From Humble Beginnings To Nearly 20,000 Members, ‘Nittany Nation’ Connects Penn Staters Like No Other
In the world of social media, there are hundreds of fan pages out there for people to join as a way to express their love for what they enjoy most. Among these fan pages are some Penn State-centric ones where students, alumni, or even just supporters of the university come together to show appreciation.
One page called “Nittany Nation” boasts nearly 20,000 members and has existed since 2014. Even in the past month, the page has brought on 200 more new members and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
But how did Nittany Nation, one of the largest Facebook groups for Penn State fans, come to be?
It all started with Eric Herrold, a former member of another Penn State group on Facebook in the early 2010s. Herrold had been kicked out of the group with no explanation, but he still wanted to share his opinions about Penn State as a way to cope with the current situation.
So, he decided to start a page himself.
“[We started] with a member of one: Me,” Herrold said.
Over time, he started to invite as many people as possible to join, including many of the players who were on the football team at the time. Herrold invited the football players to embrace them despite the bad situation they were going through during the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
What really made the page popular was that with each new addition to the football team, Nittany Nation would “welcome them to the family,” and ease new so-called recruits into the fanbase on a more “personal level.” From there, the fan page has continued to grow.
With 20,000 people constantly checking the page daily, multiple administrators and moderators simply have to work to keep the group going strong. Herrold and multiple other people work daily to filter out some of the negative posts. Their hard work is what makes Nittany Nation stay so positive and a fun place to be.
Trying to keep the group as human and nice as possible has always been the goal for Herrold.
“We were only heading into the third year of undeserved sanctions at the time, and those [football] players had been put through the wringer,” Herrold said. “In my mind, they deserved nothing but the best from us — and still do as a token of our appreciation for taking on the burden they had been tasked with and keeping it all together, even making us stronger.”
Everyone is able to share their opinion on Nittany Nation, but their thoughts are held to a certain level of respect. The group’s main goal is to share the love of Penn State with the people who join.
With 20,000 members, many different types of posts are shared throughout the group. Game threads that are used as live discussion forums during football games have proved to be popular and stopped the wall from being overwhelmed with “Touchdown!” posts from multiple people. These type of threads are also used for other sports as well, such as wrestling, volleyball, and hockey.
Along with sports, the pure love shown among the Penn State family is real with Nittany Nation. Herrold often says what separates them from other Penn State groups is that they don’t seek negativity. All members bleed blue and white and stick with Penn State through thick and thin.
It’s not just a collective group of people. “Nittany Nation” has become a movement.
“So many people have met and become friends through our group,” Herrold said. “We have posts almost daily of newborns wearing their first Penn State onesies, prayer requests from someone struggling to cope as they battle medical issues, and have mourned the loss and cherished the Penn State memories of loved ones lost together.”
Along with their celebrations of Penn State, Nittany Nation’s members also have their own traditions. There’s an annual Blue & White Tailgate that has grown each year for the Blue-White game, with nearly 300 attending it this past April. They also have helped raise over $15,000 as a co-sponsor for the Beaver Stadium Special Olympics 5K — which takes place the day after the annual spring game.
Along with this, Nittany Nation has sold White Out shirts through the help of a graphic designer, and the group even made its own hype videos for each season thanks to former Penn State letterman Maurice Humphrey. Nittany Nation always strives to keep things positive — even in the darkest of times.
The quirkiest tradition of them all, though, is its weekly ketchup toast and diet green tea post from a member, Mark Lohr. It’s become a superstition prior to big Penn State football games.
“It started in 2016. He hasn’t missed a Saturday yet,” Herrold said. “And it plays heavily into our desire to keep things as fun as possible.”
Through contributions from the youngest of Penn State fans to the celebration of new members to the football team, Nittany Nation has proved to be one of the kindest places on the internet to celebrate your love for Penn State. From its humble beginnings to the large group it is now, Nittany Nation will always bleed blue and white.
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After a fundraising year that included no canning and banned events outside of State College, THON 2020 culminated with the announcement that $11,696,942.38 had been raised For The Kids.
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