Although Penn State football coach James Franklin insisted his team’s trip to Dublin, Ireland, wouldn’t provide much time to tour the Irish countryside, that doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions haven’t already set aside time for some rest and relaxation from their primary objective — beat Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic.
Penn State is expected to practice every day it is in Dublin to prepare for the Aug. 30 game at Croke Park. In between, the Nittany Lions will follow a pre-designed itinerary that will take them to some of the most famous spots on the Emerald Isle.
The Nittany Lions, who usually call the 54-year-old Beaver Stadium home on Saturdays, will tour and then play in an arena nearly twice as old with a rich history and tradition as it relates to the Gaelic games. After the tour of Croke Park, scheduled for shortly after the team’s arrival, the team will have dinner at the famous Guinness Storehouse on Thursday with a bus tour of the city on Friday.
They’ve been briefed on the matters.
A few members of Penn State’s Global Studies Department spoke to the team earlier this week in order to prepare them for the trip. Director of Global Engagement and Operations Jennifer Campbell, Education Abroad Advisor Kate Fox and Penn State professor Dr. Garrett Fagan took turns addressing the team.
Campbell, who oversees a department that helps prepare about 2,500 students to study abroad each year, added 118 football players to her list earlier this month.
“This is a day at the office and I’m just really happy that the football team is getting this opportunity,” Campbell said. “This is really amazing. Whether it’s 118 or 2,500 going for credit, this is what we do and I’m so thrilled for them.”
Fagan, a native of Dublin and professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History, acted as a pre-tour guide, walking Penn State players through what they are likely to see on their bus tour.
It’ll likely include stops at a pair of Dublin cathedrals — Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral — with thousands of years of history on their registers. They also could catch the 810-year-old Dublin Castle and Trinity College, one of the country’s oldest colleges and from which Fagan earned a master’s degree.
“They’re in Dublin and they’re seeing the best Dublin has to offer,” Campbell said. “The bus tour is really where they’re going to get an opportunity to see Dublin, to see the city and see some things like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, possibly scenic park if they have time. But they’ve really jam-packed their schedule in order to get ready for the football game and then fit in some level of cultural aspect to the program.”
There are also logistical issues many of Penn State’s traveling party will be encountering for the first time. Players must adjust their cellphone plans if they want to make international calls and power outlets require different plugs from country to country. This is crucial for players looking to carry along iPads or laptop computers.
After Fagan’s presentation, Fox took over and led players through a lecture on security abroad. Without divulging details, Penn State Director of Football Operations Michael Hazel said Penn State would be provided security throughout its trip.
While Penn State players will have a chance to embrace Irish history and culture, local Irish cuisine will not likely be part of the experience.
“When you’re getting ready to play a game, it’s not necessarily a time to try new meals and our kids’ pallets are probably more simple as maybe yours or mine,” Hazel said. “It’s not the time to experiment with a bunch of new foods and new tastes while we’re there.”
As a way to monitor and keep players on similar nutrition schedules, Hazel said the food Penn State players eat will be as American as possible.
Notre Dame officials took similar steps when the Fighting Irish played Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic in 2012. As part of a site visit to Aviva Stadium in 2009, Notre Dame Director of Equipment Operations Ryan Grooms said members of Notre Dame’s front office spent plenty of time tweaking their hotel’s menu.
“We actually did a testing of all the food while we were there to make sure what the hotel staff was going to prepare was as American as possible,” Grooms told the Centre Daily Times. “We didn’t want to get the guys’ systems messed up by eating something new. We really did a thorough taste-testing of all the food.”
For a handful of Penn Staters, this isn’t the first time they’ve traveled abroad. Akeel Lynch, whose mother is from Jamaica, traveled there as a youngster. The team’s video coordinator Jevin Stone spent parts of two years in Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany, working for the now-defunct NFL Europe teams. Team trainer Tim Bream also has international experience.
Penn State players have not been made available to reporters since camp started, but Campbell said they all seemed eager to get to Dublin.
“They seemed to just be excited,” Campbell said. “They’re getting to travel overseas, compete overseas against a very strong UCF team and I think they’re just thrilled to get the opportunity. It was a lot of fun going and preparing them. We are also preparing the cheerleaders and dance team and everyone. All the student-athletes that are going over, we’re helping prepare them for this amazing opportunity.”