When Terry Pegula announced last week he was standing by his $88 million commitment to Penn State hockey, there was a sigh of relief from those close to the hockey program.
The statement came at a trying time for Penn State, following charges of sexual abuse from former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and increased scrutiny on the university, but Pegula reaffirmed his position. He is still committed to making the largest donation in Penn State history to build an ice arena and establish men’s and women’s Division I hockey teams.
Questions arose when support for Penn State waned. Sherwin-Williams pulled its logo from the news conference banner, Cars.com withdrew commercials from last weekend’s football game and the athletic department website removed its list of corporate sponsors.
In his statement, Pegula said his family’s support for the hockey program will continue, but he also acknowledged that the process of rebuilding Penn State’s reputation is just beginning.
“Penn State’s reputation has been severely tarnished,” the statement said. “We are encouraged to see the University trustees have begun the process of restoring integrity and trust in the institution. This process will take a period of time and trust will need to be re-earned as a result of these recent disclosures.”
The thought of losing Pegula’s support wasn’t absent from associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey operations Joe Battista’s mind. With more news of the scandal coming to the surface each day, Battista admitted he worried about the status of the donation.
Those doubts were erased after he spoke with Pegula, who assured him of his loyalty to Penn State.
“I think that doubt crosses your mind now and then,” Battista said. “But Terry is a class act and he loves this school. I think people forget he came from nothing. He had to borrow money to go to school. He had to borrow money to start his company from his mom and he is extremely loyal to Pennsylvania.”
With plans to break ground on the Pegula Ice Arena in February, the future development of the hockey program at Penn State looks to be intact.
“I think, like everybody, he’s anxious for the healing to begin,” Battista said. “I think he wanted to make sure so he called [men’s head coach Guy] Gadowsky, talked to him, wanted to reassure him and his recruits that the gift is coming. We’re full speed ahead and hockey is going to be a part of restoring the roar here.”
Before the scandal broke, Gadowsky expected eight recruits to join the men’s hockey team next year. Following Pegula’s statement and after speaking with the recruits and their families, he learned they would all be staying true to their commitments to come to Penn State.
The many former men’s hockey players who contacted Gadowsky were also relieved to hear the plan for the arena is still on track.
“[Pegula] recognized that there might be recruits and alumni that had questions because of everything that’s going on,” Gadowsky said. “For him to come out and make that statement, it speaks to what a very intelligent and classy man that he is and I cant thank him enough for doing it.”