By: Ryan Wooley
With Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien confirming on Tuesday that the Nittany Lions are breaking away with their traditional nameless uniforms and adding names of players to honor those that are electing to stay with the football program, I find it to be a classy move by the university but I’m also wondering why they’re stopping there.
It’s no secret that what happened at Penn State was a downright travesty and one that will never be forgotten. But what is the fastest way to try and put something behind you and just move forward? It’s by blocking out the past and starting over. So why not only change the names on the back of the jersey, but also the jersey as a whole, the color scheme and even the mascot?
Now I know some traditionalist will say you can’t do that as Penn State will always be known as the Nittany Lions–but that’s not true. Given enough time, people will forget they were the Nittany Lions unless a former Penn State grad make it a point to say the mascot was changed in 2012.
If you want proof of this, look no further than Eastern Michigan University. For those that don’t know, they were known as the Eastern Michigan Hurons and used an Indian logo from 1929-1991, but changed to the Eagles after the Michigan Department of Civil Rights issued a report suggesting that all schools drop such logos.
Of course, this change was met with controversy as alumni were not happy and even Huron Tribes in Oklahoma and Quebec supported EMU using their name and logo, but the university felt it was best served to move forward and to this date it seems to have been the right decision.
While attending EMU 12 years after the change from 2003-2007, I never once thought any different about the university changing the name and always considered myself an Eagle, just like those before me considered themselves a Huron.
Sure, you would run into the occasional upset alumni that would say once a Huron always a Huron, but the truth of the matter is not one student that attends EMU now days probably cares that the name was changed.
The same can and should be done with Penn State. All the past alumni can still consider themselves a Nittany Lion and remember fondly their time at the university, but for future students they should embrace the new mascot and the university can begin a healing process together.
Now no matter what is done though, it will have its detractors. So why not do something big and bold and move forward instead of putting a band-aid over something that needs stitches? By adding names to the back of the jerseys is a step in the right direction and I’m happy to see O’Brien honoring his players that are sticking around. But more needs to be done.
The university needs to make a change that is so drastic that it would serve as a signal to students, faculty, alumni and the general public that the campus is moving into the future and trying to transform itself into something better. It should be something that will signal a new beginning and bring everyone close as they journey this climb together.
The tearing down of the Joe Paterno statue was a good start, but now they need a complete overhaul of the football program so that when these kids take the field on Saturday’s, those watching can say that is the new and improved Penn State University.
Follow Ryan Wooley on Twitter @ WooleyMammoth85