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Stuff Somers Says: Patrick Kraft’s Hire Means Everything to Penn State’s Future

Penn State's Next Athletic Director, Dr. Patrick Kraft, Speaks with Reporters at His Introductory Press Conference Friday, April 29, 2022 (photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics)

I don’t know if the hiring of Patrick Kraft was a good hire for Penn State. I don’t know if the hiring of Patrick Kraft was a bad hire for Penn State.

If you’re coming to this column looking for whether or not I like the Patrick Kraft athletic director hire, you’re not going to find it.

You’re probably not going to find that for another five years, at minimum.

There’s a lot that Kraft, the former Boston College athletic director, has to accomplish. From new TV deals to upgraded stadiums to NIL issues, there’s a long list. But the focus to drive it all needs to be in one spot.

Penn State’s athletic department is going to ride off of the success of the football program and it’s time for the university to realize that.

It appears Kraft himself gets that. It appears that new Penn State President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi gets that.

And to be quite honest, it’s about damn time someone who gets a paycheck from the university said that.

Whether you or I like it or not, Penn State is always going to be a football school.

Do I think Micah Shrewsberry is the right basketball coach to make a struggling program consistently relevant for the first time in nearly 15 years? Yes.

Do I think Penn State needs to do something with Beaver Stadium, whether it’s tearing it down or sprucing it up? Definitely. Does Jeffrey Field need to be fixed first? Absolutely.

Does it bother me that Penn State women’s basketball hasn’t been quite up to the standards of my youth? Yes.

Should Penn State’s men’s hockey program be closer to competing for a national title? Yes, and I’m glad he brought that up but we will save that rant for another day.

So what’s going to fix all of that? What’s going to drive support and more importantly money for all of that? What fuels the arms race that is now college athletics? If you’ve answered “success from the football program” to any or all of these questions, you, too, can probably write this column.

For years, it seems that Penn State’s approach has been a rounded one for its athletic department. That approach is “fine.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want every dollar from the athletic department to go straight into Penn State football. Penn State’s other 30 programs need attention and some of them more than others.

But if coach James Franklin really wants Penn State’s football program to take the next step as he’s talked about heavily during this AD search, and if those 30 other programs want more support as it is clear some need, it’s all going to come from two things: The realization that football drives the entire business and a successful football program will carry you to the promised land. That’s a mentality that’s been missing. It also seems to be one that’s been found.

No one has to sacrifice anything in this situation, either. Knock a couple of immediate needs out of the way first.  Penn State’s soccer programs are too good to be playing in a dump like Jeffrey Field. (Although, that grass is nice.) There’s a myriad of needs and things that need to be addressed with both men’s and women’s basketball programs. But at the same time, Penn State needs to develop a better system for major gift donations. There’s a lot of Penn Staters with a lot of money that isn’t being tapped in to.

There’s also a desperate need to focus on the necessary what-have-felt-like “evils” for some who don’t want to move on from the past. I’m talking about dorms designed for student-athletes or a football-specific indoor practice facility for the love of God. Someone that will do what it takes to get those things taken care of first. Because without them, Penn State football is going to be stuck in that past— which believe it or not, is one that a lot of people are tired of living in.

Here’s what it boils down to. Did Kraft give Franklin the tools he needs to get the job done? Did Kraft generate new forms of revenue and gift-giving to cover those costs? Did he ultimately put Penn State’s football program in a position to win which allows all of the other programs a chance to reap the benefits?

I encourage you to come back in a few years and read that column because that’s how I will judge the hiring of Patrick Kraft.

Darian Somers is a 2016 Penn State graduate currently living in Frederick, Maryland. You can follow him on Twitter at @StuffSomersSays.

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