Reflecting On Our College GameDay Experience
From playing cornhole Friday afternoon to camping out during the middle of the night before cheering and waving signs on live TV Saturday morning, students filled Old Main Lawn for hours this weekend in anticipation of the White Out. The full day of excitement resulted in plenty of sleepy yet grateful fans once Lee Corso sported the Nittany Lion headgear and Saturday afternoon rolled around.
Our staffers, who traded sleep for the memory of attending GameDay, shared their thoughts about the show’s first visit to Happy Valley since 2009.
As the social media manager, all I’ve done for the last two weeks is tweet about #GameDayPSU, so if you didn’t know, I was very excited for this weekend — so excited that I stood on the Old Main Lawn from 4 a.m. until noon after sleeping for an hour and waking up to the Lion King Trap Remix. All in all, I absolutely loved the GameDay experience and sharing it with so many other screaming fans who were as excited for this team as adamantly anti-Harbaugh as I am. Because of the setup, it felt at times like we were just at a giant watch party with signs, but the atmosphere was still unlike any other I had been apart of, save for both celebratory rallies last fall. My one complaint is that it seemed that the show wasn’t integrated into the culture enough. I get that ESPN was putting on a large scale production and has to learn about a new school each week, but the producer shouldn’t be asking the “Penn State Band” to be quiet and the DJ shouldn’t be tuning out a “We Are” cheer with a song.
One side note: I was standing right in front of the Michigan cheerleaders and I have to give it to them. They took a deluge of hate and jeers from fans (including me) extremely well and interacted with us quite amicably, complimenting our signs and begging the Nittany Lion to take a picture with a baby dressed up as a lion. Not all Wolverines suck.
When I dragged myself out of bed and into the line for GameDay, I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it. I was tired, freezing cold, and fairly sure the sign I spent two hours making would never end up on camera. After waiting in line for an hour, everyone suddenly formed a stampede over to the set and I found myself near the back. I was ready to call it quits until I saw the sun rise over Happy Valley. I regained some feeling in my feet and decided to do GameDay the right way, which meant eight hours of singing, dancing, and screaming with other students and the occasional Penn State dad. Eventually, I ended up in a good spot right in front of the DJ which helped keep me awake and moving.
The coolest part of the day for me was seeing the aerial shots of Old Main come up on the big screen in front of me. Watching the lawn slowly fill up as people sleepily made their way to the heart of campus was really awesome (and only made me want to rub it everyone’s faces that I was closer than they were).
I expected there to be more drunken rowdiness than there was. I got in line at 4 a.m. and there were already hundreds of people in front of me, which means they either slept all day and woke up early to line up or they came straight from the bars and apartments parties. Whatever the case may be, I knew it was going to be tough to get right behind the set, but I’m ultimately happy I didn’t. Seeing Desmond Howard’s face when Lee Corso picked Penn State to win and having enough room to jump around with my friends was reward enough:
I’ve truly never been to anything like it. Last week, I felt like Penn State’s campus was a movie set — walking to class with the chance to see the setup was only the beginning of what I can only describe as a surreal day. Going to Old Main at such a strange hour made Saturday feel like it lasted for years — not because it was anything close to uneventful but because so many of us felt like we’d simply been awake for way too long. And of course, many of us were also wondering how we were going to make it through the night.
By the time the actual show rolled around Saturday morning, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. Everything from the literal forest of signs around us to the energy of the crowd despite the length of the previous night made me realize and appreciate just how unique our university really is. This show itself already doesn’t happen at most schools as it is, but the energy of College GameDay at Penn State was clearly something pretty special.
We had gone to College GameDay back when it was in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship, but obviously, holding it this time in Happy Valley would give it a different feel. Penn State fans came out in full force for the event, which wasn’t a huge surprise with all of the hype leading up to this weekend.
My biggest question was whether showing up at 4:30 a.m. (when folks could start lining up for the pit) or showing up at 9 a.m. (the start of the show) would be that much of a difference in how good of a spot you would get. In Indy, you wouldn’t get pit access by showing up late, but because it was held at a neutral site, there weren’t a ton of fans there throughout the event, so you could get a pretty solid spot by showing up at the start of the show. There were quite a few more people at Old Main than in Indy, but you could see everything you needed to by getting there at 9 a.m. The pit seems pretty overrated since you’re stuck there with nothing but your sign when you could have the ability to walk around and do pretty much whatever you want during the show right outside those pit gates.
GameDay was every single bit of fun as it looks on TV, except for the part where I had to pee the entire time but refused to give my spot up in line. Old Main Lawn was buzzing unlike anything I had ever seen in my time here. There was an electricity and excitement in the air unlike I had ever experienced before, and it’s difficult to put it into words. I will never forget GameDay on Old Main Lawn.
Attending College GameDay was a pretty unbelievable experience, even if it was tiring. Going from watching GameDay on TV during my freshman year (the 2015 season), with no expectation of Penn State ever being good enough for the set, to come here to fighting to win airtime for my own sign is still hard to wrap my head around.
It truly felt like – other than Desmond Howard – the GameDay personalities really loved the setting and the fans, embracing our chants and traditions to the point where they trusted us with the well-being of Lee Corso. For a bunch of students who got up between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., I thought we did a terrific job of showing the college football world how excited we are about this team. The signs were fantastic, apart for some obnoxiously large banners about Jesus that definitely were not student-made. All in all, the excitement of the Penn State faithful early on Saturday morning made me proud to be a Penn Stater.