The Penn State look is being tweaked – slightly – for the first time in years. (US Presswire)
Penn State's stark, unadorned, navy-and-white uniforms have ranked for decades among the most iconic fashions in sports, enduring symbols of simplicity, solidity and continuity in a world obsessed with novelty and change. And like everything else at Penn State, they're going to look a little different this season for the first time in roughly 60 years.
According to a release from the university, the Nittany Lions will take the field next month wearing blue ribbons, a show of support for victims of child abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, and will also add the names of players to the backs of jerseys for the first time as a nod to those who stayed in the wake of heavy-handed NCAA sanctions handed down last month in response to administrators' failure to act on allegations against Sandusky. So far, nine Nittany Lions have left State College under relaxed transfer rules that allow them to play immediately at another school, including the leading returning rusher (Silas Redd, bound for USC) and receiver (Justin Brown, on his way to Oklahoma) and potential starters at tight end (Kevin Haplea, now at Florida State), linebacker (Khairi Fortt, California) and kicker (Anthony Fera, Texas). Per first-year coach Bill O'Brien, the changes were made in coordination with returning players:
Coach O'Brien says after speaking with some members of the team, they made the decision together to add names to the uniforms. Players indicated the names on their jerseys also mean they will hold each other accountable to uphold the traditions of Penn State football, both on and off the field.
"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. Moving forward, I'm deeply committed to honoring Penn State's traditions, while building a bright future for our football program."
For the immediate future, the program faces a $60 million fine, four-year bowl ban and heavy scholarship restrictions over the next four years, among other penalties on the heels of a university-commissioned report that accused late head coach Joe Paterno and other administrators of either ignoring or covering up multiple accusations of sexual abuse against Sandusky, a former player and longtime defensive coordinator under Paterno. (Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of abusing a dozen children over more than a decade, many of those incidents occurring in Penn State facilities.) University president Rodney Erickson accepted the sanctions under threat of a multi-year "death penalty," and the NCAA said last week it would not hear a proposed appeal to the sanctions requested by Paterno's family. A university trustee said Monday that he plans to file a lawsuit seeking to have the sanctions overturned for lack of due process.
In the meantime, the university has carted away a statue of Paterno that stood for more than a decade outside Beaver Stadium and plan to remodel the locker room where Sandusky is alleged to have abused several victims. Other references to Paterno on or around campus are being slowly erasedalong with his teams' signature look. Penn State hasn't altered its austere look in any notable way since removing numbers from the sides of helmets in the mid-seventies.
The Lions opened preseason practice Monday with more than 100 players (including several dozen walk-ons) in preparation for the Sept. 1 opener against Ohio in State College. It is not clear whether the changes in the uniform will remain beyond the upcoming season.