Board of Trustee member Jay Paterno voted Friday against a plan for Penn State to spend $48.3 million on football facilities upgrades, which has drawn the ire of former Nittany Lion star LaVar Arrington.
Sunday on his podcast, Arrington ripped into Joe Paterno’s son and accused the former PSU assistant coach of trying to undermine current coach James Franklin.
Arrington — in a wide-ranging and revealing discussion that starts 48 minutes in — had this to say about Jay Paterno and Franklin during his podcast, “Up on Game.”
“It was a power play by Jay Paterno, and I didn’t like it,” Arrington said.
“Because you know what, right now, we have a coach that saved our program, basically. He saved our program, and we’re basically saying we’re not gonna give him any more resources to be able to try to build the program.”
Then Arrington made what can certainly be described as a personal jab at Jay Paterno.
“But if (Jay) were the head coach — which you tried to be the head coach — if you were the head coach, you would want all of the resources possible for you to be able to have success so that you could build that program and keep your job and try to rebuild the brand and the legacy that was built there by your dad,” Arrington said.
Next came a pretty serious accusation.
“I feel like this was the start of a campaign to create cracks that actually, possibly get James Franklin out of coaching at Penn State. And I didn’t like it,” Arrington said.
“I don’t think (Jay Paterno’s) reasoning was sound, and I had a problem with it,” Arrington added.
There’s no sweeping those comments aside. One of Penn State’s greatest players is accusing the son of the program’s legendary head coach of essentially trying to sabotage the current head coach.
When Joe Paterno was at Penn State, the school built some of the finest college football facilities in the country. Many people who grew up with the program felt that Penn State had it as good as anybody in the country when it came to facilities.
That myth was shattered when Franklin came to Penn State in 2014 and said this:
“To put it in a little bit of perspective for you, when I was at Vanderbilt, we had the last-place facilities in the SEC. It wasn’t even close. And our facilities at Vanderbilt (were) better than what they are at Penn State right now, which is probably a little shocking to people.”
Maybe Franklin was exaggerating to a degree when he said that, trying to gain some leverage in getting the university to spend more money on football upgrades. His plan worked, and the school has poured tens of millions of dollars into upgrades since then.
But you know what? It still isn’t enough. Penn State’s facilities, while good, are not up to par with some of the very best programs in the country. Franklin knows that his job is to compete with all of those schools for recruits, which leads to success, which leads to more money for the football program.
Which leads to more money for the entire university.
So, in a nutshell, the basic premise of you’ve got to spend money to make money is certainly true of the Penn State football program.
How much is too much money when it comes to football spending? The answer to that is pretty simple: Penn State can never spend too much on football, because when you look at return on investment, every dollar spent on the program stands to bring back more in return for the school than anything else those dollars can be spent on.
This is common sense investing.
Penn State has 31 sports, and the athletic department has to pay for all of them, without extra funding from the university’s general fund. I can sit here and say that men’s basketball should get a lot more money than $1 million a year to hire a good head coach, but the bottom line is the return on investment possibilities for that money would be slim compared to spending those dollars on football.
So, does that mean ALL money should be spent on football? No. Of course not. All of the other sports programs deserve to be taken care of.
But football pays the bills. Football is the biggest reason people all around this country know what Penn State is.
No one knows that better than Jay Paterno. He owes pretty much everything he has in his life to Penn State football, thanks to what his father built.
So for Jay to turn around now and vote against giving the football program the money it needs to try and keep up with the Joneses, it’s not only wrong, it’s flat out absurd.
Now, did he do so in some underhanded way to sabotage James Franklin, as LaVar Arrington suggested?
I don’t know about that. Let’s hope not. Because it would be unbelievably stupid to do so.
Sabotaging Franklin would mean sabotaging the football program and by extension the university in general, and it’s hard for me to believe Jay Paterno would be so conniving in that regard.
This was Jay’s reasoning, as told to the Board of Trustees, for voting against the football facilities upgrades, a measure that passed, 27-6:
“Over the past year, our administration and our board have asked our university to make difficult sacrifices. Employees have been furloughed. Academic budgets have been cut. Salaries have been frozen or slashed. Maintenance on buildings has been postponed. The proposed academic building projects have been put on hold. Now we are being asked to allocate $48 million — borrowed money — to make additions to a football building that has already undergone $36 million in renovations that included the desired recruiting updates, a new lobby, locker room, player lounge and academic support center. And by the time the next phase is done, we will have spent $105 million. Some have advocated spending even more.“
Jay then tried to explain his resistance to the extra money being spent for football by bringing up financial hardships brought about by the pandemic.
“We have students sleeping in the HUB at night. We have students who are hungry,” he said. “We battle to make Penn State more affordable. We have a moral obligation to do that. How do we look the people we are asking to make sacrifices in the eye and then borrow and spend this money?”
OK, that all might sound like Jay Paterno is trying to be compassionate during tough times, but he actually comes across as clueless when it comes to finances.
How do you explain spending a ton on football to people?
Hmmmm. Let me see.
Go visit Beaver Stadium on a Saturday and seeing 107,000 people.
Check out the money Penn State receives from TV revenue for football, which tops $50 million annually.
You explain spending the money to people by showing them what Penn State already is from a football standpoint and IMPLORING them to understand that, to stay that way and to keep bringing in all that money, then it takes a substantial commitment during good times, bad times, terrible times.
“We’re talking about money that’s being generated through the football program,” Arrington said on his podcast. “You would not have State College where it is and as developed as it is if you did not have a football program that generated constant growth in that farm town.”
If Penn State stops spending the money necessary on football now, it will pay a heavy price in the future because the program will fall even further behind other programs, thereby making it even tougher to make all that extra money from what has already been invested in football.
Former Penn State star and Board of Trustee member Brandon Short, who played alongside Arrington in the 1990s, made it clear he believes the school should be spending even more on football.
“There’s no other place where we can get a higher return on our investment than investing in our football program,” Short said during Friday’s meeting. “It aligns with our core mission, enlists the entire university. This investment increases student applications, allows us to maintain or increase our academic standards due to demand outpacing supply. It helps recruit talented faculty and staff. It increases giving across the university and it enhances the local economy.”
If Jay Paterno truly believes Penn State shouldn’t be spending all the money it can right now on football, then you truly have to wonder what he is doing on the Board of Trustees. Because that is a completely clueless stance for him to take.
On the other hand, if Jay made his decision because, as Arrington suggested, he’s trying in some nefarious way to undermine Franklin, well, that would be despicable.
Either way, Jay Paterno comes off looking bad here.
Good for LaVar Arrington for calling him out on it.