Terry Pegula has not spoken to the media since his September press conference regarding the Webster Block project, largely because Gary Bettman has put the kibosh on all of his owners uttering a word during the lockout. But while the Sabres owner has no hockey to watch and no money to make at First Niagara Center, he's certainly remaining involved with his beloved Penn State athletic program.
Pegula, you may recall, donated $88 million in Penn State in 2010 to finance the startup of a Division I hockey program -- including a glittering arena that will open next season. Last April, he added another $14 million to make the total $102 million.
Now comes this nugget Thursday night from Pennlive, the online arm of the Harrisburg Patriot-News: Pegula is chipping in $1.3 million to the salary of football coach Bill O'Brien to ensure that O'Brien stays at Penn State and doesn't jump to the NFL after one season. No one at Penn State has officially confirmed the gift but O'Brien referred to Pegula as his chief "ally" at the university. Pegula was the first person who contacted O’Brien in late 2011 when he was eventually interviewed for the job and the gift would take O'Brien's package from $2.3 million to $3.6 million.
The Onward State, a student-run blog, has a post up this morning that calls Pegula "The Man Who Saved Penn State Football." The theory is another new coach would lead to yet another exodus of players and incoming recruits that would continue to set the program back in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Regular readers of the Edge might remember I took quite a flogging from readers for this post at the height of the Sandusky scandal. Pegula declined comment on the school's troubles in spite of his obvious connections, finally issuing a three-paragraph statement. Cliff Benson, the Sabres' chief development officer and Pegula's close confidante, was a board member of The Second Mile charity that was at the core of the scandal and never commented.
Readers' points were Pegula is all hockey and isn't involved in football, even though he was the biggest athletic benefactor at Penn State. It was a ridiculous point of view then and looks even sillier now.
Anyone still want to try to say that Pegula has nothing to do with football now? Anyone?