Sue Wilson got in her spot, the 90-degree curb at the intersection of Porter and Curtin roads across from Beaver Stadium.
That’s where the football team gets off the bus and where head coach James Franklin always makes it a point to shake her hand. Nothing would upend her gameday routine, but she admits there have been changes.
No terrorist is going to make me change my life ... They’ll never scare me away
Fans could carry umbrellas into the stadium 40 years ago, she said. They could bring a flask, too. And, until Saturday, they couldn’t get into the stadium earlier than usual, but heightened security and screening changed that.
Penn State increased security measures for Senior Day in response to the Paris terrorist attacks and asked fans to enter early in anticipation of longer waits.
“No terrorist is going to make me change my life,” Wilson, of Hudson, Ohio, said. “If something ever did happen here and I die, I’m going to go out with a big smile because I was doing what I loved. They’ll never scare me away.”
Her words were both defiant and cheerful.
Other fans shared her unwavering spirit.
“What’s the big deal?” Chuck Hunnell, of Waynesburg, said. “This is happening, because of events over the last few years, so we might have to wait longer. Some people won’t be used to it, but this is something we have to do for safety.”
He also felt, having been to other Big Ten stadiums, that Penn State security was at the top of its class.
Whether he knew or not, Beaver Stadium is known for its safety.
Mark Bodenschatz, Penn State associate athletic director for facilities and operations, was 1 of 9 people in the nation to earn the 2014 Professional of the Year honor by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. He credited security awards the university has received to multi-agency, collaborative efforts.
Bodenschatz, noting there were no known threats to any sporting event in the United States, said there was an increase in security personnel for the game but wouldn’t specify how much. He also said the university worked with outside agencies to ensure safety but wouldn’t say which agencies.
“Many of the increased security measures will go unnoticed by our fans,” Bodenschatz said. “The increase in screening of patrons as they enter the stadium will be noticed. This screening is similar to what fans will experience when they attend professional games.”
He also said a decision has not been made for security measures next year.
“We will be spending time in the off-season continuing to plan for both the new baseline and potential elevated measures,” Bodenschatz said. “All of this balances the risk and vulnerability with the outstanding fan experience that make a Penn State game day such a great draw.”
Beaver Stadium, he said, would probably have the biggest crowd in the nation Saturday.
“We are the second largest stadium in the country behind Michigan, and I believe the Big House will be mostly empty today,” Bodenschatz said. “That makes us likely the largest gathering in the country today. Our unmatched gameday experience is that we are protecting with security measures. What we do allows us to continue to offer these experiences and memories responsibly.”
Our partners who provide security are truly experts in their field and are very worthy of our trust.
Mark Bodenschatz, Penn State associate athletic director for facilities and operations
Fans felt there was no reason to believe otherwise, making clear their minds were on the game.
“I think it’s definitely a good thing they took extra measures, but I’m not too worried about it,” student Jamie MacEachern said. “Today is about Penn State football, nothing else. It’s a must-win game.”
Win or lose, Wilson said, she has a reason to cheer.
“We always look forward to the last home game because it is a chance to celebrate all of these guys that gave us five years of their lives, in most cases,” she said. “This group is very special, because they stayed through it all. We’re going to be in our seats, dart in early, and just roar for them.”