UNIVERSITY PARK — It doesn’t matter if Penn State is playing Ohio University or Ohio State, organizers of the tent city tradition at Beaver Stadium want as many people to come and support the Nittany Lions.
Penn State students pitched their tents Wednesday night for the first campout of the season, the first of head coach Bill O’Brien’s tenure. The student-created tradition, where the students camp out at the stadium for dibs on front-row seats, is now known as Nittanyville.
Organizers changed the name from Paternoville this summer, days after the release of the Freeh report. Organizers said the name change was to refocus attention on the team and the student supporters.
“I think people are just ready to get back in Beaver Stadium and do what they’ve been doing the past couple of years — just being loud and supporting these guys,” Nittanyville’s president, Penn State senior Troy Weller, said.
Weller expected two-dozen tents to form the first Nittanyville community of the 2012 season for the Ohio game Saturday. Tenters are required to have someone manning the tent at all times.
Penn State senior Andrew Bellwore, who was setting up his tent with friends around 10 p.m., has been a camper since his freshman year in 2009. He remembers a frigid night camping out before the Ohio State game that year and the Icers club hickey team bringing campers food several times.
He’s become friends with fellow campers, and he thinks students should stand behind the team because of all the turmoil.
“If they can’t go to a bowl game, we want to bring a bowl atmosphere to Beaver Stadium,” he said.
The tents have to be removed by 7 a.m. Saturday.
Students in line get to pick their seat in the student section. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis.
To drum up awareness, organizers were at a freshmen orientation Sunday, held a meeting Tuesday and were in the student activities fair at the HUB-Robeson Center on Wednesday.
Another camper, Penn State junior Brad Vasko, said he has fun during the campout.
Last season, he instituted “puppy chow” Thursdays, which involves making and eating a Chex mix covered in chocolate and powdered sugar. There’s also a game of trash can football among other activities they do to pass the time.
Vasko doesn’t have any classes today , so he’s going to do homework.
Saturday’s game is the first under O’Brien. Beaver Stadium is expected to be under the microscope of the country, as several news media outlets are expected to come to town to witness how the university community goes through the first football game after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Freeh report and the leveling of sanctions from the NCAA.
“Penn State is still a wonderful place,” said Weller, the Nittanyville president. “You can’t get that feeling unless you’re here.”
“Whatever your take on the Freeh report, whatever your take on the sanctions, take it out on Saturday.”
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT