Thu Oct 14 02:25pm EDT
As pointed out today by the Harrisburg Patriot-News' David Jones, the perception that nothing ever changes at Penn State isn't true: The plain white helmets used to have numbers on the side until the mid-seventies.
But yeah, everything else is pretty much the same. Joe Paterno's been there 60 years (not an exaggeration; he joined the staff as an assistant in 1950), the last 45 as head coach. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley's been on board since 1979, after an All-American playing career at PSU; assistants Larry Johnson, Bill Kenney, Jay Paterno, John Thomas and Ron Vanderlinden all have at least 10 years. And the eternally austere blue-and-white uniforms (helmet numbers notwithstanding) have come stand for the hardscrabble stoicism every aging generation likes to claim America has lost, a substance-over-style motif that lets its actions do the talking in a superficial culture increasingly succumbing to tacky flash, etc.
Nike did try to sell Paterno and PSU on a new look recently. I'm sure [Nike CEO Phil] Knight waved some cash at the athletic department as incentive, as they did to other schools to get them to wear their Pro Combat uniforms last year. But what they pitched to PSU looked like what they sold to Brigham Young a few years ago except with some sort of contrived star burst pattern around the neck and shoulders. Nuh-uh.
Actually, Jones relays that story (along with a name-dropping anecdote about envisioning the gaudiest Penn State unis imaginable over drinks with Knight and the elder Paterno a few years back) to argue for "a little tweaking" to the "butt-ugly" style the Lions have worn for time immemorial, which ought to be good for a few letters to the editor and maybe a couple dozen eggs on his front door. But lo, the day looms when the old-school Lions will be forced to adopt the way of the Duck like everyone else. It won't be anytime soon, certainly not while JoePa is still around to keep the program rooted in the Cold War glory years. But it's coming.
When it does, everyone over 30 will hate it, recruits will love it, and the oldsters will decide they value wooing shallow superstars more than they value austerity. There are still a few years left in the "substance" camp, for now. But clearly its eventual demise is already on the drawing board.