are more and more about money—how much money the playoff will generate, how many T.V. dollars are coming in, big money buy-ins for season tickets, growing revenues and paying players.

 

It is tenuous balance. For years there was a belief in an imperfect amateur system that sought to education young men that were true student-athletes. The fan base is starting to see the little man that is behind the Wizard of Oz curtain. If they ever lose faith the sport is in real trouble. The impatience we have for coaches fuels instability. It pushes coaches to cut corners and adopt a win-at-all costs mentality.

 

The losers in that scenario will be the student-athletes.

 

Today the average head coach in Big-time football has been at his school less than 3 ½ years—not even enough time to have recruited and developed a senior class.

 

To navigate this future will require visionary leadership across the board and from the NCAA but given recent actions by the current NCAA leader, I am not holding my breath.

 

That same leadership destroyed a shining example, a noble if imperfect story of how to win at the highest level running a program that was focused on the long-term academic and athletic welfare of student-athletes.

 

In life there are great examples in history from which we may draw the lessons needed to build a stronger future in even the most challenging times. Penn State from 1887 until 2011 was that history lesson—what should be seen as a Shining City on the Hill.

 

History is a finite thing as I mentioned earlier. However, despite the finite nature of history, the truth in its telling is malleable and subject to the spin of those who control the levers of power. We learned that in George Orwell’s book 1984 when we saw inside the Ministry of Truth and watched them falsify historical events to create approved versions of the present.

As Penn Staters we find ourselves and our University in the grips of those who forged a history to justify what they have done to our school. They hoped we’d all go away. They underestimated the love so many of us feel for our school.

 

Thomas Jefferson once wrote to John Adams about the Tories who were trying to squash the rebellion that is the foundation of the nation we live in today: “We have been too careless of our future reputation, while our Tories will omit nothing to place us in the wrong.”

 

We’ve seen that firsthand. They called us JoeBots but they didn’t realize that this was never about Joe; it was about Penn State. Now they call us Truthers but they didn’t realize that we’d wear Truther as a badge of honor because we do not fear the truth. Those who fear the Truth do so only because they have something to hide.

 

This fight isn’t easy.

 

It would be easier to give up the past. To smile and put the events of the past in our rearview mirror and move forward pretending that all that has happened has been adequately explained away with phony reports and checks written to any number of lawyers/pr firms and victims ---most of whom were in no way the responsibility of Penn State.

 

But you see as William Faulkner once said “The past is never dead. If fact it’s not even past.”

 

The memories of our time at Penn State are as alive in us now as they have ever been.

 

At Penn State we’ve been asked to pretend that a good part of a Proud past never existed but if we do acknowledge its existence, we should only speak of it the hushed tones of the shamed.

 

Again there are those who will roll their eyes and say “Move on” or “who cares?” or “why does this matter?”

 

I’ll tell you why this matters. The past is what gives our future the roots to grow higher and spread further than we ever could on our own. It is tradition, it is who and what we are, have been, and will be.

 

The Great Historian David McCullough recently wrote: “We are raising a generation of people who are historically illiterate. We can't function in a society if we don't know who we are and where we came from. A nation that forgets its past can function no better than a person with amnesia."

 

We cannot function without our past. We cannot carry the honor and pride that was earned by so much sacrifice by so many great men and women who competed in every sport and did things the right way.

 

The key to the future is indeed our past.

 

A few weeks ago on ESPN’s College Gameday they were discussing the removal of the bowl ban and the reinstatement of the scholarships. One host stated that the sanctions should not be lifted because “Penn State’s football program committed the most egregious acts ever committed by a football program.”

 

Last I checked Penn State’s program did not commit any of the egregious acts wrongly attributed to us. But that narrative was given to him by our administration.

 

Why does that matter?—Do you know how many high school recruits watch ESPN’s College Game Day? How many parents of recruits were watching? That narrative is a drag on us all and it becomes a topic that is in the minds of anyone considering Penn State.

 

If the truth had been defended by the administration and the correct narrative advanced by them, that statement is never made. At the very least, the PR firm that the university is paying should have been on the phone with ESPN demanding a retraction.

 

There’s more: This week in light of the events and allegations against the way Florida State has or has not handled criminal complaints and investigations against football players this headline emerged:

 

“Florida State’s Conspiracy of Silence Has A Lot in Common With Penn State” in the article  they wrote “At Penn State the conspiracy of silence was more general and less specific. Jerry Sandusky was protected because his association with the program would have negative consequences if his misdeeds ever went public”

Last I checked Penn State’s program did not commit any of the egregious acts wrongly attributed to us. But that narrative was given to him by our administration.

 

Why does that matter?—Do you know how many high school recruits watch ESPN’s College Game Day? How many parents of recruits were watching? That narrative is a drag on us all and it becomes a topic that is in the minds of anyone considering Penn State.

 

If the truth had been defended by the administration and the correct narrative advanced by them, that statement is never made. At the very least, the PR firm that the university is paying should have been on the phone with ESPN demanding a retraction.

 

There’s more: This week in light of the events and allegations against the way Florida State has or has not handled criminal complaints and investigations against football players this headline emerged:

 

“Florida State’s Conspiracy of Silence Has A Lot in Common With Penn State” in the article  they wrote “At Penn State the conspiracy of silence was more general and less specific. Jerry Sandusky was protected because his association with the program would have negative consequences if his misdeeds ever went public”

First of all the term “Conspiracy of Silence” was lifted right from Penn State’s very own Ministry of Truth Freeh Report.

 

Second this is another example of that false narrative being put in front of the public and potential recruits. Again I’d be willing to bet that the writer of that story has yet to hear from the PR team hired by the administration.

 

For the rest of our lives we will see references to the Penn State Scandal. Unless we are content to be forever marked with a Scarlet Letter then we are compelled by our Love and Loyalty to the school and each other to fight.

 

Perhaps Trustee Al Lord said it best when the sanctions were lessened “That’s great but when do we get our reputation back?”

This is why we fight.

 

Reputation—Honor and Respect that was hard won over decades has been tattered. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story a story that was shared with me by a fellow Penn State grad.

 

This person has served on boards of large companies and has a long and successful career in business. This person went to interview with a new company. When the interviewer saw Penn State on this person’s educational history the topic became all about what had happened here and the fallout. Despite having graduated from Penn State over 25 years earlier and having had a very successful career this Penn Stater spent close to ¾ of the interview talking about a false narrative that has been allowed to grow into a bogus perception with an aura of truth.

 

The false perceptions hurt all of us.

 

This is why we fight.

 

Now I know that fight is a word that the current administration would not like to hear. We’ve been told to be civil, to be nicer and to not throw any more punches. I get that idea, I really do.

 

But there comes a time when I am reminded of the words of President James Garfield when he said:

 

“Of course I deprecate war, but if it is brought to my door the bringer will find me at home.”

 

Now I do not want to imply that this is war, but a cause dear to us, the ideals we have all stood for across decades have been attacked.

 

You know in Hail to The Lion it says “Penn State Forever, Molder of Men and Women—FIGHT FOR HER HONOR—FIGHT!”

 

We have reached a point where there is simply no alternative. We have been patient, we have been loyal but now we must take up the sword and shield to defend Penn State.

 

Respectfully while considering President Barron’s call for civility I say this to the Board and to the administration “Make no mistake, our fight is not AGAINST Penn State. The fight is FOR Penn State—we are taking up her cause and there is room for all who love our Alma Mater to join. We fight FOR her Honor. Those who will not join are destined to be on the wrong side of history and should get out of the way.”

 

The NCAA and the world can no longer resist the movement towards a resolution that will finally shine the light of Truth on this—and only that will allow this University to heal properly.

 

There is still and Old Guard on the Board of Trustees and they face a change in the balance of power when Governor Corbett loses the election in November. So they proposed changes to increase a board that is already by a wide margin the largest board in the Big Ten. Perhaps exasperated by the fight Jim Broadhurst stepped away from the board but maintained leverage by helping appoint family friend Rick D’Andrea to the board.

 

Rick has proposed increasing the size of the Board despite Freeh’s recommendation to reduce the size of the board and lessen the influence of the Alumni-elected trustees. If they spend their time fighting for power, who will defend our school? If they won’t the legions of loyal alumni must do so. We have no other way.

 

Civility has only gotten us so far. When we have extended our hand for understanding and cooperation the board and the world have greeted us with a fist.

 

Being here in New Jersey—you Penn Staters know better than anyone what happened at the Rutgers games—the T-Shirts and the signs.

 

A great coach once reminded us “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

 

We won’t get fooled again. The fight rages on and we are quite prepared to fight as long as it takes even if it carries us to our dying day.

 

Why?

 

Because we love our school, because we love our Pride, our Traditions our history and the Truth. We paid too dearly for that Tradition.

 

This is why we fight.

 

I have spent the last three months on a book tour and have done interviews heard and read as far west as American Samoa and as far east as Europe and I have defended our school over and over again. Trustees elected to the board like Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie and Al Lord have stepped up. Many have become very visible warriors, but also know there are legions of quiet warriors also in the fight. We will fight for Her Honor.

 

Anyone who won’t defend all that we hold dear should just get out of the way and let people who are true leaders take the reins.

 

Penn State is Camelot but it is being destroyed from within by the Barbarians that have seized control of the Board and are looting our treasured legacy of excellence.

 

This is why we fight.

 

We fight on, because the Love and Loyalty we sing of in our Alma Mater, the Love and Loyalty that binds us together compels us to do so.

 

Thank you.