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Grata: PSU's Jim Tarman gets long overdue recognition as a long-time PSU athletic director

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Bill Ryan of Monongahela and his dog, Peanut talk a quick walk around the Monongahela Manor Appartments, in between the downpours,on October 29,2012. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

When writing this week's column, I reflected upon where I was and what I was doing 50 years ago to the day.

That would be the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 28, 1962. I was a Penn State sophomore who would be at work on the third floor of Old Main, the iconic university administration building.

After a late-night flight from Berkley, Calif., where Coach Rip Engle's football team defeated California, Sports Information Director Jim Tarman would be in the office already, writing news releases about the upcoming home game against Maryland.

As his student assistant, I would be compiling statistics and typing them onto a stencil. Mary or “Lowie,” secretaries in the Public Information Office, would be duplicating the paperwork on a mimeograph.

After we (Tarman too!) ran the sheets through a folding machine, we hand-stuffed the latest PSU football info into envelopes. I would deliver them to the post office to be sent to newspaper, magazine, radio and television sports reporters in scores of cities.

The purpose was not only to provide basic information but to pique interest and draw more media, especially from major markets, into covering games when University Park was regarded as “a college town in the middle of nowhere” and the Nittany Lions were likened to tenderfoots in intercollegiate football.

Attendance at New Beaver Field averaged 24,250 when Tarman arrived in 1958. The stadium was moved to its current location in 1960. Only two years later, attendance averaged 42,251, near capacity at the time, largely a result of Tarman's savvy marketing, perseverance and vision in spite of sparse resources.

Today's era began to take hold after a charismatic young assistant, Joe Paterno, was named head coach in 1966 and presented new opportunity. Tarman coached the upstart coach in p.r. and, working together, they grew the football program and an enthusiastic fan base.

While a fight song calls the school a “molder of men,” as athletic director, Tarman molded its athletic programs as much as anyone, Paterno included.

Even 50 years ago, Tarman would have admonished me by now, “Get to the point, Joe.”

It's this: Penn State has finally paid tribute to his 35 years as its ambitious sports information director, radio-TV announcer and athletic director who led the school to a higher plateau, diversification, the Big 10 and national prominence.

A plaque commemorating his career is being placed in the Beaver Stadium press box. A brief dedication ceremony was held in the All Sports Museum at the stadium before Saturday's PSU-Ohio State game.

Jim Tarman, now 84, retired in 1993 with “athletic director emeritus” status. Because of dementia, understandably, he could not be there. The family attended, including his gracious wife, Louise, and sons Jeff, director of PSU radio-TV sports broadcast operations, and James Jr., of Chicago, a prominent attorney.

Also on hand were university, media and others who worked with Tarman, including veteran PSU broadcaster Fran Fisher, PSU sports historian Lou Prato, former PSU-Steelers linebacker and football analyst Jack Ham, and Steve Garban, former board of trustees chairman, a Brownsville native.

Acting athletic director, Dr. David Joyner, and associate athletic director, Greg Myford, deserve credit for enabling Tarman's overdue recognition.

“(Jim Tarman's) imprint extends to everything athletic on this campus,” Joyner said.

Mrs. Tarman expressed appreciation to Ira Miller, Ernie Accorsi and myself for driving the idea to pay tribute to her hard-working husband.

Miller spent a career covering the National Football League for the San Francisco Chronicle and still does so for Internet services.

Accorsi is an ex-sports writer, sports publicist, Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns executive and retired general manager of the New York Giants.

About a decade ago, Miller and I met with Tim Curley, the suspended AD charged with perjury in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

He told us, in essence, everything at PSU is “about money” and unless we could come up with a million-dollar sponsor, there was little chance of honoring Jim Tarman.

Largely thanks to Miller, we beat the odds.

* * * *

Thought du jour. “Those were the days my friend…” – From song lyrics

Joe Grata is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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