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“#1 Student Section” Needs to Step Up in 2011

We’re slipping, Penn State.

We were first declared the “best student section in the country” by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit way back in 2005, and have since been given similar praise by the likes of the Princeton Review. Zombie Nation makes the bleachers shake, and the Whiteout has become as much a part of Penn State football tradition as plain uniforms and black shoes.

We’ve become very proud of our perceived superiority as football fans, but recently that pride has shifted towards complacency. Our title as the “best student section in the country” is in jeopardy, and we only have ourselves to blame.

The biggest issue at hand is our inability to fill the student section by kickoff, or sometimes even by the end of the first quarter. There are rows and rows of empty bleachers at the start of every game, even those that kick off at 3:30 like last year’s Temple game. Sometimes, even during JoePa’s 400th win last season against Northwestern, the student section fails to fill up at all.

I realize that there are all kinds of reasons that students attend football games, and not all of them involve what’s happening on the field. However, if we’re going to continue to declare ourselves the best, we have to step up this season, and here’s a few ways we can do that.

Beat the rush

When you know there’s going to be a line for dinner at the commons or for Go Go Gadjet at Indigo, the thinking is generally to go a little early in order to beat the rush. The same principle should apply to Beaver Stadium, where the logjam at Gate A leading up to kickoff doesn’t allow some students to get into their seats until the 2nd quarter.

Early reports of the new student section included student entry at both Gates A and B, but it was confirmed to me that student entry will only be through Gate A for the upcoming season. Instead of complaining about an admittedly inefficient entry system, try making your way up to the stadium a few minutes earlier. You’ll spend less time in line and more time in your seats.

Understand the ticket system

There is no reason that student tickets should go unused for any game, yet this continues to be the case since the paperless ticket system was installed in 2009. Even for the 2009 Ohio State game, one of the biggest home games in the past few years, tickets went unsold as shown in this graphic.

If you can’t make it to a game, or if you don’t have season tickets and want to attend a game, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with Student Central and learn the (simple) process of buying and selling tickets. It’s not that difficult, I promise, and you’ll probably end up saving yourself some money.

Win a big home game

Okay, this doesn’t fall on the student section, but it needs to happen. It’s been two full seasons since the last time Penn State beat a ranked team at Beaver Stadium, a 49-18 drubbing of #15 Michigan State on a frigid Senior Day in 2008. Since then, the Nittany Lions have flopped in big games at home, losing to both ranked opponents they’ve faced (Ohio State in 2009 and Michigan State in 2010) and letting an early lead wash away in the rain against Iowa in 2009.

There are two big chances to break this streak in 2011 with Alabama and Nebraska coming to Happy Valley. A win over one, let alone both, would go a long way in energizing the student body.

Camp out

Paternoville has made every “things you have to do before you graduate” list around, and Penn State is the only school in the country where students camp out for every home football game. Camping out at Paternoville will get you the closest seats to the field and you might have the chance to meet some football players, ESPN personalities, and maybe even JoePa himself.

Yes, I realize this is a shameless plug, but work with me here. If you’re not sure how to do Paternoville, check out the Paternoville website or contact me ([email protected]).

A few other thoughts

  • Why not offer a Code Blue point to students who enter Beaver Stadium 30 minutes before kickoff?
  • Go big for the big games. How about adding an “S-Zone” type image generated by hundreds of t-shirts or a tifo for the Alabama game, for example?
  • Be reasonable when listing your tickets for sale. If you want it to sell, don’t be greedy.
  • The paperless ticket system is (slowly) becoming more flexible, but ultimately some tickets will always go to waste due to the Friday at 5pm deadline.
  • To the alumni/non-students who are eager to criticize…shut up. We don’t care how much better you claim things were when you were in school.

What do you think? What do we need to do to remain “the best student section in the country”?

About the Author

John Tecce

John is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He currently serves as the President of the Paternoville Coordination Committee and as a THON Chair for Nittany Nation. He tweets a lot.

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