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Penn State football’s academics rank worst in Big Ten

Plus: State College favorite The Brewery saved from eminent domain action

This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

August 24, 2023
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Inside this edition: Penn State football’s academics hit lowest point in a decade, State College reverses course on decision to take local businesses through eminent domain, and the Pirates top draft pick debuts with the Altoona Curve this weekend.
Georgianna Sutherland / For Spotlight PA

Penn State’s football team’s academic rating plummeted to its lowest point in more than a decade, placing the Nittany Lions in last place among Big Ten gridiron teams.

For two decades, the NCAA has used its academic progress rate to measure a collegiate team’s scholastic success. A team earns a maximum of two points — one for being enrolled and the other for being eligible academically for the next semester — per player that receives “athletically related financial aid,” according to the NCAA’s website. A team’s score is calculated by dividing points earned by total possible points, and multiplying that figure by 1,000. 

Penn State football’s academic progress rate of 914 in the 2021-22 school year was its lowest in more than 10 years and continued a decline from its perfect mark of 1,000 in 2018-19.

The university, in an email to Spotlight PA, said team academic progress rates for 2022-23 will be released in October. Penn State did not respond to a request for further comment on the football team’s recent academic performance or on how it compared to its Big Ten peers.

Penn State’s football team had the lowest single-year score of its Big Ten peers in 2021-22 and now has the second-lowest score averaged across the past four years, a key metric for the NCAA.

In February, the NCAA announced it will resume penalizing teams that struggle academically. Penalties can include limiting practice time or barring postseason play. The organization suspended such oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams with a score below 930 averaged across four years will be disciplined, and the NCAA will begin issuing penalties in spring 2024, according to the organization’s news release.

Penn State football’s four-year average in 2021-22 was 958, according to NCAA data. The team’s next single-year score would need to drop below 900 for it to be at risk of discipline.

The football team’s four-year average is the second-lowest among all Penn State sports, with only men’s basketball having a lower multiyear score. The basketball team also had the worst single-year score in 2021-22, at 884.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State investigative reporter

“Well-financed, well-resourced municipalities that want to have good quality management can certainly afford and find those people. It’s the municipalities that want it and can’t afford it that end up having problems.”

—George Dougherty, a professor and public policy expert at the University of Pittsburgh, on proposed legislation that would allow local governments to hire professional firms to be municipal managers
» MISSED CONDUCT: Join us Thursday, Aug. 31 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel discussion on Penn State’s post-Sandusky misconduct policies, transparency in higher education, and how universities can keep students and employees safe. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

» Funding for home repairs, public defense on hold as Pa. lawmakers negotiate final budget pieces

» New bills would let Pennsylvania local governments hire firms as managers

» Pa. will track voting machine malfunctions under new settlement with election security groups

» Why some of Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s cabinet picks still have ‘acting’ next to their title
Lily pads on Lake Perez in Huntingdon County by John R.

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» CDT: The Brewery ‘saved,’ State College votes no to eminent domain
» SC: Centre County commissioners approve affordable housing funding
» Mirror: Blair County finances looking up, audit says
» PennLive: Coach had help leaving Little League World Series complex
» Mirror: Pirates’ top draft pick will debut in Altoona
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Aug. 26: Start the weekend with a “gentle all abilities” yoga class at Canoe Creek State Park.

» Aug. 26-27: Step back in time at Heritage Weekend at Curtin Village.

» Aug. 27: Smith + Front in Bellefonte hosts its last Sunday Funday of the summer with food trucks, local vendors, and more.

» Aug. 29: 3 Dots Downtown hosts its monthly Pugh Street Shutdown featuring live music, vendors, and more.

» Aug. 30: Catch an outdoor screening of The Grapes of Wrath at The Arboretum at Penn State.
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