Penn State to include player's name on jersey

Posted: August 09, 2012

Penn State football broke from the past, at least a little, and announced Tuesday that its iconic uniforms will include the player's name on the back of the jersey starting with the 2012 season opener.

However, with the aftereffects of NCAA sanctions against the university continuing to hang over the program like a toxic cloud, the past continued to dominate. A group of former Nittany Lions said Tuesday that it was filing an appeal to the sanctions despite the NCAA's insistence that the penalties are not subject to appeal.

Former quarterback and current NFL running back Michael Robinson was among the faction of six players and former assistant coach Bill Kenney who submitted a "notice of appeal" to the sanctions, specifically the period between 1998 and 2011, when the NCAA vacated the Nittany Lions' 112 victories, all but one recorded by the late Joe Paterno.

This was the third time a party expressed a desire to appeal the NCAA sanctions brought about by the way the university handled reports of child sexual abuse by former coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 counts.

In all cases, those filing the appeals said the investigation of the university's conduct during the scandal, which led to the Freeh report, lacked due process and should not have been a basis for the sanctions handed down by the NCAA on July 23.

As for the 2012 football program, now led by Bill O'Brien, it has decided that names shall be placed on the back of jerseys "in recognition of [the players'] resolve and dedication to the team and the university," according to a statement.

Penn State also announced a blue ribbon, signifying support for the victims of child abuse, would be featured on each uniform. The new look will make its debut Sept. 1, when the Nittany Lions open their season against Ohio at Beaver Stadium.

Throughout the 46-year head coaching career of Paterno, Penn State uniforms have been known nationally for their simple design and lack of adornments, including names on the backs. During his 18-stop caravan in April and May, O'Brien said he would not change the uniforms.

However, the conclusions from the Freeh report and the resulting sanctions that included a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions, and a $60 million fine, produced a different mind-set. O'Brien said he met with some players, and the decision was made to make changes.

According to the statement released by Penn State, O'Brien said the players decided that adding the names meant that each player would hold others accountable in representing the football program.

"We want our fans to know and recognize these young men," O'Brien said. "They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown."

Former quarterback Daryll Clark expressed his view of the new look on Twitter, saying, "Interesting to see these names on the jersey now. This is a different look . . . a REAL different look."

However, one of the Penn State traditions, winning, was addressed in the letter involved by the group involving Robinson.

The letter said the vacating of the 112 wins was "unreasonable, excessive [and] unprecedented" because none of the more than 350 students who competed on the football team between 1998 and 2011 were implicated in the Sandusky case.

They said that losing the wins "constitutes an indignity to the men who honorably fulfilled their responsibilities as student-athletes and coaches at Penn State" during this time under Paterno.

On Friday, Paterno's family sent a notice of appeal seeking to clear the late coach's name, saying the NCAA acted in a "fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner." Then, on Monday, Ryan J. McCombie, one of the newest members of Penn State's board of trustees, said he wanted to challenge the sanctions, which his attorneys called "excessive and unreasonable."

The NCAA has continually said the sanctions are not subject to appeal.

One other development tied to the sanctions was the decommitment Tuesday of linebacker Zach Bradshaw of Damascus, Md. The loss of Bradshaw, which followed Sunday's change of heart by Roman Catholic High wide receiver William Fuller, marked the fourth member of the Penn State freshman class of 2013 to go elsewhere.

The Nittany Lions have 10 commitments for the 2013 class, including linebacker Brandon Bell from Oakcrest High. Bell reaffirmed his commitment Tuesday after talking with O'Brien.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq


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