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Jay Paterno: The Real Soul of Penn State

by on February 21, 2013 10:26 AM

In life, there are moments when your senses tune in to upcoming events. This weekend is one of those times. There is attention being paid to State Patty’s Day. However, there are other campus events I hope the town’s media will pay attention to and promote. The campus events of last weekend and the upcoming weekend display the real soul of Penn State.

I have my plans set for Sunday. Penn State’s men’s lacrosse team is off to an impressive 2-0 start with wins at Michigan and over top-10 ranked Denver in Jacksonville last Sunday. Anyone who watched that game on NBC Sports Network realized how dominant Penn State was in that contest.

The win vaulted Penn State to a No. 8 national ranking under third-year coach Jeff Tambroni. After legendary long-time coach Glenn Thiel retired, former athletic director Tim Curley heard from lacrosse people all over the country that Tambroni was the guy to get. Now in his third year with his system fully in place, the wisdom of that hire is now bearing fruit.

Jeff is a no-nonsense coach, demanding a high level of performance from his players on and off the field. He built an elite Final Four program at Cornell before moving to Penn State — probably prodded along by his wife, a Penn State field hockey alumna. Jeff will also be coaching Team USA in the next Lacrosse World Championships, which shows the level of respect he has in lacrosse coaching circles.

Sunday at noon, Penn State will host third-ranked Notre Dame here in Happy Valley. Penn State plays with the heart and intensity that spark success. A win on Sunday would continue the trajectory established last weekend. It would be the second straight victory against Notre Dame and a second straight win over Top-10 competition.

It won’t be easy, so I am urging as many people as possible to get there on Sunday. Lacrosse is the fastest growing NCAA men’s sport in the country, and Penn State’s men’s program is well positioned. With the first phase on the new stadium facility done, a huge show of support for the program can spur it to a win Sunday. But in the long term, the support will encourage the current athletic administration to follow through on the next phases of the stadium project.

After you watch Penn State’s Top-10 men’s lacrosse team win, then head into the Bryce Jordan Center to see Penn State’s Top-10 women’s hoops team in the Pink Zone game against Michigan. Several years ago, head coach Coquese Washington was brought in by Curley to re-ignite the program that Rene Portland had built.

Coquese has done it the Penn State way with aggressive, tough players on the court who also excel in the classroom. This Pink Zone is another step to winning the Big Ten and grabbing the conference tournament’s top seed.

But win or lose (and win it will be), the Pink Zone has become a great winter event, raising big sums of money to battle breast cancer. There is more information on how you can help, here.

Charity and philanthropy are and have always been core values at Penn State. Events such as Coaches vs. Cancer, Lift for Life, The Pink Zone and THON’s whopping $12.374 million total last year show the country the real soul of Penn State.

Despite all the negative press over State Patty’s Day, the events that may or may not occur blur the picture of the real soul of Penn State. The administration in Old Main has tried everything. Rumors abound, from university pay-offs to downtown bars, to state liquor store closures, to patrols going door to door in student apartments and houses.

If all these are true, then we may be looking at a day that could turn ugly if a part Eliot Ness, part Kim Jong-un prohibition enforcement patrol materializes. No one seems to have the answer to stop State Patty’s Day, but all these rumors and alleged plans to shut it down have brought up a question for me.

What ever happened to personal responsibility?

If we take things away and we crack down, what are we teaching this generation? You can be trusted to raise $12 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center, but we can’t trust you to enjoy the following Saturday without shutting everything down.

Penn State students are an amazing group. Whether it is a booming lacrosse program, playing hard for Pink Zone or dancing for THON, they make us proud. Here’s hoping that the administration's steps don’t create a climate of confrontation. A resulting weekend of over-hyped bad publicity must not overshadow the good done last weekend and that will be done this weekend.

Get out and support the lacrosse team, the Pink Zone and continue to see the good in the real soul of Penn State — the students who represent the school on so many fronts in many positive ways.

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State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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