Penn State will abandon its plain look of solid blue and white football jerseys with no names by adding players’ names on the back and a ribbon on the front to represent the abused children of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that almost took down the storied program.
The team’s generic look has long been a trademark – and was considered cool by traditionalists. It was a look that modeled the rigid style of former coach Joe Paterno, who was fired last year after his Sandusky was arrested last year.
School officials said adding the names was a way to recognize the “resolve and dedication” of the players, as the team faces a four-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships under the severe penalties handed down by the NCAA last month over the school’s handling of the Sandusky scandal.
The changes will take effect with the Sept. 1 season opener at home against Ohio University.
“We want our fans to know and recognize these young men,” said coach Bill O’Brien, who was hired after last season. “They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown.”
Fran Fisher, a longtime Penn State radio announcer, said the jersey changes may ruffle some feathers among former players, and the vanilla uniforms will continue to be associated with Paterno.
“I think Coach O’Brien has a right to do whatever he wants to do to have an identity for his team,” Fisher said. “I think that the plainness of the Paterno era will be remembered because he considered it to be a team sport.”
Sandusky, 68, awaits sentencing on 45 criminal counts, probably next month, and is likely to spend the rest of his life in state prison.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January, and a university-commissioned investigation of the Sandusky scandal concluded he and other top Penn State officials concealed allegations against Sandusky going back to 1998.
The NCAA also stripped the school and Paterno of more than 100 wins, dropping him from atop the list of the winningest coaches in major college football history.
While the Penn State football program tries to move forward, another appeal of NCAA sanctions emerged on Tuesday.
On Monday it was revealed that a number of members of Penn State’s board of trustees appealed the sanctions, which include a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and the vacating of wins from 1998 to 2011.
The latest appeal comes from former players Michael Robinson, Anwar Phillips, Josh Gaines, Shamar Finney, Richard Gardner, Gerald Cadogan, Anthony Adams, Justin Kurpeikis, and coach William Kenney. Attorney Paul Kelly said in a statement Tuesday that the group represents players and coaches associated with the program from 1998 to 2001.