New leaders for Nittany Lions

June 9th, 2015 2:42 pm

First Posted: 8/13/2014

Christian Hackenberg managed to pick up another Penn State record before the season even started.

The Nittany Lions announced they had selected seven captains for 2014 on Wednesday, with Hackenberg becoming the first sophomore in the program’s 128 years to earn the title.

Hackenberg and six seniors were picked in a vote by players and coaches. Guard Miles Dieffenbach joins Hackenberg as a captain on offense; linebacker Mike Hull and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan represent the defense; and kicker Sam Ficken joins safeties Ryan Keiser and Jesse Della Valle as co-captains for special teams.

Keiser is the Lions’ holder on field goals and Della Valle was the team’s primary punt returner in 2013.

“The players and the coaches voted on the team captains and these players have clearly earned the respect of their teammates and coaches,” Lions coach James Franklin said in a release. “We are trying to promote and develop leadership throughout the entire program and I’m really excited about the role our captains will have throughout the season.”

As for Hackenberg, he is the second youngest captain in school history, surpassed only by freshman John Chuckran, who was selected in 1944, when many college-age men were fighting in World War II.

“It means the world to me,” Hackenberg said. “We’ve worked really hard together this offseason. I just try to be the best teammate I could be for each and every one of these guys.

“I’m going to continue to try and do that with this honor. It comes with a lot of responsibility, and I think us as a core group will do a great job.”

Penn State last had a non-senior as a full-season captain in 2005 when linebacker Paul Posluszny was picked as a junior.

A handful of non-seniors served as single-game captains over the past two years under former coach Bill O’Brien. In the aftermath of the NCAA sanctions, O’Brien opted to recognize as many players as possible before announcing season captains before the final game in 2012 and 2013.

A board divided

Penn State’s board of trustees continues to squabble as alumni-elected members battle the rest of the group over the consent decree that put the sanctions in place.

The board voted 19-8 on Wednesday to both honor the consent decree and support a lawsuit from two state officials that seeks to keep money from the $60 million fine in Pennsylvania rather than have it be distributed nationally.

All eight of the dissenting votes came from the group of nine alumni-elected trustees. Former Lions cornerback Adam Taliaferro abstained.

The alumni-elected members had sought to pass their own resolution, one that revoked all sanctions and disavowed the Freeh report, which the NCAA cited as the foundation for the penalties. That proposal was never put up for vote.

Penn State’s hope is that continued compliance with the consent decree will result in a favorable report in the near future from former Sen. George Mitchell, the independent monitor installed to measure the school’s progress in enforcing change in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Last September, Mitchell recommended the NCAA restore scholarships to Penn State. The NCAA ultimately agreed, and it was made official at the end of that month.

Mitchell said at the time that further relief could be given in the future, possibly even lifting the program’s postseason ban in time for the 2014 season.

A sizable gift

Penn State announced a $1 million donation to the football program from the family of alumnus Paul Stecko on Wednesday.

The money will go toward a discretionary fund used to pay for facility improvements, equipment, travel and other team expenses. The locker room at the team’s Lasch Building headquarters will now be named for the Stecko Family.

Franklin, in his first few months on the job, let it be known that he wanted to put money into upgrading team facilities such as the locker room and Holuba Hall, the indoor practice complex.

“Yeah, those things are important and probably even more important now than ever before, because we’ve had some financial challenges, obviously,” Franklin said earlier this month at the team’s media day.

“I’m a guy that studies best practice, not just in football, but in a lot of businesses and a lot of industries. … We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can with technology and with nutrition, with all these things to provide the best learning experience we can.”