I’ll admit it. I didn’t grow up watching Penn State football. I’m not even from Pennsylvania. And I definitely can’t recall endless facts about the Penn State Football Program.
But what I can tell you is that ever since my first Penn State Football game Freshman year, I’ve known that what happens over at Beaver Stadium on gamedays is truly amazing.
You see, I’ve traveled to a few away games as a member of the Blue Band. Each time, I’ve been disappointed that our opponent’s stadiums and overall atmosphere can’t even come close to Beaver Stadium. At the “Big House” in Michigan, the crowd wore a sea of maize (for the record, not a real color) and blue. As other have noticed before me, the “Big House” turned out not to be so big after all. And when we played at Purdue, the fans had a “blackout”. At noon. When it was 85 degrees. One word: FAIL.
But I digress.
The atmosphere of Beaver Stadium today is a direct result of the team’s less than stellar performance in the early 2000’s. Guido D’Elia, director of communications and branding for the football program, realized that something needed to be done on the part of the Stadium and fans. D’Elia and his team understood that what Penn State needed was a unique homegame environment. A place where opposing teams would speak about the constant and unwavering crowd noise for years to come. A place that would look incredible both in-person and on TV. A place unlike anywhere in the world. A place distinctly Penn State.
In October 2005, at the famous Ohio State game, D’Elia struck gold. The entire student section was a solid wall of white, becoming a force to be reckoned with, in and of itself. Viewers of the game, even on national television watched as the white-clad student section energized the rest of the 109,800-person crowd. With the win in hand, so entered the Stadium Whitehouse into Penn State tradition along with the Nittany Lion Mascot and the Blue Band.
Since the monumental win over Ohio State in 2005, the Nittany Lions have gone on to transform themselves into a winning football team. Since then, D’Elia and his team have carefully orchestrated gamedays so that spectators aren’t simply spectators. Every sound coming over the speakers and everything you see in the stadium is a delightful ballet of calculated coordination in the effort to bring the fans into the game.
Because of all of this, you’ll go to the Iowa Whitehouse game on Saturday evening and, without really even thinking about it, know why you love Penn State. And as you watch the Stadium lights fight the darkness of the cool Happy Valley night, you’ll realize that you are a part of something spectacular. Something unparalleled anywhere in the world. Something expressively Penn State.
Update: Commenters have suggested that the idea for the Whitehouse actually came from students. While D’Elia may or may not have been the originator of the Whitehouse concept, he certainly integrated the idea with all of the other Stadium features like what music they play and what goes on the displays during the game. Through marketing and branding, D’Elia was able to make the Whitehouse successful.