Sunday, April 25, 2010

Future Potential Highlighted at Blue White Game

We didn’t learn much from the Blue White Game that we didn’t already know. Penn State basically has a quarterback problem. There was nothing in the game today that suggests that we will have an offense that is ready to play Alabama at Tuscaloosa on September 11. Instead, the game merely highlighted the work that will need to be done to get Penn State’s offense into shape.

There’s clearly at least a two-way race, possibly even a three-way race, for quarterback. Joe Paterno and the rest of the coaching staff will have a difficult decision to make, and the stakes are higher than usual. It’s not just Alabama that looms early in the season. It’s also Iowa – our Big Ten opener – at Iowa City on October 2. Our non-conference schedule in September – Youngstown State, Kent State, and Temple – does not look like the kind of schedule that will help the team improve dramatically for these two big tests.

The best performance at quarterback was Paul Jones, a freshman who started at Penn State in January. However, as good as he looked with his two touchdown passes, he wasn’t playing against Penn State’s first-string defense. So it’s hard to evaluate his success. And we also know that Joe Paterno is not known for playing true freshmen, even if they start a little early at college. My guess is that Paul Jones will be the most popular quarterback at Penn State in the fall. He will be the one that everyone will call for from the stands when the starting quarterback – Newsome or McGloin - stumbles.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blue-White Confession

This week the hallway conversation at Smeal College is all about the Blue-White game. My students keep asking, “Mrs. Todd, aren’t you excited? The Blue-White game is coming up!” My usual response? “Of course!” But alas, it’s a bit of a white lie.

So I have a confession to make: we don’t always go to the Blue-White game. As the game has become more popular, it has become more of a hassle to attend. And there is an alternative: last year, watching it on the Big Ten Network, this year, watching it on ESPN2. One of the attractive aspects of staying home is listening to Joe Paterno’s comments on the radio while we watch the TV visuals. In a sense, we learn more that way about the current state of the team.

A large part of the problem is parking. The carnival and proliferation of food stands that set up behind the West stands eliminated a lot of spaces, and the popularity of the game has skyrocketed. What used to be 30,000-40,000 people attending the game has swelled to 70,000+.

The parking and game are free, but it’s a free-for-all – no reserved parking - and you don’t know where you will find a space – you have to get there early – REAL early - at 7 or 8 a.m. to get a decent space near the stadium. If you go to the Blue-White game, it’s an all-day affair. You’re competing with 70,000 people for some place to park, with little method to the madness. It’s a great family event and tailgating scene, and a wonderful way for families and students who do not have regular access to season tickets to experience the atmosphere of Penn State football. Another big attraction for kids is the autograph session at the stadium and the carnival.

Two years ago, we arrived about 3 hours before the game started, and there was little parking to be found. We were directed into a field off University Drive. We couldn’t find a space, and there were tents blocking the lanes to get to more parking on an adjacent field. We had to back up, and with all the kids around, it was pretty tense. We settled on a tight parking space– one that we had rejected earlier for being too small – but it was the only one available.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hedging Our Bets on Alabama Tickets

Ordering away game tickets from Penn State is not usually a problem if you’re a season-ticket holder with a decent amount of Nittany Lion Club points. Each year, in April, we are asked to indicate which away game tickets we wish to order. We include the away game ticket order in our season ticket renewal and then we usually receive the tickets 3-4 weeks before the actual game. We can usually order 2 away game tickets, which is just what we need.

However, occasionally there are games where the ticket demand is tough, and we don’t qualify. Meaning, quite literally, that we haven’t donated enough to Penn State to order away game tickets directly from Penn State Athletics. It has happened to us three times since the early 1990’s. Two of those times were when we played Notre Dame in South Bend. We’ve always managed to get tickets, but sometimes at enormous cost.

When it comes to providing away game tickets for Penn State Nittany Lion Club members, money talks. My good friend Jim Meister, Penn State Athletics supporter and fundraiser extraordinaire, told me once, “Carolyn there’s an easy way to solve the points problem. Just make a huge donation.”

What can I say? He’s right. But we have always donated more than the minimum amount to Penn State for the last 40 years, and more recently we became Honorary Coaches. Our problem is for too many years we also contributed significant dollars to a pooled membership where somebody else got all the donation points instead of us. That’s another story... and it’s over now.

So this year, for Alabama, the minimum cutoff on donation points is 650. That means, roughly speaking, that you would need to have contributed about $32,000 to Penn State Athletics over the years in order to order tickets. Essentially, you receive 1 point for every $50 you contribute. I’m ignoring certain other points in this calculation. But those points are just noise. For us, we are not alumni of Penn State (5 points), nor are we lifetime members of the Penn State Alumni Association (10 points). We do get 2 points per year for being continuous season ticket holders, but that doesn’t add up to much. 80 points for 40 years. We are in the top 12% of current Nittany Lion Club members in terms of total monetary donations, but we are a bit short of the 650-point cutoff. So we can’t order tickets through Penn State.