By the time Kraft got to Penn State, Sanderson had won nine national championships in 11 years, and the wrestling program made that 10 in 12 in Kraft’s first year as AD.
Kraft came to Penn State just as name, image and likeness was starting to become paramount in college sports, and some of Penn State’s coaches have been open about what their programs need to get to the next level.
Football coach James Franklin has been open for a long time about the program needing the university on board in order for it to reach the ultimate goal of winning national championship. More recently, Franklin’s called on Penn State’s massive alumni base to help in the NIL effort.
In basketball, former coach Micah Shrewsberry expressed how behind he felt Penn State’s NIL endeavor was last December. When Shrewsberry left for Notre Dame on March, many Penn State fans blamed a lack of NIL progress for the school not being able to keep him around.
But the wrestling program doesn’t have the same problems that football, basketball and pretty much every other program does.
Penn State’s storied football program hasn’t won a national title since 1986, and whether Franklin is the guy to get them there has been a big question since he took over in 2014 and even more so since Penn State won the Big Ten and narrowly missed the College Football Playoff two years later.
For new basketball coach Mike Rhoades, well, the challenge is to make the program consistently relevant, something it hasn’t been in a long, long, time.
So football and basketball each have their own sets of goals and obstacles, and Penn State will need to be solid in NIL and other areas to make that happen.
But what can the school do for Sanderson and the wrestling program, who dominated before NIL, during NIL and have shown no signs of slowing down?
Kraft, who considers Sanderson a friend, said the coach “doesn’t ask for anything” before giving out the ultimate compliment.
“He’s the greatest of all time, I think, of any sport,” Kraft told reporters Tuesday night ahead of Big Ten Media Days, “and being embedded with him for two years, the two championships, Big Ten and NCAA’s. Incredible, the program, you all know better than I, but he doesn’t ask for anything.
Without getting specific, Kraft said that Sanderson “was not as supported as some might think,” at Penn State.
Considering that Penn State wrestling wins with the ease of throwing back a glass of water, it’s scary to think of what Sanderson would do with the necessary support.
Although Penn State is a force and Sanderson is unquestionably one of the most successful figures in any sport, Kraft knows Penn State needs to do more than just bank on Sanderson’s greatness.
”I think what you can’t do is take it for granted,” he said. “And if you think you can just sit there and rest on Cael Sanderson, that’s absolutely the wrong answer.
So how many more national titles can Penn State win?
A lot, Kraft says.
“We want to win 20,” he said. “We want to win 30 national championships. We don’t want to stop.