Storied Penn State volleyball program in Chicago for tournament
BY DAN McGRATH September 6, 2012 11:38PM
Penn State volleyball coach Russ Rose has led the Nittany Lions to five national championships. | Carolyn Kaster~AP
Chicago Classic Volleyball
At Mother McAuley High School
◆ Session 1, 10 a.m. Saturday: Penn State vs. DePaul, UIC vs. Oregon State.
◆ Session 2, 5 p.m. Saturday: DePaul vs. UIC, Penn State vs. Oregon State.
◆ Session 3, 11 a.m. Sunday: Oregon State vs. DePaul, Penn State vs. UIC.
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:45PM
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Penn State”?
Never mind. Too soon to go there and be reminded of wantonly cruel acts and an unthinkably evil betrayal of trust.
Apart from the incalculable harm to the victims, one inevitable byproduct of the worst scandal to ravage college sports is the collateral damage — people who never met or might not even have known of Jerry Sandusky have been stigmatized by their ties to a university that was betrayed by its leadership at the highest levels, and subsequently shamed.
It’s not fair, but that’s how guilt by association works.
Russ Rose has spent 33 years at Penn State building the most successful women’s volleyball program in the country, with five national championships, 31 NCAA tournament appearances and 14 Big Ten titles.
A Chicagoan by birth and upbringing, Rose has seen an institution he loves and respects get demonized beyond recognition, along with some people, and it hurts.
“Some statements that were made alluding to the ‘culture’ of Penn State are really inappropriate — don’t let facts get in the way of a good story,” Rose said. “Penn State is an outstanding university that has been in the forefront of integrating athletics with academics for years. That includes football, where the graduation rate has been exceptional.
“That’s the culture of Penn State.”
Not that it’s necessarily his mission, but Rose believes his team can help restore its university’s reputation, not just by continuing its success on the court but by showcasing the character of the young women who maintain their high-achieving ways after leaving Happy Valley.
Accordingly, Rose is bringing the Nittany Lions to Chicago this weekend for a Saturday-Sunday tournament at Mother McAuley High School. The four-team Chicago Classic will feel more like a family reunion.
UIC’s coach is Katie Schumacher Cawley, who was an All-American for Rose at Penn State after completing one of the most decorated prep careers in state history at Mother McAuley.
DePaul’s coach is Nadia Edwards, also a Penn State All-American who was Schumacher’s teammate on a national championship team in 1999 and on two other Final Four squads.
The tournament director is Therese Boyle Niego, another McAuley volleyball great and former Loyola coach who won an NCAA championship at University of the Pacific playing for coach Terry Liskevych, Rose’s friend since their George Williams College days, who is here as coach of the Oregon State Beavers.
“I’m looking forward to coming home to Chicago and reconnecting with Nadia and Katie and their families — they’re special people in my life,” Rose said.
Schumacher, as skilled in basketball as she was in volleyball at McAuley, had her pick of the nation’s colleges after graduating in 1997. She chose Penn State in part because of the family atmosphere Rose maintains. While she was devastated by the pounding her school took for overlooking Sandusky’s perversions, the married mother of two wouldn’t change a thing about her time in Happy Valley.
“The education I received, the experiences I had, the friends I made … I got more out of my time there than I’d even hoped to, and I’ll always be proud to be a Penn State person,” Schumacher said.
But for all the determined talk of moving on, the Sandusky scandal is too horrific and too raw to allow closure any time soon. Decades after they were first reported, the Catholic Church is still reeling from the fallout from similar crimes committed by damaged priests.
“Some people run and hide in the face of trouble,” Rose said. “Some people stand up. I coach women’s volleyball, and I’m going to do the best job I can. The quality of the people who come through this program speak to what we’re about.”
The Freeh Report, commissioned by Penn State’s board of trustees, blistered the university administration, concluding that its desire to protect Joe Paterno and his revered football program overrode its obligation to stop Sandusky from victimizing other children. The NCAA cited those misplaced priorities in handing down program-crippling sanctions against Penn State football.
Paterno died in disgrace, and Russ Rose mourns him. “I was friends with Joe Paterno and I’m still friends with his family,” he said. ”I’m disappointed with the way this worked out for some people I care about.
“Some people do get carried away with winning and losing,” Rose acknowledged. “To other people it’s more about your dealings with people and the impact you can have on their lives. That’s the culture of Penn State. I’ve always been proud of it.”