Penn State Q&A: Brandon Short on football spending, the board of trustees, Micah Parsons and more

PSU_Chicago

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This is a good follow up to Barry's post summarizing/evaluating the BOT candidate responses. From The Athletic


Penn State Q&A: Brandon Short on football spending, the board of trustees, Micah Parsons and more

By Audrey Snyder Apr 21, 2021 7
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Signs placed along roads and intersections throughout State College include a familiar face. Images of former Penn State All-American linebacker Brandon Short, then in his No. 43 jersey, pressuring Michigan quarterback Tom Brady are front and center on posters encouraging Penn State alumni to vote.

Short is seeking reelection by alumni to Penn State’s board of trustees, where he’s served since 2018. Last week, more than 275 former Penn State student-athletes, many of whom are football lettermen, endorsed Short.

During non-pandemic times, Short travels from his home in London to State College to participate in board meetings. Penn State’s two-time team captain, who spent seven years in the NFL and later earned an MBA from Columbia Business School, views this as a way to give back to Penn State.

“The reality is that somebody’s got to do it,” Short said. “There are critical issues that are facing Penn State and facing higher academics in general, and beyond being a father and a husband, being on Penn State’s board is the most rewarding thing that I do.”

Short’s platform is centered around affordability, but he hasn’t been shy about his desire to push for more fundraising efforts for athletics, particularly football. Penn State’s board will be tasked with finding the university’s next president, as Eric Barron is set to retire at the end of his contract in 2022, and it will also continue following an athletics facility masterplan that’s been impacted by the pandemic. The highlight of that, of course, will be the eventual renovation of Beaver Stadium. Conversations about name, image and likeness legislation and the NCAA’s transfer changes are all on the horizon too.

The Athletic hopped on Zoom this week for a wide-ranging interview with Short.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When thinking about people on the board and potential members, it seems like a lot of what’s transpiring in athletics is important to you, but it’s also an area where your experience is unlike a lot of other people’s. What do you think are the biggest challenges that Penn State athletics as a whole faces will face in the next year and then what are those challenges as it relates to football?

Well, I mean, it’s COVID. COVID is obviously the biggest challenge, and the relative uncertainty on sort of what effect that’s going to have on athletics and particularly and specifically the football season next year. There’s name, image and likeness. That is a big challenge that not only Penn State, but obviously the entire country, is going to have to deal with. And then there’s the stadium. We’re going to have to address that at some point, and it’s a big expenditure and we need to think about the best way to go about managing that process while keeping the athletic department budgets independent.

So, what’s unique about Penn State is the athletic department budget is completely independent from the broader university. So when we make investments in athletics, it has no effect on tuition, no effect on professor salaries. You’re not making an either/or decision about whether you’re investing in research or student life or other university priorities when we’re making those investments.

At the trustees’ meeting in February, there was a spirited debate about the football facilities and the $48.3 million Lasch renovation plan that got approved. You been outspoken about that and told trustees they should be spending more on football. Why do you think that?

To talk about the Lasch Building, to be clear. The athletic department budget is completely independent of the broader university. So there was no effect on people starving or people being laid off. There was zero effect. The athletic department borrowed the money for the Lasch Building renovations and the project was delayed for over a year due to COVID. If we would have delayed the project any further, we would have had a $4 million penalty. The principal and interest on the loan was $2.4 million. We saved $1.6 million by investing when we did, yet there were still people that opposed it. And for the life of me I cannot understand why.

… I’m an old-school, Joe Paterno guy, you know, clean-shaven, the works. … I love Joe and I will do everything I can to make sure that his memory is honored and he’s honored appropriately. But we cannot make decisions today based upon the way we did things 30 years ago. We need to evolve in our way of thinking. … Financial markets are different. You have the transfer portal, you have social media, so many things are different than things were back when I played. We need to evolve. … If we don’t make investments, we are going to be left behind.

Football success seemingly helps everything around here, right? We saw the impact on the local economy last fall as the season was canceled and then ultimately delayed and businesses tried to stay afloat.

There is a 20 percent variance on hotels and restaurants and bars whenever you have a team that’s unranked or a team that is challenging for a championship in the fall. So these numbers are astronomical. … The local economy is critical, but it’s the impact on the university. Success in athletics increases applications — that’s indisputable. And when you have increased applications, you choose from a larger pool and you can raise your academic standards. Success in athletics increases giving. That’s one of the biggest challenges to the university … To be clear, athletics are secondary. Affordability is my top priority. We are a research institution first, but athletics are the marketing arm of the university.

You have to look at universities as being homes for sale. If you have a home that’s landscaping has been overgrown for a year, nobody’s gonna come up and look at it. You have to view football and athletics as the landscaping. It’s what makes people want to come up to Penn State, open up the door and see everything that Penn State has to offer.

During normal circumstances, many people always talk about affordability when it comes to higher education. But, especially now, what challenges does the university face in that area?

Penn State’s rankings in U.S. News & World Report from 2014 to today have dropped from 37 to 63. Ohio State (52 to 53) and Michigan (28 to 24) have gone up (or stayed relatively close). And one of the biggest reasons why is they’ve made strategic investments in athletics, but more importantly, student life and affordability. Forty-five percent of U.S. News & World Report’s measures of their ranking are based upon issues of affordability. Retention, graduation rate, financial aid, all those things, and the biggest driver to that point is their endowments and their ability to raise money. Michigan has a $12 billion endowment. They are steady cash flows. They’re able to support first- and second-year students financially, with mental health, with mentorships, with all these elements to help them get through that first and second year, which has a massive effect on school rankings. We have to do a better job at fundraising.

One of the things that’s always interested me is trying to figure out why people are more inclined to give or why they don’t. Your background is in finance and you said you want to focus on Penn State’s endowments. How can Penn State get better at fundraising, especially with people dealing with ramifications stemming from the pandemic?

Just to address the elephant in the room at Penn State, we are unique and there are a lot of people that are still not happy about the way the university handled Joe Paterno. And I realize it’s a third rail, but I would be disingenuous if I didn’t address that point head-on by saying that if we address that issue, we probably would be able to raise a little bit more money from our own base.

Now, why people give back, in my view, they want to feel like they have given back to the university that’s done a lot for them. And it’s the emotional attachment, the experiences they’ve had and they want to hopefully make sure other young people get an opportunity to have those experiences and get a top, quality education, and that we’re leaving a legacy of having one of the top engineering programs in the world or Smeal, one of the top business programs in the world. And that’s carried forward. So most of it is emotion. Some is ego. Maybe you want your name on something, you want to have your legacy live on by naming something after yourself. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, that is awesome. You know, one day, hopefully I can have my name on something.

I wanted to go back to something you said earlier about name, image and likeness. As a former athlete here, what do you hope athletes can gain from NIL?

There were times when I was at school where they were selling 43 jerseys and I couldn’t afford to take my girlfriend out for a soda, you know, we couldn’t go to Pennsylvania Pizza or Uncle Chen’s to pick up some Chinese. So, like, I am a proponent for some sort of stipends or some sort of compensation for these kids, especially given that a lot of them come from areas where they may not have financial resources. And like with anything, we’re going to face it. If I’m reelected, I believe we need to be ahead of the curve. I mean, we need to understand what others are doing and plan accordingly so that we are not left at a disadvantage.

You still follow the football team closely, so while l have you here, I gotta ask about Micah Parsons and what it’s been like watching him from afar. Have you built any kind of relationship with him and any of these other current linebackers?

Micah is, first of all, a tremendous kid and a fine young man. Micah reminds me a lot of me. You know, when I came to Penn State, I had a kid before I came to Penn State. I came from a tough neighborhood. And, you know, I went through a development here that sort of changed my life. Micah and Jesse Luketa, I’ve sort of been close to those guys since they came to Penn State, and it’s been a pleasure watching him grow into the young man he is today. He graduated in three and a half years from Penn State with a 3.3 grade point average. That’s outshining anything that I’ve done at Penn State.

Now, in terms of his play, it’s simply phenomenal. I mean, the guy runs faster than Saquon Barkley, just to put that in perspective, and he’s 245 pounds, and he’s arriving to the ball with bad intentions. So he’s going to come and separate you from the ball. … Anyone that passes on Micah Parsons will regret it in the long run. He’s going to be a 10-year starter and an All-Pro for probably every year.
 
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lubrano

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This is a good follow up to Barry's post summarizing/evaluating the BOT candidate responses. From The Athletic


Penn State Q&A: Brandon Short on football spending, the board of trustees, Micah Parsons and more

By Audrey Snyder Apr 21, 2021 7
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Signs placed along roads and intersections throughout State College include a familiar face. Images of former Penn State All-American linebacker Brandon Short, then in his No. 43 jersey, pressuring Michigan quarterback Tom Brady are front and center on posters encouraging Penn State alumni to vote.

Short is seeking reelection by alumni to Penn State’s board of trustees, where he’s served since 2018. Last week, more than 275 former Penn State student-athletes, many of whom are football lettermen, endorsed Short.

During non-pandemic times, Short travels from his home in London to State College to participate in board meetings. Penn State’s two-time team captain, who spent seven years in the NFL and later earned an MBA from Columbia Business School, views this as a way to give back to Penn State.

“The reality is that somebody’s got to do it,” Short said. “There are critical issues that are facing Penn State and facing higher academics in general, and beyond being a father and a husband, being on Penn State’s board is the most rewarding thing that I do.”

Short’s platform is centered around affordability, but he hasn’t been shy about his desire to push for more fundraising efforts for athletics, particularly football. Penn State’s board will be tasked with finding the university’s next president, as Eric Barron is set to retire at the end of his contract in 2022, and it will also continue following an athletics facility masterplan that’s been impacted by the pandemic. The highlight of that, of course, will be the eventual renovation of Beaver Stadium. Conversations about name, image and likeness legislation and the NCAA’s transfer changes are all on the horizon too.

The Athletic hopped on Zoom this week for a wide-ranging interview with Short.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When thinking about people on the board and potential members, it seems like a lot of what’s transpiring in athletics is important to you, but it’s also an area where your experience is unlike a lot of other people’s. What do you think are the biggest challenges that Penn State athletics as a whole faces will face in the next year and then what are those challenges as it relates to football?

Well, I mean, it’s COVID. COVID is obviously the biggest challenge, and the relative uncertainty on sort of what effect that’s going to have on athletics and particularly and specifically the football season next year. There’s name, image and likeness. That is a big challenge that not only Penn State, but obviously the entire country, is going to have to deal with. And then there’s the stadium. We’re going to have to address that at some point, and it’s a big expenditure and we need to think about the best way to go about managing that process while keeping the athletic department budgets independent.

So, what’s unique about Penn State is the athletic department budget is completely independent from the broader university. So when we make investments in athletics, it has no effect on tuition, no effect on professor salaries. You’re not making an either/or decision about whether you’re investing in research or student life or other university priorities when we’re making those investments.

At the trustees’ meeting in February, there was a spirited debate about the football facilities and the $48.3 million Lasch renovation plan that got approved. You been outspoken about that and told trustees they should be spending more on football. Why do you think that?

To talk about the Lasch Building, to be clear. The athletic department budget is completely independent of the broader university. So there was no effect on people starving or people being laid off. There was zero effect. The athletic department borrowed the money for the Lasch Building renovations and the project was delayed for over a year due to COVID. If we would have delayed the project any further, we would have had a $4 million penalty. The principal and interest on the loan was $2.4 million. We saved $1.6 million by investing when we did, yet there were still people that opposed it. And for the life of me I cannot understand why.

… I’m an old-school, Joe Paterno guy, you know, clean-shaven, the works. … I love Joe and I will do everything I can to make sure that his memory is honored and he’s honored appropriately. But we cannot make decisions today based upon the way we did things 30 years ago. We need to evolve in our way of thinking. … Financial markets are different. You have the transfer portal, you have social media, so many things are different than things were back when I played. We need to evolve. … If we don’t make investments, we are going to be left behind.

Football success seemingly helps everything around here, right? We saw the impact on the local economy last fall as the season was canceled and then ultimately delayed and businesses tried to stay afloat.

There is a 20 percent variance on hotels and restaurants and bars whenever you have a team that’s unranked or a team that is challenging for a championship in the fall. So these numbers are astronomical. … The local economy is critical, but it’s the impact on the university. Success in athletics increases applications — that’s indisputable. And when you have increased applications, you choose from a larger pool and you can raise your academic standards. Success in athletics increases giving. That’s one of the biggest challenges to the university … To be clear, athletics are secondary. Affordability is my top priority. We are a research institution first, but athletics are the marketing arm of the university.

You have to look at universities as being homes for sale. If you have a home that’s landscaping has been overgrown for a year, nobody’s gonna come up and look at it. You have to view football and athletics as the landscaping. It’s what makes people want to come up to Penn State, open up the door and see everything that Penn State has to offer.

During normal circumstances, many people always talk about affordability when it comes to higher education. But, especially now, what challenges does the university face in that area?

Penn State’s rankings in U.S. News & World Report from 2014 to today have dropped from 37 to 63. Ohio State (52 to 53) and Michigan (28 to 24) have gone up (or stayed relatively close). And one of the biggest reasons why is they’ve made strategic investments in athletics, but more importantly, student life and affordability. Forty-five percent of U.S. News & World Report’s measures of their ranking are based upon issues of affordability. Retention, graduation rate, financial aid, all those things, and the biggest driver to that point is their endowments and their ability to raise money. Michigan has a $12 billion endowment. They are steady cash flows. They’re able to support first- and second-year students financially, with mental health, with mentorships, with all these elements to help them get through that first and second year, which has a massive effect on school rankings. We have to do a better job at fundraising.

One of the things that’s always interested me is trying to figure out why people are more inclined to give or why they don’t. Your background is in finance and you said you want to focus on Penn State’s endowments. How can Penn State get better at fundraising, especially with people dealing with ramifications stemming from the pandemic?

Just to address the elephant in the room at Penn State, we are unique and there are a lot of people that are still not happy about the way the university handled Joe Paterno. And I realize it’s a third rail, but I would be disingenuous if I didn’t address that point head-on by saying that if we address that issue, we probably would be able to raise a little bit more money from our own base.

Now, why people give back, in my view, they want to feel like they have given back to the university that’s done a lot for them. And it’s the emotional attachment, the experiences they’ve had and they want to hopefully make sure other young people get an opportunity to have those experiences and get a top, quality education, and that we’re leaving a legacy of having one of the top engineering programs in the world or Smeal, one of the top business programs in the world. And that’s carried forward. So most of it is emotion. Some is ego. Maybe you want your name on something, you want to have your legacy live on by naming something after yourself. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, that is awesome. You know, one day, hopefully I can have my name on something.

I wanted to go back to something you said earlier about name, image and likeness. As a former athlete here, what do you hope athletes can gain from NIL?

There were times when I was at school where they were selling 43 jerseys and I couldn’t afford to take my girlfriend out for a soda, you know, we couldn’t go to Pennsylvania Pizza or Uncle Chen’s to pick up some Chinese. So, like, I am a proponent for some sort of stipends or some sort of compensation for these kids, especially given that a lot of them come from areas where they may not have financial resources. And like with anything, we’re going to face it. If I’m reelected, I believe we need to be ahead of the curve. I mean, we need to understand what others are doing and plan accordingly so that we are not left at a disadvantage.

You still follow the football team closely, so while l have you here, I gotta ask about Micah Parsons and what it’s been like watching him from afar. Have you built any kind of relationship with him and any of these other current linebackers?

Micah is, first of all, a tremendous kid and a fine young man. Micah reminds me a lot of me. You know, when I came to Penn State, I had a kid before I came to Penn State. I came from a tough neighborhood. And, you know, I went through a development here that sort of changed my life. Micah and Jesse Luketa, I’ve sort of been close to those guys since they came to Penn State, and it’s been a pleasure watching him grow into the young man he is today. He graduated in three and a half years from Penn State with a 3.3 grade point average. That’s outshining anything that I’ve done at Penn State.

Now, in terms of his play, it’s simply phenomenal. I mean, the guy runs faster than Saquon Barkley, just to put that in perspective, and he’s 245 pounds, and he’s arriving to the ball with bad intentions. So he’s going to come and separate you from the ball. … Anyone that passes on Micah Parsons will regret it in the long run. He’s going to be a 10-year starter and an All-Pro for probably every year.
Brandon is entirely WRONG when he states that PSU Athletics budget is completely independent of the rest of the University.

The fact is, the University, not PSU Athletics, borrowed the $48 million via a taxable bond offering in early 2020. The University, not PSU Athletics, is obligated to repay those funds. Should Athletics fail to make payments to the University, the University remains on the hook for repayment.

Sure doesn’t seem independent to me. In fact. this suggests PSU Athletics budget is intertwined with PSU.

I always remember a statement a former boss I had when I was in Public Accounting once made to me.

“Money is fungible. You can put it under any shell you choose so long as you make the proper accounting entry.”
 

HartfordLlion

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Personally we need to put a pause on any major future expenditure in athletics with a new president coming in and Sandy leaving in 2023. The last thing we need is saddling people who are not even on campus with major capital expenditures they might not agree with.
 
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Art

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Brandon is entirely WRONG when he states that PSU Athletics budget is completely independent of the rest of the University.

The fact is, the University, not PSU Athletics, borrowed the $48 million via a taxable bond offering in early 2020. The University, not PSU Athletics, is obligated to repay those funds. Should Athletics fail to make payments to the University, the University remains on the hook for repayment.

Sure doesn’t seem independent to me. In fact. this suggests PSU Athletics budget is intertwined with PSU.

I always remember a statement a former boss I had when I was in Public Accounting once made to me.

“Money is fungible. You can put it under any shell you choose so long as you make the proper accounting entry.”

If I may. You are correct. The Athletic Department can't borrow directly because it's not a legal entity (not that anyone would lend to it without a University guarantee even if it were). Presumably the University on-lends the funds it borrows from the market to the Athletic Department and tags on a nice little margin. But at the end of the day, as you point out, if the Athletic Department can't pay the money back, the university is on the hook.

The rest of the interview makes me wonder whether Short is capable of critical thinking.
 

91Joe95

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Short made a few interesting observations. For one, undergraduate schooling is no longer the primary focus, and two, the bot and administration know they could raise more money by doing the right thing with regards to Joepa, but chooses not to. I'm not sure why he brought up hotel and local economic info. That's not PSU's mission.
 

Obliviax

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voting for these people is like voting for Minnie mouse in a wet t-shirt contest. It may make you feel like you participated but is pretty much a fart in a wind storm.
 

Nitt1300

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voting for these people is like voting for Minnie mouse in a wet t-shirt contest. It may make you feel like you participated but is pretty much a fart in a wind storm.
I have to say reading this thread really makes me want to get my ballot and vote- or not.
 
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BobE

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Wait a minute! Did he say PSU should RAISE academic standards?
 

MacNit07

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If I may. You are correct. The Athletic Department can't borrow directly because it's not a legal entity (not that anyone would lend to it without a University guarantee even if it were). Presumably the University on-lends the funds it borrows from the market to the Athletic Department and tags on a nice little margin. But at the end of the day, as you point out, if the Athletic Department can't pay the money back, the university is on the hook.

The rest of the interview makes me wonder whether Short is capable of critical thinking.
Interested in your critique of the balance of Short’s interview...
 

Andy84

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“ Success in athletics increases applications — that’s indisputable. And when you have increased applications, you choose from a larger pool and you can raise your academic standards.”

This assumes the increased applications come from better students, i.e. the better high school students are basing their college choice, in part, on the success of a college‘s football team.
 
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BobPSU92

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Reading Brandon’s comments, maybe mark emmert was right all along.

quote-simply-put-success-in-lsu-football-is-essential-for-the-success-of-louisiana-state-university-mark-emmert-64-8-0810.jpg
 

Art

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“ Success in athletics increases applications — that’s indisputable. And when you have increased applications, you choose from a larger pool and you can raise your academic standards.”

This assumes the increased applications come from better students, i.e. the better high school students are basing their college choice, in part, on the success of a college‘s football team.

A story which I've told before. When my oldest was applying to college (my, how time flies) we attended a local presentation made by Northwestern. In his presentation, the dean of admissions observed that as a result of recently winning the Big Ten football title the school experienced a record number of applications. During the meet-and-greet I had the opportunity to ask him "has the quality of applicant also improved?" He smiled and responded, "if you're asking that question you already know the answer."
 
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PSUSignore

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I think I'm seeing a Tweet or Facebook post from Brandon daily over the past few weeks. I find that amusing considering I don't remember seeing anything from him for 4 years until it was election season, and now he's spamming every PSU site I read.
 
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manofsteel200

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I think I'm seeing a Tweet or Facebook post from Brandon daily over the past few weeks. I find that amusing considering I don't remember seeing anything from him for 4 years until it was election season, and now he's spamming every PSU site I read.
This is my issue with him. One of many, actually....he disappeared for 4 years. Now he is all over the place. No respect
 

Andy84

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May 4, 2013
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At the risk of asking a stupid question...Why don’t any BoT members publicly state any possible wrongdoings or misconceptions stated by a BoT member? I understand that some communications/actions may need to be kept private, but I see this as a clear example of what I mean. Why can’t Anthony or Jay explain to public why some things Brandon states are wrong? Do they sign some form that prevents them from talking about “club businesses”? If so, I certainly do not see how that applies here, especially if Brandon can mention these specifics in an interview.

And what happens if they do speak? Lose their real job (don’t think so!)? I for one would have greater respect for a BoT member who came forward and spoke publicly the truth.
 

Art

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Here's an example.

His rationalization of the timing of the decision to approve the Lasch renovation project indicates that someone at PSU a) borrowed to fund the project; and b) signed construction contracts as much as a year before the project was authorized. And no one's hide is being pinned to the wall for that? Beyond that, his numbers don't quite seem to add up. Without being privy to the underlying details, it's difficult to conclude that he's wrong, but at the very least he's remarkably inarticulate.
 
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