New Penn State Athletic Director Patrick Kraft at an introductory press conference on Friday, April 29, 2022. Photo by Mike Poorman

One of the first things Patrick Kraft did after he was officially hired as Penn State’s new athletic director on Friday morning was to meet with Penn State’s head coaches.

Smart man. That group of 24 is Kraft’s direct pipeline to more than 800 Penn State students who play 31 varsity sports.

Shortly after meeting with the head coaches, Kraft – who starts full-time on July 1 – met with the media. Early in his opening statement, he publicly laid down the gauntlet.

“We are 31 strong,” Kraft enthused. “Hear me again: We are 31 strong. And we are committed to winning national championships, conference championships. We will continue the tradition of winning.”

Of those two dozen head coaches, five have won a national championship at Penn State: Cael Sanderson (wrestling), Randy Jepson (men’s gymnastics), Erica Dambach (women’s soccer), Mark Pavlik (men’s volleyball) and Wes Glon (fencing). Sanderson, who came to Penn State in 2009, has won a remarkable nine national titles, including one six weeks ago, while Jepson has won three. The others have won one each.

And 10 of the current Penn State head coaches have won at least one Big Ten Conference title, be it a regular season and/or a conference tournament.

Many of those head coaches are accustomed to change. In total, they have been hired by four different predecessors to Kraft: four by the late Jim Tarman, seven by Tim Curley, four by Dave Joyner and eight by Sandy Barbour, who has been Penn State’s athletic director since August 2014 and who will retire on June 30, 2022.

For four Penn State head coaches, Kraft will be their fifth AD at University Park. Char Morett-Curtiss was hired as the PSU women’s field hockey coach in July 1987, coming directly from a stint at Boston College, just as Kraft is now. At the time she was hired, Kraft was 10 years old. A three-time first-team All-American in field hockey at Penn State and two-time U.S. Olympian, Morett-Curtiss is the dean of the coaching staff.

On the other end of the spectrum is women’s volleyball head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley, a two-time All-American and national champion as a Penn State athlete herself. She was hired by Barbour on Jan. 10, 2022 to replace Russ Rose, the coaching legend who guided Penn State to seven national titles.

Early into his opening statement to the media on Friday, after being introduced by incoming president Neeli Bendapudi, Kraft acknowledged that he knows who The Man is on Penn State’s campus these days.

“We’re going to continue to win,” Kraft promised. “I need to talk with Cael and see how he’s done it so well so consistently. That’s the GOAT.”

Kraft mentioned three other head coaches by name — football coach James Franklin; men’s ice hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, who was on the search committee that hired Kraft; and men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry, whose team finished 14-17 in his first season at Penn State.

Kraft on Franklin (and Sanderson): “Football game days help recruiting for all other sports. I think it starts with [football] and then everything else kind of falls in there. And Cael has shown it — that it leads to success elsewhere. Penn State is Penn State football and it’s a big part of it… James and I have known each …….


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