COLLEGE TOWNSHIP — Darrel Peters is a longtime Notre Dame football fan, but this year he’s pulling for another team.
“I gotta tell you, I am in support of this Penn State football team now,” said Peters, standing outside his family’s RV, one of about a dozen parked in front of Sam’s Club on Benner Pike on Thursday afternoon.
“This is no time for anyone from this area to let this football team down,” he said. “These kids deserve to play.”
Sometime today, the York resident’s motorhome will join the stream of vehicles descending upon Beaver Stadium on the eve of Penn State’s season opener against Ohio University.
That’s nothing new for Peters, who has been coming to Penn State games with family and friends for almost 20 years, despite his allegiance to the Fighting Irish.
But this year is different — a new coach, new traditions and the specter of severe NCAA sanctions looming large.
Many waiting with their RVs on Thursday said they believe those sanctions punish the wrong people — namely the students.
“They didn’t deserve what happened to them at all,” said Tony LaRose, who has been a season ticketholder since 1979.
He and his wife, Amy, hope a strong turnout for the game will show the football team that the community supports them.
“We have to rally behind the team,” said John Luchetta, who was sitting with the LaRoses. “They had nothing to do with what transpired. It was great to see them carry on.”
Amy LaRose, however, said turnout of RVs in the Sam’s Club parking lot seemed lighter than usual.
“I was surprised when we pulled in here and there was only one other motorhome,” she said. “Normally when we pull in on a Thursday afternoon, we have to almost fight for a space.”
About 12 RVs had arrived by Thursday evening. One regular who did show up expressed concerns about a recent change in campus policy.
Joe Barner, of Renovo, said many fans staying overnight in RVs have traditionally taken advantage of the shower facilities in the university’s Intramural Building.
Citing safety concerns, the university has cut public access to the IM Building, and other on-campus facilities, for those without Penn State identification cards.
“We have showers in our RVs, but if we have people staying with us — six people in an RV, and you run out of water,” said Lisa Peters, Darrel’s wife. “Three days is a long time without a shower.”
Despite the changes, the fans gathering outside their RVs said they are excited and hopeful for a strong season, even in the face of sanctions and negative public perception.
“If (head coach Bill O’Brien) plays that card, that us-against-the-world card, that’s a rallying point,” Darrel Peters said. “They can do really well.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter