When Pat Kraft took the Athletic Director position for Penn State in April of 2022 there was a ton of excitement from coaches and the alumni base that he would be able to help build back a once dominant athletic department.
That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been success in the last decade as Cael Sanderson has won almost as many National Championships as years possible.
However, the Nittany Lions‘ football team had been stalling and unable to get over that final hurdle to become elite. Basketball has never been a factor on both the conference and or national stage. Additionally, the once nationally dominant Olympic sport programs like Women’s Volleyball, Fencing, Gymnastics etc. had seemed to lose a step.
Penn State’s last non-wrestling national championship dates to 2015 with women’s soccer. Take out Cael Sanderson and Penn State has just 1 national championship in the Sandy Barbour Athletic director era.
This isn’t to say that Sandy Barbour didn’t do some good things for Penn State in her 8-year tenure.
She was able to get the football facility the upgrade it desperately needed as well as started the process of upgrading other athletic facilities on campus. One of her best decisions came at the end of her tenure and that was hiring Micah Shrewsberry as Head coach for the Men’s Basketball team.
Although, to be completely fair there were plenty of criticisms for the handling of the Pat Chambers firing.
That brings us to the trending topic of the last few days as Shrewsberry’s name continues to heat up for top coaching jobs. Can Penn State and Kraft hang onto Shrewsberry when the big schools come calling?
That question was asked in a press conference this past December in which Kraft responded with emphatic “Yes. Absolutely”.
The reporter then continued by asking what if even the biggest schools, in which Kraft stood firm on his original answer. Kraft then continued with how while paying the coach is important, what holds even more weight is giving a program money for better infrastructure and assistants that can help that coach become successful.
Can Penn State Build Basketball Juggernaut Around Micah Shrewsberry?
Kraft is correct in his assessment that there needs to be more into building a program than just paying the head coach.
If you are constantly replacing assistants because they are making lateral moves and the facilities aren’t up to par it will be hard to win for anybody.
Penn State has long tossed basketball to the side and just taken the TV revenue and focused on football. While football is what drives most of the revenue for the entire athletic department, basketball is still one of just 3 sports at Penn State that have had a net profit this past decade.
Many schools in the Big Ten and Nationally make substantially more money off their basketball programs each season.
The potential is certainly there for a massive school such as Penn State to put in more resources and ultimately come out the other end making more revenue for the athletic department.
Growing the basketball program means more revenue for the athletic department as a whole and more opportunities for success in other non-revenue sports. It has been shown that good athletic teams not only attract better athletes to a school, but also increase the interest from the normal prospective student.
For example, just look at what Nick Saban has done for Alabama as an academic institution and financially because of how big the football brand has grown in the past few years. I’m not saying that Penn State basketball needs to reach that point but being competitive in the Big Ten and making the NCAA tournament on a semi regular basis is a place to start.
Giving Micah Shrewsberry an extension and whatever money he needs to pay his assistants and improve facilities is the next step Kraft and Penn State need to take. The basketball team has made great strides in Shrewsberry’s first two seasons with a tournament berth in year two likely.
That would all be for naught if the head coach leaves town for a school such Notre Dame or Georgetown. Penn State can compete financially with any institution in the country. It is whether they have the motivation to do so. Pat Kraft has an opportunity to be the athletic director that turns Penn State Basketball around, and it starts by holding onto Micah Shrewsberry.