I try not to get emotional. You will see over time that I am an emotional person. You will notice it on the sidelines of our competitions. But it’s really a humbling moment for me to be sitting here right now. It’s a dream come true. And it’s hard to leave me speechless, but I feel it right now.
I have to thank President Bendapudi. President (Matthew) Schuyler, the Board of Directors, the Search Committee, everyone involved in this process. [It] reaffirmed why I wanted to be here, why this was the right place for my family. Everyone has been amazing. The people have been amazing. The community has been amazing in a very short time. And I’m so proud to have the opportunity to work with you, Neeli, and help this institution keep moving forward. The first time I met Neely, I just came home and said (to my wife), “Oh God, Betsy, let’s hope we get to that time.” He really is an amazing person, so thank you.
I want to thank the folks at Boston College. It’s a wonderful community and it’s a great place. It’s not about Boston College. It was about Penn State. … Listen, I’m passionate. I was able to meet the staff and the coaches earlier today. I love my staff, but I love my BC staff and I love those 700 athletes who have worked hard for us, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, albeit in a very short time. . You know, every time you think you have a plan, God laughs at you and says, “No, that’s the plan. So I want to thank them.
I saw Sandy (Barbour) here. … In our world — we have a small world of sporting directors “Sandy is the best of the best. And I’m honored to take over and continue what Sandy has done here. … Sandy, thank you, and I’ll build on your legacy.
I want to thank my family… My family means everything to me. Everything I do here, everything I’ve done in the past, is about my family. I’m not going to take shortcuts because I’m not putting them at risk. No one takes food from my children’s table. So we’re going to do it the right way here. My siblings are in Chicago with my nephews and nieces, and I want to tell them that I love them with all my heart. You’ll have to get used to my mother. She is here. She will be here often. And, mom, you know I love you. She’s the greatest cheerleader. I think if the pope (job) was open, she thinks I would be the pope.
And then the three most important people in this room. My (children) Annie and Joseph, who I’m sure will laugh at me for becoming emotional. I love you guys, and they’re excited. Coach Franklin took them to the football field, so it was a big day for them. And then of course, my wife. I’m not here without you. Simply put, I am not. And the last two days have been absolutely crazy, but thank you – I got lost in the hotel this morning, if that puts what today was in perspective – and I love you. …
Athletic departments are a small part of a large institution, and I think it’s important that we start there. The athletics department here is part of a Penn State institution that stands for academic excellence. It is an institution that is a leader in higher education, it is one of the top 25 research institutions. It is an institution steeped in traditions, core academic values, respect and integrity. The institution is known as the largest alumni base in the country. I would say the most passionate alumni base in the country. The “We Are” community is powerful. The State College community is powerful. Penn State has it all. We in athletics are a part of that. I want everyone to understand this, because it is necessary for this institution to help you achieve all the aspects and all the objectives that you have.
I like what I do. To like. Collegiate sports allow each of us to transform the lives of young women and young men. They come to college at 18 and now with COVID rules some leave at 25, it seems. But during this time, we are transforming their lives, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. And having been a former college student-athlete and as a sports administrator, my passion is for the student-athlete. Their experience is essential. It will all start and end with the student-athlete and their experience here at Penn State. I met (Ally Schlegel, female soccer player and Student-Athlete Advisory Council Chair), and she’s amazing. She is an incredible representation for this institution. … The best part of those jobs, and coaches would echo that, is when you’re with the athletes. I promise them that when I see them, they’ll have the greatest student-athlete experience in the country, period. I promise you.
We will focus on the totality of mind, body and spirit. If we do it well, we will win. We’re going to focus on mental health, which is a huge issue in the world today, but really with students, period, not just athletes. We will focus on and continue school support, nutrition, recovery and empowering them to make their voices heard. No one should ever mute someone. They have a voice, use it, strike up a conversation, are open and honest with each other. We will do everything we can to help students today and every time they leave our arms and leave this wonderful place at State College and move on.
We will continue to excel in the classroom. I have three degrees. Mom probably never thought I’d get three degrees. But it’s real, you can only play for a limited time and you have to have that degree. You come to Penn State for this piece of paper. It is important, this diploma, the network, the alumni, we will not waver on academic success. We will impact the State College community and society as a whole.
We are 31 strong (sports program). Listen to me again – we are 31 strong. And we are committed to winning national championships, conference championships. We will continue the tradition of winning. We will be successful with honor and win. The tradition is Penn State. We are Penn State. And don’t worry now, I’ve talked to the coaches, we’re going to win. I am here to win, and we will win. We will add to the 80 national championships and 303 conference championships, do it with integrity.
We will do it with hard work, tenacity, tenacity. And we’re going to do it with passion and we’re going to have a good time. We will have fun. We will continue to win. I need to talk to (snatch coach Cael Sanderson) and see how he’s done it so consistently well. It’s the GOAT. But you will have this promise. This department will attack every day with effort, energy and a good attitude. You can control these three elements: effort, energy and attitude.
I just can’t express to you the excitement I have. I was able to meet the staff and I was able to meet the coaches. They are special people, and you have a chance when you have great people. We have a great shot. And there are amazing people at State College. My children, Betsy and I are thrilled to be truly involved in State College, in this community. It means a lot to us….
I want to tell you a quick story. … We (Indiana) came to play (Penn State), and that was probably my last year. My mom and dad were driving in traffic before game day, and my mom was telling me this story for the past few days. I had never heard that. My dad leaned over to my mom and said, “Get ready. We are about to enter the mecca of college sports. And my father died eight years ago, but he’s right. He was right. He looks down, prepares for the Whiteout. He is right.
It is the top of the mountain. So I’m ready and now it’s time to get to work. And so everyone on campus, I look forward to meeting you all. Aluns, I look forward to meeting you all. Thank you all for coming. I really appreciate that and hope I can meet as many of you as possible in a short time.