Other Penn State teams rally around embattled football squad

Russ Rose, women's volleyball coach, admires way football team has bonded.
Russ Rose, women's volleyball coach, admires way football team has bonded. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: October 18, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Russ Rose's women's volleyball team huddled around a television in the locker room before it would win a nail-biter at Illinois, cheering on the football team as it rallied to win at Northwestern on Oct. 6.

When the game had concluded, Rose was compelled to say something to his team about the football players who stuck with the program despite having permission to transfer after the NCAA handed down sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

"You can't control the outcome, but you should have a good impact on your effort, your concentration and your focus, your commitment to the team," Rose said. "Those, to me, are the things that players should be responsible for, and I thought that those things were crying out as I watched the end of the Northwestern game."

Across the street from Beaver Stadium, the men's and women's basketball teams go about their business in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Lady Lions head basketball coach Coquese Washington has a chant that begins every practice.

"One team, one heartbeat," sophomore forward/center Tori Waldner said.

With the football team, the most notable breadwinner for Penn State athletics, sanctioned in an unprecedented fashion by the NCAA this summer, there won't be any bowl game or Big Ten championship this winter.

But the other Penn State sports teams, most of which don't get much attention in the national spotlight, have done their part.

Generally, other teams think that winning games isn't made any more important by the sanctions against the football team. What they view as more important is supporting the football team.

"It doesn't change anything within our program, but I think the whole athletic community is definitely closer," said Talia East, a forward on the women's basketball team who played at Friends' Central.

Men's basketball coach Pat Chambers has become good friends with football coach Bill O'Brien since his hiring in January. After the sanctions came down, he made a promise.

"I said we're going to be there to support you and whatever we can do to help you," Chambers said. "It's about time that basketball steps up and helps the football program. And as far as going out and doing whatever he needs me to do, whether it's speaking with reporters or going on national television, we're going to do that on behalf of the football program and the university."

Football garners the most attention at Penn State, but it isn't the most successful as of late. Rose, now in his 34th year as a head coach, has led the women's volleyball team to five national championships, including four straight from 2007-2010. The wrestling team is has won back-to-back national championships. The women's soccer team has won 14 straight Big Ten titles, and the women's basketball team is fresh off a Big Ten crown and Sweet 16 appearance.

With the additions of Division I men's and women's hockey, Penn State now has 31 varsity teams.

"I'll tell ya, I think all the teams deserve a little bit more attention," Chambers said.

The Twitter hashtag "#oneteam" is on the Beaver Stadium sideline and has been widely used by Penn State players and fans alike this season when referring to Penn State athletics.

O'Brien went on a coaches caravan trip in the summer with other Penn State coaches and stopped at locations all over the East Coast. As he said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the support from other coaches is duly noted.

"I can't say enough about the other Penn State coaches," O'Brien said before listing off names of several who have supported him. " . . . We all support each other. It's a pretty neat thing to see."

When it comes to their own responsibilities, other teams have gone about their business.

"Everybody's impacted by what occurred here," Rose said. "And the sanctions have a more direct impact on the football program, but I think everybody is doing what they've done previously, and that's coaching our teams and having confidence in the quality of the student-athletes that we have."

There is no doubt O'Brien has been welcomed into the Penn State community by his peers.

"I think it was a huge, critical hire for Penn State," Chambers said. "To follow a legend, coach [Joe Paterno]. It's not easy to come into the situation he's come into, and I keep saying he's our fearless leader."

Contact Tim Gilbert at gilbert@phillynews.com.

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