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The last time the Penn State Nittany Lions won the national championship…

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Joe Paterno had plenty of national championship-worthy teams during his lengthy coaching career, but he only saw his team crowned national champion twice. In 1982, the Nittany Lions went 11-1 and defeated Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs to finally give Paterno his long-awaited national championship. Three years later, the Nittany Lions came up short in the Orange Bowl against Barry Switzer and his Oklahoma Sooners. But Penn State would be back to play for a national championship the following season, and they would do so as a pretty big underdog in a clash of college football cultures.

In 1986, Penn State moved their the regular season without a blip. John Shaffer will never go down as one of Penn State’s top quarterbacks, but he got the job done with a running game fueled by D.J. Dozier. Penn State’s defense was one of the best in school history, with Shane Conlan anchoring things at linebacker. No team scored more than 19 points on Penn State in 1986, including No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 25, 1986. The upset by the visiting No. 6 Nittany Lions threw Penn State into the national title picture for the final month of the season.

A 24-19 victory at Notre Dame followed by a 34-14 home victory against Pitt to close out the regular season assured Penn State would be no worse than No. 2 going into the bowl season, and thus a national championship game was in the cards.

Penn State would play the decided underdog in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 1 Miami, coached by Jimmy Johnson, quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and starring players like Michael Irvin and Jerome Brown. The game would help make the Fiesta Bowl one of the top bowl games it is today, as the unique opportunity to pit No. 1 vs. No. 2 threw the Fiesta Bowl out of its typical pre-Rose Bowl lead-in spot into primetime on its own day, and it pulled in a massive rating for NBC. The classic “Good vs. Evil” storyline was on full display as the teams got off the planes in Arizona, Penn State in their typical travel attire and Miami coming off the plane in battle fatigues. Miami would later walk out of a joint team dinner with Jerome Brown infamously asking “Did the Japanese sit down and have dinner at Pearl Harbor before they bombed them?”

Miami was a heavy favorite, as they had been dominant all season long, but Penn State’s defense would keep the Hurricanes in check. The game reached halftime knotted at 7-7. Miami’s only score came following a fumble recovery at the Penn State 23-yard line. Miami heavily out-gained Penn State, but the Nittany Lion defense buckled down when it had to. Miami ended the game with a 445-162 advantage in offensive yards, and Miami racked up 22 first downs to Penn State’s eight. But the feisty and determined Penn State defense forced a stunning seven turnovers against the nation’s top team, including five interceptions of Testaverde. The final interception, by linebacker Pete Giftopoulos, helped clinch a national title for Penn State, the second and final one for Paterno.

It’s been a while since the Nittany Lions were the No. 1 team. LEt’s look back at what else was happening in 1986 when Penn State won it all.

Last National Championship: 1986 (33 years and counting)

Who was President?

Ronald Reagan was in the White House in 1987, when the Fiesta Bowl for the 1986 season was played, so the Nittany Lions made a trip to the White House. Reagan was in the Oval Office each time Penn State won the national championship.

The current president, Donald Trump, was paying $70 million to buy out the interest in a casino property following poor financial results. He also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

What was on TV?

America was loving the sitcoms of the day. The Cosby Show continued to pull in the top ratings, followed by Family Ties and Cheers as NBC was leading the way with Must See TV at the time. The Golden Girls was also a hit on NBC, as well as Night CourtMurder, She Wrote was leading the way for CBS and ABC was not doing too bad with Growing PainsMoonlighting and Who’s the Boss? It’s safe to say, the theme shows from all of these shows probably still give you some warm fuzzy feelings.

1986 marked the debut for some notable television shows, such as MatlockPerfect StrangersL.A. Law, and ALF. One of the top game shows on Nickelodeon made its debut with the premiere of Double Dare. And one of the most iconic daytime talk shows hit the air for the first time with Oprah Winfrey launching The Oprah Winfrey Show.

There were some notable shows that also went off the air in 1986 as well. David Hasselhoff and KITT rode off into the sunset with the final episode of Knight RiderThe Love Boat also dropped anchor on its run on television after a decade of programming. And The Merv Griffin Show, which debuted in 1972, wrapped up as well. The set of the show would later show up in an episode of Seinfeld.

What movies were hot?

Do you have the need? The need for speed? Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer starred in the top-grossing movie of 1986 with the release of “Top Gun,” and you will never escape the visuals and the music for as long as you live.

Maybe Penn State fans will hope the stars align once again with a brand new “Top Gun” movie coming in 2020. The box office in 1986 was also fueled by some sequels, including “The Karate Kid Part II,” “Aliens,” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” A cult classic was also born in 1986 with the release of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

A couple of other cult classics of sorts included “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Three Amigos,” each featuring Steve Martin. Oen of the best sports movies of all time was also released with Gene Hackman starring in “Hoosiers.”

On the other side of the spectrum, and in a world long before movies involving Marvel characters were a sure box office hit, “Howard the Duck” also hit theaters to dismal reviews and results.

What else happened in 1986?

College football’s conference championships in 1986 were awarded to Arizona State (Pac-10), LSU (SEC), Michigan and Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big Eight), Clemson (ACC), Texas A&M (Southwest Conference), San Diego State (WAC), San Jose State (PAcific Coast Athletic Association) and Miami Ohio (MAC). Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth was named the Dick Butkus Award winner, while Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy.

The most iconic moment of the year in sports in 1986 happened in the World Series, when a baseball off the bat of Mookie Wilson got by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing the New York Mets to steal Game 6 of the World Series. The Mets, of course, kept the Red Sox World Series drought ongoing by capturing the second (and most recent) world championship in franchise history.

A season after the Chicago Bears did the Super Bowl shuffle earlier in 1986, it was Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants that were on their way to a Super Bowl championship during the 1986 season. The Giants would capture their Super Bowl title in the Rose Bowl, back when the NFL would play their championship game in a college football venue.

Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics took down the Houston Rockets in six games in the NBA Finals. Louisville won the NCAA MEn’s Basketball Tournament over Duke.

Mike Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight boxing champion at 20 years and four months with a knock out of Trevor Berbick. On the flip side of the age spectrum, Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner (46) and won his last major golf championship at The Master’s.

What about that 1994 team?

A few years after winning the national championship, the landscape of football started to change with expansion. Penn State would make the move to join the Big Ten in 1993, with some believing the Nittany Lions would become a regular Big Ten champion. After taking a couple losses in conference play in 1993, Penn State put together one of the best offenses college football had seen in 1994 and ran the table to go 11-0 and win the Big Ten title. The championship earned Penn State a trip to the Rose Bowl, where Paterno would become the first coach to win each of the four major bowl games (Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl). Penn State was locked into the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion and was forced to face Pac-10 champion and No. 12 Oregon, while top-ranked Big 8 champion Nebraska was free to play their bowl game against No. 3 Miami in the Orange Bowl. Penn State would play their Rose Bowl a day after Nebraska defeated Miami, when the argument for the national championship was all but decided by the media after the Huskers pulled away from the Hurricanes.

Years later the debate still wages on for some; would Penn State have beaten Nebraska in a national championship game in 1994? They most certainly would have scored some points on Nebraska, but the Huskers offense would have been able to pile up some yards and point son Penn State’s defense as well. It remains a fun debate to this day.

Penn State has had a few years where a national championship season was off to a good start, but tough losses in nail-biting fashion and blowout fashion in conference play have derailed those hopes over the years. A bizarre home loss to Minnesota. A last-second loss at Michigan and at Iowa. Being unable to hold leads against Michigan State or Ohio State. Penn State’s more recent seasons under James Franklin have had some promise for a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, and the Nittany Lions could be a program that makes regular appearance son the playoff radar in the years to come.

Big Ten pulls plug on fall football amid COVID-19 concerns

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The Big Ten won’t play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19, becoming the first of college sports’ power conferences to yield to the pandemic.

The move announced Tuesday comes six day after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State had released a revised conference-only schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

But it was not a surprise. Speculation has run rampant for several days that the Big Ten was moving toward this decision. On Monday, coaches throughout the conference tried to push back the tide, publicly pleading for more time and threatening to look elsewhere for games this fall.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

The Big Ten touts itself as the oldest college athletic conference in the country, dating back to 1896 when it was called the Western Conference, and its schools have been playing football ever since. It became the Big Ten in 1918 and grew into a football powerhouse.

The 14 Big Ten schools span from Maryland and Rutgers on the East Coast to Iowa and Nebraska out west. Not only has it been one of the most successful conferences on the field but off the field it has become one of the wealthiest.

The Big Ten, with its lucrative television network, distributes about $50 million per year to its members.

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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President Donald Trump joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPla. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.

Old Dominion has stopped trying. The Virginia school canceled football and other fall sports less than a week after Conference USA set out a plan to play a football season.

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” ODU President Broderick said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a different stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”

“Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

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In many ways, the Mid-American Conference has little in common with Power Five leagues that first come to mind when fans think of major college football.

There are no 75,000-seat stadiums in the MAC. Million-dollar per year coaches are rare. In a typical season, NFL scouts might find one or two potential first-round draft picks playing at the 12 MAC schools that dot the Midwest. The MAC’s biggest games — #MACtion, if you will — are often played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Its television deal with ESPN pays per year only a few million more than the $9 million Clemson pays coach Dabo Swinney.

Still, the MAC is one of 10 conferences that competes in the NCAA’s highest level of football, and Saturday it became the first of those to surrender to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel the fall sports season.

So is the MAC an anomaly, done in by its small budgets or is this a dire sign of things to come in college football?

“I won’t try to judge what other folks are doing,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I know we’re all in the same place. They all have their advisers. They’re going to make judgments based on the information they are receiving.”

Not long after the MAC announced it would explore second-semester seasons for all fall sports, including soccer and volleyball, the Big Ten made its own announcement that seemed ominous given the timing.

Tapping the brakes on football’s preseason, the Big Ten told its schools that until further notice full contact practices cannot begin. All teams will remain in the first two days of what is known as the “acclimatization period,” working out in just helmets. The first Big Ten games of the season are scheduled for Sept. 5.

“As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The MAC’s schools were facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly COVID-19 protocols, while also dealing with the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely.

A move to the spring, however, could also be budget-buster if it means less revenue from the ESPN deal, which pays each school about $1 million per year, and football ticket sales. The MAC also shares about $90 million per year in College Football Playoff money with four other conferences.

“It would be naive to say that you don’t give thought and consideration to what the financial ramifications of any decision are, but this was a health and well-being decision first and foremost,” Steinbrecher said. “As we sit here today we don’t know what this will mean financially and how the rest of the fall plays out.”

Steinbrecher said the decision effects only fall sports, not basketball or others that begin in the second semester such as baseball, softball and lacrosse.

He added the decision was unanimous among the membership. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, supported by NIU President Lisa Freeman, has been a vocal advocate of delaying the season.

“No one wants to have football or sports more than me,” said Frazier, who played football at Alabama in the late 1980s. “Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives.”

Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said he has been feeling a sense of inevitability for two weeks about the MAC canceling fall football, but can’t predict whether this decision trickles up to other conferences.

“Could it? Certainly. There’s certainly a narrative out there that could happen,” Wetherbee said. “No, it wouldn’t shock me if some followed suit. In fact, it would shock me if some didn’t.”

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline made clear that even though plans for the football season have been adjusted to accommodate potential COVID-19 disruptions like the ones Major League Baseball has had, they are all still aspirational.

“Almost everything would have to be perfectly aligned to continue moving forward,” Hainline said Friday during the NCAA’s weekly video chat on social media.

As the Power Five conferences re-worked their schedules to play exclusively or mostly within their conferences, another of the MAC’s revenue streams dried up.

MAC schools, with athletic budgets in the $30 million range, rely heavily on payouts from road games against power conference teams. Kent State alone had more than $5 million in so-called guarantee games canceled. Whether they can be recouped and when is still to be determined. Without that revenue, the strain became too great of trying to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic.

“Certainly there was a cost attached to it,” Wetherbee said. “But as a league we were prepared to do it.”

The move to try spring football has already been going on in the second tier of Division I.

Nine of 13 conferences that play in the Championship Subdivision, have postponed fall football seasons. The first was the Ivy League in early July.

Now it’s the MAC, which was among the first conferences to limit fan access to its basketball tournament in March as concerns for the virus began to soar across the country. On March 12, the MAC was among many conferences to call off their tournaments hours before the NCAA canceled all of March Madness.

“If you told me in March we’d be here today,” Steinbrecher said, “I’d never have believed it”