George Steinbrenner notably didn’t allow his players to have facial hair and long hair.
The late Yankees owner would likely hate the looks of the No. 7 Penn State men’s volleyball team.
The Nittany Lions may have more hair than cavemen, as many team members sport mustaches, beards and long hair.
One thing that both the Yankees and Lions do share in common is winning.
The relaxed style off the court (and possibly unique hairstyles) has helped the Lions to jump out to an 8-1 record. The team’s lone loss of the season came in its opener against UCLA.
“Some programs, coaches don't want their players to have facial hair,” redshirt sophomore libero and bearded Connor Curry said. “I think our coaches think as long as you perform on the court, then it doesn't really matter. I think we kind of take the liberty of doing some funny things and some interesting things.”
Coach Mark Pavlik said the team has a laid-back style off the court, but can focus on the court. The combination is a staple of this team, making it different from years past.
“What you find is that the teams that know how to have a good time together, get down to business and understand that they can have a good time doing that, too, in a different way,” Pavlik said. “I think this team understands that very well.”
The members of the team also see facial hair as another friendly competition. Players pinned redshirt freshman Taylor Hammond against senior Ian Hendries to see who could grow a creepier mustache.
“We're really close [as a team],” Hammond said. “We're always together. It just makes us that much closer. I think the competitiveness comes out in the way we play, even if we're competing against each other.”
Redshirt junior Scott Kegerreis has the longest hair among the team, and said he has been growing it out for the past 10 months.
“We all encourage it,” Kegerreis said. “If somebody is trying to grow out a nice mustache, we encourage and support it.”
At a banquet during the team’s alumni weekend, Pavlik took a poll to see if Kegerreis should keep or shave his hair. Kegerreis said that those in attendance gave a thunderous ovation for him to keep the hair.
In the competitions that actually matter, the Lions have been hearing that roar at home as Penn State is 6-0 at home this season, including four three-set wins.
The Lions have the best conference record, and received a first place vote in the AVCA Coaches Pollthis week for the second time this season.
“I think they understand for them to be successful they have got to work real hard and focus pretty well,” Pavlik said. “When they do that, good things happen, but I also think they know that when they're out of uniform, off the court — even to some point when they are on the court — it's supposed to be fun.”
Along with massive amounts of hair, some players choose to have a lack of it. Several members of the freshman class shaved their heads before the season started.
“It was all our choice,” freshman Spencer Sauter said about the hairstyle. “We've been known to have some crazy hairstyles.”
The unique facial hair and hairstyles on the team are something that is a tradition for the Penn State players, and Pavlik thinks that the team does an appropriate job of controlling the seriousness among the players.
That attitude has aided Penn State this season and helped the team historically be one of the most dominant squads on the East Coast, like the New York Yankees.
“For a Penn State volleyball player, I think people around the country probably look at the Penn State players and say we're are pretty tall… and pretty hairy over the last 10 years,” Curry said.