Since his arrival at Penn State, Bill O'Brien has said and done many positive things.

He's fostered a more open relationship with the media. He's revamped a strength-training program in desperate need of an upgrade. And he's traveled to nearly every corner of the state and beyond to build relationships with high school coaches and players and PSU fans.

Unfortunately, one thing hasn't changed yet under O'Brien's watch -- Penn State's long-standing tradition of scheduling non-conference nobodies.

In case you missed, it was revealed over the weekend that Penn State has added Massachusetts to its 2014 schedule. That's the same UMass that is making the transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

As it stands, PSU's non-conference schedule over the next three years is as follows: 2012, Ohio, Virginia, Navy and Temple; 2013, Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Virginia and Kent State; and 2014, Temple, Akron, UMass and Rutgers.

Let's face it, those games aren't exactly must-see events.

To be fair, however, O'Brien may have had little or no influence over the addition of UMass to the 2014 schedule. That decision may have been made at the administrative level (see athletic director Dave Joyner). And the rest of the non-conference games were set up long before O'Brien came to Happy Valley.

Still, it's not a promising sign. Fans want to see non-conference showdowns vs. big-time foes. UMass doesn't come close to fulfilling that desire.


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PSU fans understand the financial need to have seven home games each year, meaning that at least two non-conference games each year will likely be vs. substandard foes that won't require a return visit to their home fields. But the other two games should be against higher-quality competition. The best-case scenario would be one game against a longtime regional rival and one game against a perennial Top 25 program. Is that too much to ask?

Joyner recently admitted that football season ticket sales for the 2012 season are lagging. In the wake of the Paterno firing and the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, that's hardly surprising. There's little doubt a more appealing non-conference schedule would boost those sales.

Maybe when O'Brien settles in, he'll use his influence to improve the non-conference slate.

We can only hope.

Because the annual parade of patsies that visits Beaver Stadium each fall is one PSU tradition that desperately needs to end.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com or at 854-1575, ext. 455.