Penn State athletic director Patrick Kraft talks major improvements coming to Happy Valley
INDIANAPOLIS — Patrick Kraft has been Penn State's athletic director for 29 days, but his impact has been felt throughout the university.
Kraft addressed the media on Wednesday during the Big Ten media days for the second time since being hired in April and discussed topics ranging from NIL to improvements in Happy Valley.
“The big thing for me was being able to get there in June and transition to be able to figure out what we’re doing and what we need to do better,” Kraft said. “ There's a lot, and it's not in a bad way.”
At the forefront of the discussion of what needs to be improved was NIL.
Since its creation in 2021, NIL has caused a major change in the collegiate landscape, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Kraft mentioned that Penn State is "behind" in NIL, but he noted that he “feels good about the direction” it's heading in.
“We’re Penn State. We should lead the country in everything we do,” Kraft said. “I’ll feel better in about three weeks. I feel really good about where we’ll be.”
While it’s unknown what’s to occur in three weeks, it might have something to do with state legislation.
NIL is different for each state, and many, including Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, are calling for federal intervention on NIL.
After taking the job in Happy Valley, Kraft had to adapt to a “totally different” law system in Pennsylvania than the one he worked with when he was the athletic director at Boston College.
“We’re working with the framework, and, honestly, that comes back to the education piece understanding,” Kraft said. “No one wants to break the rules, let alone the law. And so how do we really tell people how to do this and how to make it work?”
Many Penn State athletes have announced their NIL deals, but quarterback Sean Clifford has been the driving force for NIL at Penn State.
Clifford created his own NIL agency in April called Limitless, and since its inception, he's signed 25 athletes.
Despite Clifford leading the charge with NIL, the discussion about Clifford was related to a much different matter.
Last Friday, Clifford stated he’d started conversations with Commissioner Warren about revenue sharing and other student-athlete-related benefits such as healthcare.
While Clifford didn’t talk about the matter in detail on Wednesday, Kraft showed his support for him.
“I’m proud of Sean for being honest and asking questions,” Kraft said. “Sean is being an adult and being able to use his voice and ask those questions. I would have never done that as a player.”
In his short time as athletic director, Kraft has become a fan favorite for how open and honest he is with the fans.
Kraft has experience in the Big Ten conference, playing college football for Indiana, and later became an assistant athletic director for the university.
His 15-year career in intercollegiate athletics includes leadership roles at five different universities before coming to Happy Valley, and he wants to lead the right way.
“I think it's really important they know who the leadership is, where to go if they have a problem,” Kraft said. “With 31 sports, it is really hard as an AD to understand what's going on at the granular level. You really have to work at it.”
Kraft has formed a strong relationship with James Franklin, and having Kraft in the fold is helping him focus more on football and not fighting other battles.
One of those battles is the blue and white’s nine-year streak of opening its conference play on the road.
“It stinks, it stinks,” Kraft said. “(James Franklin) called me the other day (about it). I said, ‘What?’ I called the conference office and said this is unacceptable. So we’re addressing that right away.”
The Nittany Lions are scheduled to open the 2023 and 2024 seasons on the road playing Illinois and Rutgers, respectively.
If the 2023 and 2024 schedules hold, Penn State will open on the road in nine straight seasons, 14 of 15 seasons and 18 of 21 seasons, but Kraft is determined to change it.
“That shouldn’t happen at Penn State,” he said. “We should be at home for our opener. I think it’s nine or seven years (now). That’s crazy. That stinks. I did deal with that. I called our friends in the conference, who I love dearly. But that’s not right.”
Major improvements are coming to Happy Valley.
Those improvements are anywhere from building bathrooms in the soccer facilities, renovating its Olympic fields, to even renovating Beaver Stadium and its press box.
“We’ve got to make decisions and then move on to the next,” Kraft said.
Alex Rocco is a rising junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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