By: Connor Lenahan
I’m predisposed to love Penn State’s football jerseys. There are a number of factors for this, namely that I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, have been attending Penn State football games for the last decade, and have been a Penn State fan for just as long. It’s unfair for me to place them at the top of a list of best college football jerseys because that would be like placing Boston University at the top of a best colleges list. To me this is correct, to others it is (more or less correctly) homerism.
The key with Penn State’s jerseys, however, is that they are widely seen as iconic. Penn State’s vibe for years has been simplicity. Under the tenure of Joe Paterno the mentality was the same – basic blue and white, one stripe on the helmet, black shoes, and no names.
Aside from a few minor variations – a white collar for some seasons, blue for others, arm stripes, no arm stripes, etc. – the jerseys were the same for years. After the much publicized Penn State scandal revolving around Jerry Sandusky, and thus the beginning of the Bill O’Brien era, the names mentality changed.
This, understandably, led to a lot of people getting upset with the team. The whole “no names” thing was the point of Penn State’s jerseys for the longest time – 125 years to be exact. Now the names spelled an official change for the team’s mentality, aside from the first new coach in four decades. However, the reasoning was to honor the players that had stayed with Penn State through the scandal and beyond. This reasoning was, all in all, very respectful. After all, the crimes and problems that the university received criticism for were not recent – none of those players that were punished by the postseason bans or the scholarship reductions were on the team or even in college when they happened. Honoring those strong enough to stoa by the school was a great idea.
Now the times have changed. Bill O’Brien is in Houston coaching in the NFL. James Franklin is entering his second season. The punishments from the scandals have almost entirely been eliminated. This is the clearest future Penn State has had since I was junior in high school.
That’s why this morning it was announced that the names would be removed from the jerseys. James Franklin and Co. want to honor the tradition of Penn State as best as possible. They want to return to the simplistic days – no names and all game.
The cynical part of my brain sees this as a way for Franklin, already one of the most likable people you could have coaching a team, to better win over the crowd by giving the people what they want. Actually, strike cynical, I have no issues with this. He is giving the people what they want. The Penn State vibe is best with the simplistic jerseys. The message – team first – is a good one to give to a quickly growing program. This is as minor a step as they could take, but symbolically this is a new old day for Penn State.