The Nittany Lions' famously plain duds will include player names for the first time in school history this coming season. The uniforms will also include a blue ribbon, which is meant as a show of support for victims of child abuse.
Last November, the Penn State program was rocked by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The program has been hit with one haymaker after another since, including receiving severe NCAA sanctions -- stemming from the school's handling of the scandal -- late last month.
New coach Bill O'Brien thought it was time to acknowledge his players, who had nothing to do with the scandal. The NCAA sanctions cleared the way for the players to transfer to other FBS schools without any penalty, yet as of this writing only eight scholarship athletes had left.
We want our fans to know and recognize these young men, O'Brien said in a statement. They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown. Moving forward, I'm deeply committed to honoring Penn State's traditions, while building a bright future for our football program.
The statement said the decision to add the names to the back of the jerseys was made after conversations between O'Brien and team leaders. The idea for the blue ribbons came out of those discussions, as well.
I'm proud that our players want to be part of the university's efforts to help victims of child abuse, O'Brien said. We hope our fans join us in wearing blue ribbons to all Penn State home games. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children everywhere.
Fan reaction to the names going on the jerseys has been mixed so far. In an online poll at the FightOnState.com premium forum, 40 percent of the respondents say they like the change, while 30 percent say they do not like it. Another 30 percent say the names should remain on the jerseys for the four years the NCAA sanctions are in place.
Penn State sports historian Lou Prato is not bothered by the new look.
Penn State football has changed forever, he said. Bill O'Brien has to do what he has to do, because no college football team has ever faced what his has faced.
The plain uniforms were a hallmark of former coach Joe Paterno's program, and he once said he was more concerned with the name on the front of the jerseys than any names on the back. Close program observers have noted that in Paterno's 61 years as an assistant and head coach at the school, the team name was actually never on the front of the jerseys.