10 Questions With Beaver Stadium Music Man PJ Mullen
While cheering from the stands in Beaver Stadium or the Bryce Jordan Center, you might have wondered who’s behind the scenes and coordinating the fan experience. That’s where Penn State Athletics Director of Marketing PJ Mullen comes in.
We sat down with Mullen to discuss his role with the Nittany Lions and how he’s making the most of an extremely unusual football season.
Onward State: Can you tell us about your role with Penn State Athletics?
PJ Mullen: My main responsibilities are making sure that the environment and the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center are top-notch and something that all Penn Staters can be proud of. So utilizing community relationships and athletic department relationships to make sure we’re putting on a great show and supporting everything that surrounds that event, whether it’s something fun like Homecoming or a White Out.
OS: How did your time at Penn State help you prepare for the job?
PJ: When I was at Penn State, I didn’t take advantage of all the resources that Penn State offers, specifically with the College of Communications and all the different internships and events you can be a part of. Luckily enough, after I left Penn State and went to the Harrisburg area, and the Philly area in DC, after doing that, I happened to have a guy that I had worked for him who was in State College and called me up. I thought, “Man, this could be a really good chance for me to go back up there and take more advantage of my time and opportunity and give back to Penn State.”
OS: In your time here, what’s been your favorite memory with Penn State Athletics?
PJ: One would be at the Blue-White game from a year or so ago. We had a ton of people from the Special Olympics, some guys and ladies that I became close with, and kids with Down’s syndrome. Getting them on the field in front of 70,000 people at the Blue-White game and having them be able to call a play with Coach Smith, whose daughter, Haley, is a Special Olympic athlete, was awesome. Having one of them running in the end zone and going nuts with Coach Franklin was also very cool. For a moment, I got to feel like I was getting to run a play in front of all these fans. Being down there in the middle of it with the microphone and then seeing all the good positive stories that came from that really was a proud moment for me. I’m working with that group all the time. The Special Olympics is near and dear to me for so many reasons. Working with them and seeing them get to rejoice in that moment and represent their Special Olympic athletes across the state of Pennsylvania in that moment was really my proudest moment at the athletics department.
OS: One of our favorite Beaver Stadium moments was the famous “Mo Bamba” crowd that forced Michigan to blow a timeout in last year’s White Out. Can you walk us through that moment?
PJ: The White Out just presents so many opportunities for everybody. You’re on the big stage. It was like a perfect temperature in October. The team was undefeated. There was so much excitement coming into that one. Our crew asked, “How do we put the cherry on top?” We’re not going to dictate what the energy is in that stadium. We’re going to be able to capitalize on it. We got this huge build up to this moment. We had Jonathan Sutherland, who had been all over the news leading up to that, up on the big screen shaking his his his hair and yelling for the crowd to get up. You got “Mo Bamba” pumping into the stadium. The defense is coming out. And we put the cherry on top. And then, sure enough, it was just loud enough that that they couldn’t communicate the way they want to. In our Roar Tracker at Beaver Stadium, we always give a point every time there’s a false start, delay of game, or a timeout called. If there was a point system, I mean, that’s a three pointer from half-court.
OS: What is your typical schedule like on the day of a home football game?
PJ: We get up nice and early. And I say “we” because I want to make that clear. It’s a village of people that put this thing together. So we get up bright and early before everybody else. First, we head to Nittanyville at 5 a.m. to start getting them out of that area so they can get back and get their last nap in and get that area cleared up. Then we move over to Curtain Road and start setting up everything for our Fan Fest. Then we’ll move inside the stadium for a couple of last-minute tests to make sure the video boards are operating properly and the sound system works. I usually play The Lion King really loud right at sunrise for the RV people. I don’t know if they hear it or not. But in my head, they hear it.
I usually run upstairs 30 minutes before the game starts, and we get into our pregame show. And then we get that shot of James Franklin leading the team through the tunnel. And then from there, we try and capitalize on every single opportunity we can. After the victory bell rings, I go home, and I usually tape the game and watch it with whoever is at my house.
OS: How has your job changed this year? Has the pandemic affected your work with Athletics?
PJ: My role is always going to be different every year no matter what because you’re always trying to evolve with the times. As technology gets better, we’re always are looking for ways to take advantage of that and make the fan experience better. Sandy Barbour talks about this all the time, our “why?” is our student-athletes. We have to keep working together to make sure that their experiences are as good as possible. Then from the fan side, we’re working through a virtual experience right now. I think everyone’s aware that it’s not the same, but you know, you work through it and figure out a way to find the positives in this situation.
OS: How are you making the most of today’s challenges?
PJ: The cutouts of the fans that are being installed are a good start, with some of those proceeds going towards different groups on campus. We want to make sure that we’re still going to do everything we can in the stadium to try and find the norm. We did a “Raise the Song” campaign, where fans sent in videos that will be played in the stadium. The fans aren’t getting to see that stuff in the stadium, but the players are seeing the support. That’s what we’re doing in that area. And then everything we do in the stadium, that’s just going to be feeling it out. Maybe Sweet Caroline plays, maybe it doesn’t. We have to get that feel for the stadium.
OS: What can fans at home expect to see and hear from Beaver Stadium this season? Anything new or different?
PJ: We have the cutout sale that we offered as a way for fans to potentially see themselves on TV or social media. I’m also working with the S-Zone crew to get them to have a presence in the stadium. Nittanyville is making their banners that they would typically hang in the south end zone. You’ll definitely get to see those those things. From a TV side, I hope they hear the Lion Roars, the Blue Band tracks in the background, and the crowd noise. Those are all items we’ll be pushing through. So, if they listen close enough, I hope they hear some of the soundtracks of Happy Valley through their TVs.
OS: Will crowd noise be pumped into Beaver Stadium this year?
PJ: That’s been the plan, but I don’t know how loud or low it will go. When you watch an NFL game or another college football game, a lot of those networks are providing crowd noise through their TV feed. I don’t think it will affect the fans at home much. We will have “We Are” chants, Seven Nation Army chants, and crowd murmurs, but that’s more for a sense of normalcy. It’s not to be utilized as a distraction or anything like that.
OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you were a dinosaur, what would you be and why?
PJ: I would be a pterodactyl because the word begins with a “P.” Every time I’m on a phone call with somebody that wants to confirm my name, I say “PJ” and they ask if I say “TJ.” Then I say “P as in Pterodactyl,” since my name is Phillip and it doesn’t have the true P sound, just like Pterodactyl. It’s like a corny dad joke.
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About the Author
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