I knew this comment would come. I was expecting it from my neighbor, or perhaps a needling family member. The stranger at the checkout caught me off guard. My answer caught him off guard. I told him it wasn’t good enough. There’s more to be done. I want the wins restored, the fine money reimbursed, the statue returned... and I’d like an apology.
“That’s a tall order. I guess its always good to dream big!”
I’ve been reviewing the conversation in my mind all day. I know he was making small talk and if I went on any longer he probably would have stopped listening, but I can’t help but feel I missed an opportunity. Here is what I wish I could say to the gentleman working at the Costco counter and to the rest of the non-Penn State, well-meaning, media educated world:
Yes, I am happy the bowl ban was lifted. It is one step towards righting all of the wrongs the NCAA and others have done to my university. I’m happy for Coach Franklin and our players, who are collateral damage in this whole mess. However, it’s simply not good enough.
I resent the implication that our integrity has improved and we are making progress towards some arbitrary, fabricated goals. Of all the college sports programs in this country, we are among the last to need monitoring. Our student athletes have continued to demonstrate the highest caliber of academics and graduation rates. Our football culture has always upheld the highest ideals. How quickly the successful “Grand Experiment” is forgotten.
Oh yes there are ways in which we have improved over the last several years. Our alumni banded together and voted in trustee elections. And we’ve replaced all nine alumni trustees with people who are willing to fight for the whole truth. Our student athletes showed the nation how to act with class in the shadow of corporate and media bullying. Our newly elected trustees stood up for our ideals and our reputation and for the truth. Our family and friends wore their Penn State gear with pride.
If you want to monitor goals and measure improvement, begin with our ability to rise above adversity. Rewatch Mauti and Zordich announce to the world that not only will we stick together, not only will we fight our way to the end of this, we will seize this challenge as the greatest opportunity given to a Penn Stater. Listen to our current players say that they didn’t come here for a bowl game. They came for a world class education and a chance to play in front of the greatest fans in college sports. Walk with our students as they stand in front of Old Main and demand the rest of what is ours.
Do you know why outsiders think we are a cult? Because we are not just playing football. We are indoctrinated with loyalty, resiliency, integrity, and knowledge. We are not just attending classes. We are learning life lessons that far outlast our days on campus.
The NCAA and the Big Ten have acted as nothing short of bullies. They took things that weren’t theirs to take and now they’ve only given back some of it. I wish their moms were here to say, “Markie... Jimmy... give it all back now.”
Thanks for the bowl game. We’ll take it. But you have reignited a fire that has been smoldering.
It is a tall order and we dare to dream big. It’s the not the dreaming that gets us there. It’s each one of us. All 700,000 of us standing together saying, "Not good enough."