Monday, February 7, 2011

A Flood of News

Tony Barton was even busier than me this past weekend. While I was waiting for people in Turkey to upload videos to YouTube at 2:00 a.m., he was doing something slightly more important - spending an entire period chatting with Joe Battista during alumni weekend (not easy to do with someone tugging on his sleeve every three seconds, I'm sure) and getting together a collection of stinky fresh news about the NCAA program.

Let's break down some of the essential info.
The Pegula Ice Arena is now projected to open in the fall of 2013 rather than in the spring of 2014, said Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena Operations and the Director of the Ice Arena and Hockey Campaign Joe Battista.
This one isn't really shocking, as it seemed like it had been moving in that direction for a little bit. The bomb comes next.
With that news, Battista said Penn State is now projected to begin Division I conference play in 2013-14, a full season earlier. It has yet to be decided whether a Big Ten conference will be created, or if Penn State will join one of the existing Western Collegiate Hockey Association or Central Collegiate Hockey Association conferences.
Ummm...the completion of the arena wasn't the only reason it was a good idea to wait two years before joining a conference. Not trying to play some of the best programs in college hockey four times each with half of an allotment of scholarship players was another decent one. Building positive program momentum by playing a transitional-type schedule is a third, albeit one that's related to the second.

Also, I really wish the Big Ten would just come out with it. The conference isn't exactly known for its speed, either on a football field (joke people, relax) or in a boardroom, but let's get on with it already. I sincerely feel for journalists who are obligated to put the "nothing's been decided" line in while (I'm sure) rolling their eyes.

The coaching application process will be open this week, as well. PSU has done due diligence on a dozen appealing candidates. Academics and (lack of) baggage will be primary considerations. No surprise there.
[Battista] also said Penn State has decided to hire the coaches internally, electing to not hire a search firm. [He] had said earlier the search firms wanted more money than Penn State was willing to give for its services.

“We are not going to get into a bidding war,” Battista said. “Having been through five recent coaching searches for other sports here, and because of some of the people we have partnered with, we think we have a pretty good grip on what we're looking for in both our men's and women's coaches.”
That's fair. I was critical of this decision on Twitter when it trickled out, but following a couple weeks of reflection, it's not a big issue. Not as big as this, anyway:
For some interested candidates, Battista said they may be disappointed in terms of the price tag the school will be willing to pay.

“A lot of these coaches don't understand, while we are going to be very competitive, we're not going to go out and break the market to get someone,” Battista said. “We're just not simply going to pay outrageous sums of money for coaches.”
I guess Gwoz is out.

It's tough for me to really comment without really knowing what Battista means by "very competitive" and "not break the market." If "very competitive" means "somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000, plus bonuses," then I'm okay with it, since that's "competitive" with what top programs pay. I've said it at least 27 times on here: the coaching hire is vital. Get the right guy, and we can be pretty good pretty quickly. Get the wrong guy and it can set you back an entire decade or more. Sure, you can fire a bad coach, but not before you're already branded as a losing program by fans, recruits and the potential next coach (which ups his price tag). We'll get an allowance as a new program, but that doesn't last forever.

I did like this quote though:
“It isn't always the best coach, it's the best fit,” Battista said.
School-ey, School-ey.

Oh, and that's not all - more news is apparently on the horizon too:
Battista said a meeting held Saturday between himself, Penn State donors Terry and Kim Pegula, Penn State President Graham Spanier, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and others could produce more even more news.

“The meeting between everyone was to talk about arena bowl configuration, number of seats and number of suites,” Battista said. “Those official numbers could be released as soon as Monday.”
Can't wait. Every day something comes out is like Christmas morning from back when I was young enough to get decent presents.

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