Penn State is Alive and Well Due to Loyal Alumni


Excerpts from Bloomberg News, with some editorial changes and corrections by Myke Triebold.

Penn State’s football team, and its revenue-generating ability hasn’t slipped at all.

Fans have bought 68,000 season tickets, about the same as last year; the 60 luxury suites at Beaver Stadium are sold out, and donations tied to ticket purchases are projected to reach a record $17.5 million this season, according to the school.

Following the “Freeh” investigation that accuses (with no factual evidence) university officials of looking the other way after learning of Sandusky’s child molestation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned Penn State from the football postseason and reduced its annual scholarship allotment by 20 for each of the next four years; fined the athletic department $60 million over five years, and wiped out 112 football victories between 1998 and 2011.

Alumni Passion

“We have an extremely passionate alumni group–there is a pride in the traditions of Penn State of Success with Honor that the grassroots have worked hard to maintain,” states Myke Triebold, a Penn State Alumni and resident of State College for over 20 years.  That effort was recently demonstrated by the online competition sponsored by ESPN for “most school spirit” which Penn State won.  Alumni remain proud and committed, and not responsible for the crimes of one man, who was not an employee of the University when the crimes were committed.

Penn State’s response so far received high marks along with a warning from Barry Scanlon, president of Witt Associates, a Washington-based crisis management consulting firm.

Scanlon, whose company advised BP on restoring communities hit by the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill and Virginia Tech after the campus shooting deaths there in April 2007, said Penn State has changed some leadership and shown humility. Those policies must be maintained, he said.

“You can survive a losing season,” Scanlon said in a telephone interview. “You can’t survive a lost reputation.”

Football Revenue

The Nittany Lions generated $116.1 million in revenue in fiscal 2011 and turned a profit of $14.8 million, according to the school’s NCAA revenue and expenses report. Football accounted for $58.9 million in revenue and $43.8 million in profit, which helped support the school’s money-losing sports. The athletic program will borrow as much as $12 million annually each of the next five years to cover the NCAA fine, and the school will expect football to help pay the debt service.

Dave Joyner, athletic director, said contracts as long as 10 years will keep many sponsors in the fold, giving the school time to repair its reputation. The athletic department earned $55.2 million from royalties, licensing, advertisements and sponsorships in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, according to school documents. Sandusky was charged in November.

Beyond Signs

PNC Financial Services Group Inc., (PNC) based in Pittsburgh, has a year left on an agreement that includes signs and tickets to sports events, and banking services on campus.

“Our relationship extends beyond signage,” said Fred Solomon, PNC’s vice president of external communications. “It includes helping Penn State students bank and develop financial management skills. The incident does not eliminate those needs.”

State Farm Insurance Co., the U.S’s largest automobile insurer, dropped its sponsorship of the football team in July to show support for the victims, spokeswoman Arlene Lester said at the time. The company, which declined to say how much the deal cost, maintained support of men’s basketball at the school and college football overall.

Penn State is 3-2 this season after beating Illinois on Sept. 29 at Illinois.  Michael Mauti and the rest of the team executed revenge on a school that was licking its chops for football players after the NCAA sanctions were announced.

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