Conrad Tucker helps "engineer" win as guest football coach


By Gabrielle Barone

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Conrad Tucker, an associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, is an accomplished Penn State faculty member. He has published a string of works including a book chapter, numerous journal articles, conference proceedings and technical reports. Tucker’s research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Tucker has also received several awards and fellowships recognizing him for his work including an IBM Faculty Award, a National Academy of Engineering Innovation Early Career Engineering Faculty fellowship and an Air Force Summer Faculty fellowship. Now, he can add another title to his list of accomplishments—guest Penn State football coach.

“I love anything that involves competing and bringing out some of the most admirable qualities of humanity: teamwork, tenacity, and the pursuit of greatness,” Tucker said. “Football is the epitome of these and other attributes that many of us aspire towards.”

Tucker was chosen as an honorary guest coach in early July, when his prestigious work in engineering earned him the chance to stand on the sidelines of the Nebraska - Penn State game alongside Penn State football Head Coach James Franklin.

“I was humbled to have been considered for this honor, out of so many hardworking and deserving faculty. I will be forever grateful to the selection committee for providing me with this unique and truly inspiring opportunity,” he said.

After being selected as a guest coach, Tucker was asked by Dennis Scanlon, Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Administration and Penn State’s the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) Faculty Athletics Representative in the College of Health and Human Development, to choose a series of home and away football games, one of which he would be attend.

“My experience spending time with the team is difficult to put into words. The days leading up to the game reminded me of how I felt when I was younger the night before Christmas when you knew something exciting was awaiting you under the Christmas tree, but had to wait just a bit longer to experience it,” he said.

Just as the football team began preparing early for the 56—44 win over the Cornhuskers, so did Tucker. Though he did not actually coach the team, per NCAA compliance guidelines, Tucker did have the chance to interact with the team and staff members as a guest coach.

“My main motivation for choosing the Nebraska game was due to a rivalry that exists in SEDTAPP. My colleague and good friend, Dr. Scarlett Miller, whose office is adjacent to mine, graduated from Nebraska and is an avid Nebraska fan,” Tucker said. “I couldn’t think of a more fitting game to represent Penn State.”

Tucker was given an itinerary of team activities to attend, beginning with a “Dynamic Warm Up” on Friday afternoon and continuing right until the Saturday 4 p.m. kickoff.

“When I first met Coach Franklin in person, it was as though I had known him for years. This is a testament to his warm and welcoming personality,” he said. “It is this same warm and welcoming atmosphere that seemed to permeate throughout the entire football team. Everyone was friendly, respectful and very cordial.”  

Tucker had the opportunity to attend a team meeting on Friday evening, then have dinner with the Nittany Lions during their team meal at the Penn Stater Conference Center.

“Being part of the team meal was both insightful and inspiring. I was impressed by the importance of academic performance in team’s decision making processes,” Tucker said. “For example, during the team meals, student athletes were publicly recognized for their academic achievements, as measured by their GPAs.”

Tucker particularly enjoyed the energy that filled the atmosphere during the entire time that the team was together.

“My favorite activity was observing how meticulously the team studied their opponents’ past game videos in search of tendencies and opportunities that could be exploited and leveraged during the upcoming game,” Tucker. “This was like preparing for battle and every minute, competitive advantage mattered.”  

The flurry of pre-prep activities continued early Saturday morning with breakfast, a stadium walk-through and a staff meeting before players watched a motivational video in the afternoon and boarded the buses to Beaver Stadium.

As Tucker continues his path in engineering academia, his time with the Nittany Lions taught him how concepts from engineering can apply to sports and vice versa.

“Whether on the field or in the classroom or research lab, one commonality is to find a passion in life; something that you can sacrifice blood, sweat and tears for, something that is bigger than one’s self and collectively inspires a generation,” he said. “That is what engineers do and the guest football event made me realize that the differences between engineers and student athletes, some of whom are actually majoring in engineering, are just that much smaller.”


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Samantha Chavanic

“Whether on the field or in the classroom or research lab, one commonality is to find a passion in life; something that you can sacrifice blood, sweat and tears for, something that is bigger than one’s self and collectively inspires a generation."



The School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) delivers effective engineering education through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. SEDTAPP offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

213 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952