Since Penn State received a four-year postseason ban, one of a series of sanctions handed down last year by the NCAA, the Nittany Lions have sought to find a game during the regular season that would simulate a bowl atmosphere.
That game might be coming next season. A published report said Tuesday that a deal has been finalized that will allow Penn State to open its 2014 football season in Ireland against Central Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel, quoting a source with knowledge of the deal, reported that the game would be played in Dublin at Croke Park. The stadium, which is more than 100 years old, has a capacity of more than 82,000.
The Sentinel story said an official announcement would be made Sunday.
A Penn State spokesman said the school does not comment on future games until contracts have been signed.
Since the imposition of the NCAA sanctions, a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien has looked for ways to take a bowl-style trip as a way to attract recruits and fans who enjoy the postseason experience. He found a willing partner for the Ireland trip in UCF head coach George O’Leary, a longtime friend and former coworker.
The Nittany Lions and the Knights will play Sept. 14 at Beaver Stadium.
Lions added to watch list
Three Penn State players have been named to watch lists for 2013 college football awards, two by the Maxwell Football Club.
Sophomore defensive end Deion Barnes, the 2012 Big Ten freshman of the year, was named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award sponsored by the Maxwell Club and handed out to the nation’s best defensive player.
Junior running back Zach Zwinak, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, was included on the watch list for the Maxwell Award given to the nation’s best football player.
Sophomore Kyle Carter, the Lions’ second-leading receiver last year despite missing three of the last four games with an injury, was named to the watch list for the John Mackey Award presented to the nation’s top tight end.