We got twelve delicious hours of carefree glory this weekend. I feel like that is more than we’ve had in five years combined! I enjoyed every waking moment of it. Giant smiles. High-fiving my husband every time we were in the same room. Congratulatory cheers from even the non Penn State people among us. And, the moment you realize you had forgotten for a second that we are Big Ten Champions and the victory washes over you all over again.
On Sunday, though, reality returned. We got a bit of a snub. You can tell me that OSU had a “tougher schedule” or whatever, but we beat them on the field. You can tell me that OSU was ranked higher or whatever, but they did not win their division and they did not win their conference championship. You can tell me you actually think OSU is a better team or whatever, but we played them and we won and we should have the chance to move up. College football schedules can never really be balanced from team to team, but everybody gets the same chance to win their conference, and we were the ones who accomplished it. We are Big Ten Champions.
What if the roles were reversed? Penn State was number 2, and Ohio State as number 7 just won the Big Ten Championship. Do you really think that the Big Ten Champion, champion of the toughest conference in the league, would be left out of the playoff? What is the point of a play off system if it doesn’t make any difference? If you go to your conference championships and win and are still excluded from the play off? We’re the only conference champion that’s excluded. There is no justification for leaving Penn State out other than ESPN, the NCAA, the Big Ten, and probably our own board of trustees did not want us there.
It's okay to admit it. We can celebrate our team as Big Ten Champions and point out that we were passed over. Humans are complicated like that: multiple emotions at once. Just like we can celebrate on the football field and simultaneously declare that our board of trustees, university president and AD are all terrible. We can love our Lions and “boo” Jim Delany, lest he thinks we will ever forget what he and his crony, Mark Emmert, did to us. My middle school students, when angry with a peer, would often say, “Don’t put my name in your mouth.” I kinda feel that way about Delany. I’m glad he can’t seem to utter “Penn State” no matter how hard his mouth tries to form the words; I don’t want our name in his mouth. But, I digress.
Success with Honor is still ringing in my ears. I can’t imagine being an Ohio State player, going to the playoffs knowing you didn't get there on the field. You got there in a boardroom, by people who decided you could make them the most money. Listen, I’m not trying to knock their players or take away from their accomplishments this season, which they certainly earned. It’s not about whether or not Ohio State deserves to be there; it’s about Penn State, who clearly does, but is not invited.
Success with Honor is what I know. It’s every player interviewed responding with pure class and gratitude for the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl. It’s Coach Franklin explaining their success with, “We believe in each other. We believe in our mission.” It’s this team who preserves through every obstacle they encounter.
After we won the Big Ten Championship game (I won’t stop saying it!), a commentator asked Saquon Barkley, “What message did you send to the college football world tonight?” And he said, “Why not us? Why not Penn State?” I wanted to reach through the screen and hug him. Yes, why not us?
We’ll go to the Rose Bowl and we will positively rock it, just like we have the last nine straight games. I would have loved to see this team put to the ultimate test, because I believe they could have done that, too. If anybody could, it’s this team. I’m sorry they won’t get the opportunity to try.
Yet, following the first-class example of our coaches and players, I, too, am so grateful for the opportunity to watch this scrappy team play together once more.
Today is for celebrating. WE ARE Big Ten Champs!! What a storybook season! I’m so proud of this gritty, gorgeous, never-give-up team!