What Does Success With Honor Really Mean?


“Success with Honor” is a slogan Penn State throws around as often as Nike tells you to Just Do It. Considering that Stanford and Penn State are the only two Division 1 schools to have never committed a major NCAA violation, it isn’t as though they can’t back up their claim. Being able to win, and win without cheating is sadly something that is becoming all too rare in modern day sports.

But what are the parameters of “Success with Honor?” What defines that statement? At what point are you no longer succeeding with honor?  Any violations? 2 violations? Over the past few days, two names, Ron Everhart and Urban Meyer, have come up in connection to Penn State coaching vacancies and lend themselves to a conversation regarding Penn State’s most used slogan.

For Penn State basketball, the search for a new head coach has brought along with it a pretty mixed bag of names. Some coaches stepping forward are providing fans with hope where other not so inspiring candidates like Everhart have fans worried about the future of the program.

*I should mention that I think Everhart is a bad coach, with or without violations

While coaching at Northeastern, Everhart was found to have commited a major NCAA violation regarding a plane tickets for a player as well as illegal contact with a recruit. Certainly the coach’s run in with the NCAA isn’t the sort of thing that you look for on a resume, but by all accounts the NCAA is full of rules that don’t entirely make sense. It doesn’t excuse transgressions made by coaches, but it isn’t as though a violation is always indicative of the severity of the action. In short, Everhart’s mistakes shouldn’t be viewed on the same level as USC buying player’s cars for their parents despite the fact they are labeled the same by the NCAA.

In the case of Larry Brown, who committed an NCAA violation 20 years ago, some Penn State basketball fans were unprepared to soil the Penn State reputation for a 70 year old man. It didn’t matter how long ago it happened, or what he did, it was a black spot on a resume that could not be removed.

And this is where the issues lies. Penn State fans, in the very near future, will need to decide where in the sand the line is drawn. More importantly, they will need to tailor their expectations if a coach who fits their strict moral code doesn’t have the on field ability.

This isn’t to suggest that Penn State should succumb to the “Everybody does it” principle. There are plenty of coaches in the country, and in the Big Ten with relatively clean records, but if Penn State fans are going to adhere to a zero-violation policy it may be difficult to adequately to satisfy all of their expectations.

In the case of Urban Meyer there has been talk that the newly retired Florida Gator’s coach could be taking over at Ohio State. In the middle of this conversation a few comments from people “in the know” suggested that Meyer might in fact be waiting for the Penn State job. That itself isn’t all that newsworthy, a young guy taking a break is going to get back to coaching, and Penn State will be a major program looking for a major name. Meyer should be on the list if for no other reason than he fits the bill.

For a lot of Penn State fans though, Meyer isn’t good enough for the program. Florida has had 4569 arrests since he came to the university, a lot of which came from off campus incidents and actions that could easily happen at any other university. While Meyer is to blame for some of these problems, the Florida program itself has done nothing but win and has yet to commit a major violation under his stay. There is something to be said for how the Florida program has been perceived over the past few years, but Myer’s name is clean in the NCAA’s eyes.

I myself am honestly not a huge fan of Meyer. I think he is a great coach who know how to win, but I think as an overall person in terms of a leader of Penn State football, I believe the university could find a better man. And that’s the problem. I don’t know what to expect from the next Penn State football coach. Meyer by all accounts is loved by his players, he is passionate about football and his school, he’s a good father, nothing about the man himself is blatantly repulsive. Yet I find him unfit to fill Joe Paterno’s shoes. At the end of the day, no one will be able to do that. This is something the Penn State fanbase will need to accept.

That could be Penn State fan’s biggest problem. Lots and lots of people see a post-Paterno program as a chance to awaken a sleeping giant. That 10-12 win seasons could become the norm if the right hand was put behind the wheel. But who? Names like Al Golden and Pat Fitzgerald have been thrown around a lot, but there isn’t any actual data to support the idea they would suddenly turn Penn State into a powerhouse. That isn’t to suggest they can’t, but these are the only coaches who are deemed fit to serve by many Penn State fans. Bring up a big name coach like Meyer and every single aspect of their life and previous coaching jobs is put under a microscope. It is almost as if Meyer would suddenly take over a program and run it into the dirt on his first day.

In the end, this isn’t an exposition on how great Urban Meyer is, the point is to show the juxtaposition between Penn State fan’s expectation on the field and their desire to find Joe Paterno 2.0. A coach with a perfect background and the ability to take the program to the next level. At the end of the day, that coach might not exist anymore.

Which brings us back to success with honor. Success with honor means approaching your job with an honest attitude in an attempt to mold young men and women into the sorts of people Penn State has turned out year and year again. It doesn’t mean that the only man for a Penn State job is one who has led a sinless life of a Boy Scout. If Penn State fans want to see the football and basketball programs move forward in the future, it might be time to recognize that.