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Onward Debate: Penn State Removes Names From Jerseys

If you didn’t hear — or just live under a rock — Penn State football has decided to revisit an iconic look, taking names off of its football jerseys. The team will sport one of the most traditional jerseys in all of sports, paying tribute to the legends that walked the field before them. However, the decision to remove names will not be universally accepted, as fans everywhere are sure to be split on the the matter.

We here at Onward State have taken it upon ourselves to put this decision up for debate, with myself, along with fellow writer Jacob Abrams, each taking sides and pleading our respective case. However, we’ve included a poll at the bottom, because we want to see how the fans themselves feel about the decision to remove names from jerseys.

Against — Jacob Abrams

While I like the idea of sticking to tradition and having the culture being built around someone like Joe Paterno, I don’t necessarily agree with this move. Since Penn State football’s conception, names have been nonexistent from the program. From the coaches of George W. Hoskins, to Rip Engle, to Joe Paterno, the nameless uniforms have been a staple of the tradition associated with Penn State Football. However, sometimes you have to break from tradition. We saw it with Bill O’Brien, and it was done for a reason.

When Bill O’Brien came to Happy Valley in 2012, the football program was in dire need of change. On the brink of the death penalty, the name Penn State had been tarnished in the eyes of many by the acts of one man. Scholarships were taken away, wins were removed, and hope was vanquished. O’Brien needed to make a drastic change to reinvent the culture of Penn State Football. He did that by simply adding a name.

By adding those names, it symbolized the rebirth of a football team that was up to the neck in controversy. It energized fans with the hope of a bright future. He was basically run out of town for the sole reason of changing the culture. From there on, the names on the back were a tribute to those players who stayed along after the sanctions hit Happy Valley. The last of those players have since graduated and have moved on from the program, but does that mean that we can’t still honor the players who choose Penn State?

For many people who aren’t associated with Penn State, they still see it as the school that Jerry Sandusky was apart of. Many of those people still see the scandal that corrupted the university instead of seeing the bright future that Penn State has. If there’s one thing that former ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann got right — and there’s not many things, it would be that the results of Sandusky scandal and the after effects will be around in the minds of people and those affected around the world for a long time.

So those names on the back of Penn State Football jerseys should remain there to honor the players that choose this university. Each player that commits to Penn State knows about the tainted past that Penn State endured, but they still want to be apart of it. The names should be for the ones who play, not for the ones who watch. The wins were restored, sanctions were lifted, and the reputation of Penn State football is on the rise.

The legacies have also been restored, so now it’s time to start a new chapter. Sometimes it’s good to move on; if we don’t move on, then we live in the past of those before us and run into the harsh truths that come with it. Tradition doesn’t have to define a university, so why would we let tradition control it?

For — David Abruzzese

“Black Shoes. Basic Blues. No Name. All Game.” An iconic staple that stood true for over 125 years. It epitomizes a certain notion that Joe Paterno once proudly instilled into his players, that it’s not the individual name on the back of a jersey that matters, rather the idea that the team is one cohesive unit, all playing for something far greater than themselves.

Though the implementation of names on jerseys by Bill O’Brien in 2012 ushered in a new era and a fresh start for a program that was rattled to its core by crushing sanctions levied by the NCAA, the iconic image of Penn State’s original look is both a reminder of past success enjoyed by this proud program, and the legendary players that once donned these classic uniforms. Players like John Cappelletti — a Heisman Trophy winner in 1973 — LaVar Arrington, Ki-Jana Carter, and Michael Robinson are just a few examples of legendary players that served as symbols of what it meant to play for Penn State. These men played the game with honor, and understood what it meant to represent Penn State on the gridiron.

And while Bill O’Brien’s initiative helped revitalize the program, injecting it with new life, it all just goes back to the idea of tradition. When you think of Penn State football, and all the legends that came before our generation, you picture them with a number on the front, and a number on the back. No names. No glam. Just men playing the game as it should be played. There is no uniform in all of sports that captures the essence of tradition quite like Penn State’s iconic navy and white, and while O’Brien helped guide the program from the dark abyss of the sanction years, James Franklin’s new initiative to return the glory of the old uniforms signals a new change: That Penn State is rising to prominence once again, and will do based off the same ideas and principles once taught by Joe Paterno.

The hiring of James Franklin ushered in a new era at Penn State, and this move solidifies that. But simply because a new era has dawned doesn’t mean the program can’t revisit a proud tradition.

So when you watch Penn State take the field for the first time this year, it will be paying tribute to an iconic staple, and all players that wore the jersey before this year’s team. After all, sometimes simple is better. While the Oregons of the college football landscape take the field sporting a littany of colors and designs, Penn State will do so with one idea in mind: “Black Shoes. Basic Blues. No Name. All game.”

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About the Author


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