In 2012, the Nittany Lions faced a choice.
The team could stand together, moving forward under a new coach, accepting the program’s punishment after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the heartbreak of the death of former coach Joe Paterno, or they could take the option the NCAA gave them and jump ship, with no restrictions, to play for another school.
Only 15 of them took that chance. The rest stayed, and on Thursday, they were honored as a group for that loyalty.
The university announced that the Farrell Family Charitable Foundation, established by alumnus, donor and football dad Michael Farrell, gave Penn State $1 million to support the Football Excellence Fund in Intercollegiate Athletics.
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In return, the team auditorium in the Lasch Football Building will be named in honor of the 2012 Nittany Lions football team.
Farrell’s son, Mike, played tackle for Penn State and was one of the seniors who stayed in 2012.
“We are very grateful to the Farrell Family Charitable Foundation for this generous gift to our football program and very appreciative of the efforts by Mike on and off the field during his time as a Penn State football student-athlete,” coach James Franklin said in a press release. “The 2012 team was a special, resilient group who will always be remembered for the commitment they made to Penn State and the football program. The support from this gift will provide us with the resources to give our football student-athletes an unrivaled Penn State experience.”
The members of that team call the honor moving.
“It’s a humbling and incredibly generous gesture from Mr. Farrell,” said Michael Mauti, who is now a Minnesota Viking. Two years ago, he was the senior linebacker and captain who stepped up as the heart of the team.
“On behalf of all of us, all the guys who were a part of it, it’s an honor for us to have this sort of legacy,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said center Matt Stankiewitch, another 2012 senior. “It shows you the closeness with the people that season.”
“We are so appreciative of the commitment that the Farrell Family Charitable Foundation has made to Penn State football,” athletic director Sandy Barbour said in a statement. “We value the longstanding relationship with Michael Farrell, and this gift assists us in providing world-class conditions for success for our student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in life.”
The Football Excellence Fund provides discretionary funding to support costs such as facilities improvements, equipment purchases, travel and other needs that arise throughout the season, according to the athletic department.
“This gift honors those who stayed, those who came, and those who came back,” Farrell said. “By that, I mean the 2012 players and coaches who stayed in the face of adversity, those players and coaches who came later in spite of that adversity, and finally, those hundreds and hundreds of lettermen who came back in 2012 to support that team and the program.”