Penn State

The Buzz at Penn State Needs to Focus on Michigan State

The buzz in the corridors at Smeal College is all about which bowl Penn State will play in and major changes proposed for Beaver Stadium seating and ticket access in 2011.  Hardly a word about the Spartans!  It almost seems like everyone thinks we will of course win against a 6-5 team.  Think again.  With a 4-8 record at Spartan Stadium, a win there is hardly a guarantee.  The Spartans are a better team than their record indicates.  And after last Saturday’s sloppy start against Indiana, we have to fix some weaknesses in order to win.

It is sort of fun to speculate how Penn State might indeed qualify for a BCS bowl, if a little luck gets thrown our way.  People are talking about who needs to lose in order for us to get to Glendale, New Orleans, or Miami.  Everyone is hoping that Iowa will lose to Minnesota, and many of us will become Michigan fans this weekend.  But I refuse to get into this discussion.  I just keep telling people, “Hey - we need to win on Saturday.  Period.  I can’t worry about anything else.” 

Then there’s the buzz about major changes to Beaver Stadium seating – moving the students to the South End Zone that appeared in full color on the front page of the Daily Collegian this week – and news reports from the Harrisburg Patriot News and the Daily Collegian that suggests that the level of donation to the Nittany Lion Club required in 2011 to acquire Penn State football tickets will be increased significantly, if not dramatically, depending on the location of your seats in the stadium. 

This one is hard not to get engaged in.  The students in my classes don’t like the fact that seniors would not get to sit on the 40-yard line, although they personally will be graduated before this happens.  They seem to resent the fact that alumni will get priority over students for those prime seats.  Until I remind them that they will be alumni themselves and might be able to buy seats there.   But still, they don’t think it’s fair to future seniors. 

The season ticket holders I know at Smeal College – many of whom have faculty/staff tickets and are usually only minor contributors to the Nittany Lion Club  – are wondering how Penn State will accommodate this perceived benefit to employment and faculty recruitment at Penn State.

Then there are friends from out of town who participate in a pooled Nittany Lion Club membership with great seats who will probably be severely impacted by what appears to be a sharp increase in donations if the Patriot News report is true.

Terry and I wonder also what the impact will be for us.  We already donate at the Honorary Coach level, so we’re not as concerned about the direct impact on our wallet.  But we are VERY concerned about how all this will be implemented, especially since some of our tickets are in the proposed new student section.  In addition there is a glaring inequity on parking for Honorary Coaches depending on when you started donating at that level.  A fix is definitely needed for that.

Penn State Athletics needs to give us the fine print, tell us how they will manage this transition, and who we need to talk to, and then we’ll react.  Right now I don’t have enough information to deal with it. 

It’s also very mystifying to me how such communications could just be, sort of, “leaked” to the press first before the season ends rather than officially announced in a more coordinated manner by Penn State.  Unless, of course, it’s a purposeful leak – a trial balloon of sorts - in order to gauge reaction.  In any case, I’m sure the phones at the Nittany Lion Club and the Athletic Ticket Office are ringing off the hook this week with all sorts of questions based on partial information.  Perhaps also phones are ringing elsewhere – at the Football office and the President’s office.

Do they really need this distraction when the season isn’t over?  Coach Joe Paterno sure didn’t appreciate it in the press conference on Tuesday.  He knew broadly about the plan, but if he knew the details he wasn’t about to get into it. He thought an announcement would be made after the football season was over.  

Again, we have a game to play on Saturday!  Against a tough football team with a 6-5 record that lost to Central Michigan by two points, to Notre Dame by three points, and to Iowa by two points. They are only 7 points from having the same 9-2 record as we do!  Our overall record against Michigan State is 13-12-1. 

We’re battling for the annual Land Grand Trophy, and Michigan State takes this rivalry seriously, as we should as well.  Michigan State wants to even the score to 13-13-1 after an embarrassing 49-18 loss at Beaver Stadium last year, the game that clinched the Big Ten Championship for us. Penn State does not want to repeat the disastrous appearance it last had at Spartan Stadium when we had a 24-7 early lead in the game, but we couldn’t prevent Michigan State from scoring and wound up losing the game in 35-31.  It was a heart-breaking loss, and kept Penn State out of a New Year’s Day Bowl (although the Alamo Bowl isn’t a bad consolation prize! It’s one of our favorite bowl venues).

Both teams are playing for the best bowl bid possible this year.  Michigan State is already bowl-eligible, but they will probably want to avoid the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl down the road in Detroit. They will play hard in order to get to Tempe or Orlando or possibly even San Antonio.  Can’t blame them for that. We should be hungrier, with an outside chance at a BCS bowl in our grasp.  Will our hunger allow us to be victorious?  No.  A solid four quarters of play will be necessary.

So on to East Lansing on our usual 6:15 a.m. flight for a tough battle.  

Go Nittany Lions! Beat the Spartans!