Penn State

New center serves needs of Nittany Lions off the field

Student-athletes at Penn State have a new home.

It might not be where the 800 or so linebackers, power forwards, gymnasts or fencers hang their clothes or go to sleep, but the Morgan Academic Center has long been the place where student-athletes could go as a touchstone to keep the student and athletic sides of their lives joined.

On Wednesday, Executive Director Russell Mushinsky opened the doors to a new home, one large enough to support all of those Nittany Lions.

Actually, it can’t support all of them at exactly the same time. Mushinsky said the new facility, which used to be the Greenberg Ice Pavilion, can accommodate almost half of the student-athletes simultaneously. But that’s a big step up from the prior capacity, which was spread out in spaces from the official center, the Bank of America Career Services Building, to the Lasch Football Building to Rec Hall to the East Area Locker Rooms.

But hundreds of football, basketball, soccer and other players are seldom all in the same place at the same time anyway. The demands of their sports on top of their class schedules is part of the reason the academic center is necessary, as a place to provide the services needed to help the athletes stay on track with their studies.

Mushinsky is glad to see the new space open after a long time of planning and waiting. The project cost $7 million and increased the total academic space from the four locations by 11,000 square feet, now topping 32,000 square feet.

“Our staff is really excited to be in the space,” he said. “Our student-athletes are really excited.”

The university fields athletes in 31 sports. They have won national championships in bowling, boxing, cross-country, fencing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and most recently, wrestling, where they took the title this year.

Athletic Director Sandy Barbour pushes the same goal Penn State has long touted: every player graduates. The numbers show that they come close, with about 88 percent graduating, according to spokesman Jeff Nelson, five points above the national average.

Mushinsky sees the new center as part of even better performance.

“This is an environment for success,” he said.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce