Newly-introduced Penn State baseball coach Mike Gambino fully understands the amount of effort it will take to PSU back into a contender.
Prior to the departure of 10-year leader Rob Cooper, Penn State finished at an even 25-25 record last season, including 7-16 in the Big Ten. Penn State lost 10 of its final 11 games to close out the 2023 campaign.
But Gambino has the plan for 2024 and beyond laid out in front of himself and his fellow staff. Part of that play isn’t what he is normally accustomed to, due to the new impact of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) in college baseball.
“I am generally a planner,” Gambino said during his introductory news conference. ”I like to think about five-year plans, 10-year plans. With NIL, you’re kind of thinking year-to-year because things can change in six months.”
Part of Gambino’s plan is what Penn State’s efforts will be with NIL. The university saw its two NIL collectives merge to form Happy Valley United.
As Gambino enters his new role, he’s getting accustomed to NIL in Happy Valley, something he didn’t see a lot of, if any, at Boston College.
“What Penn State, the brand, the reach, the network can do, and I’m learning this quickly, is overwhelming,” Gambino said. “I’m excited that we’ve already started having these conversations. It’s going to be part of what we’re doing this summer. And it’s going to be a big part of the future.”
NIL and where he recruits are how Gambino snags prospects for his program. Gambino, Penn State football coach James Franklin, aims to bring in the best recruits in Pennsylvania to hold the top class from the state.
With the transfer portal already open, it could be the first thing that Penn State fans will see from their new head coach.
Equally as important to Gambino is who he brings into the program. For Gambino, he needs players who want to win.
“I want kids that want to put the team first,” he said. LI want you to want to play in the big leagues. But I also want kids that care about and value this degree and care about representing the alumni and the school logo.”
Earlier this week, Gambino brought in his first recruit from the portal.
Adam Cecere, a transfer from Wake Forest, announced Monday he will be joining Penn State. The 6-foot-5 outfielder, who hails from just over an hour away from State College in Adams Township, Pa., has one year of eligibility remaining.
Cecere spent four year as a member of the Wake Forest program, serving as a captain in his final season in 2023, where the Demon Deacons advanced to the College World Series semifinals before falling to eventual national champion LSU.
In 143 total games played at Wake Forest, Cecere made 130 starts while compiling 133 hits, 25 doubles, 32 home runs and 116 RBIs.
It was not stated if an NIL deal is part of what brought Cecere to State College, but Gambino said his plan is to make agreements a part of his recruiting process.
“Initially, NIL is going to have to be a part of what we do this summer,” Gambino said. “We have started to move already in the transfer portal. It’s funny because I think there’s a part of us that look back at what college athletics was 5, 10, 15 years ago and call it the good old days and sort of miss that.”