Penn State separates its football program from all other college football teams through one thing: tradition. Tradition has defined our football culture for years, and whenever someone threatens the status quo, the fans push back.
First, we pride ourselves on our simple blue-and-white uniforms, regardless of how much money Nike waves in our faces, or if a former sex columnist thinks they lack pizzazz. Second, Joe Paterno–and now Bill O’Brien–maintained this crazy idea that academics should come before athletics, that success means nothing without honor. Third, when pop music overpowered the Blue Band this season, the fans fought back and succeeded. If fans are passionate about the traditions of Nittany Lions football, then they must not change the name of their stadium. Beaver Stadium should not include Paterno Field.
Not only would changing “Beaver Stadium” put our tradition at risk, it also would lessen the legacy of the man for whom it is named. As our commonwealth’s twentieth governor, James A. Beaver secured the necessary state funds to improve the existing football field at what was then Pennsylvania State College. Beaver also served as the president of the Board of Trustees from 1874-1882 and 1897-1914, and during his second tenure, he spent two years as the university’s Acting President.
However, his most significant contributions to his state and country came during the Civil War. He was one of the first officers to support Abraham Lincoln’s call to suppress the rebellion. He fought in several major battles, and ultimately lost his right leg after taking a rifle shot. President Lincoln rewarded Beaver for his valor by bestowing upon him the rank of brigadier-general. Beaver’s legacy should stand alone; he should not have to share it, even with the winningest coach in Division I football.
I do not believe that changing the name to “Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium” would be wise, but I do not want to come off as finding ways to diminish the Paterno legacy. In fact, I think that renaming the stadium misapplies where Coach Paterno would want us to remember him. He set himself apart from other coaches through his support of academic endeavors, such as the Paterno Fellows Program, endowments to the library, and having the highest graduation rate in the FBS. If we remember Joe Paterno’s on-the-field contributions before those he made off the field, then we forget what made him so great and different. This is why of all the places on campus, the Library, not the football field, has the honor to bear his name.
Read the other side of this Onward Debate right here.