Fans’ Brief Return To Beaver Stadium A Reminder Of Brighter Days Ahead

It felt a little strange in Beaver Stadium Saturday at Penn State’s Blue-White spring practice, but there’s no denying how comforting it was to see at least some fans rooting on the Nittany Lions on a sunny afternoon.

The crowd of 7,521 people was made up of members of the Class of 2024 and players’ family and friends. Now, that’s just a small percentage of the stadium’s capacity of at least 107,000. But considering the lonely football season we just witnessed in Happy Valley, it was a welcomed sight.

“We announced it was 7,500 fans or somewhere in that ballpark. After last season, it felt like 75,000,” James Franklin said following the event Saturday. “It really felt good to be in there with our freshmen students and our parents…Being back in the stadium, I thought was a real positive for us.”

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry echoed Franklin’s sentiment that it was surreal to have more than a handful of people cheering the team on, even for just a practice.

“Last fall, I’m gonna show my age here, there was a lot of times you’d run out of that tunnel, and it was like an Alfred Hitchcock show,” Pry said. “The energy today that number of fans provided was outstanding. Our guys feed on that stuff. That’s a big reason a lot of our guys come to Penn State. It’s the environment they play in…It’s just outstanding to get a little taste of what hopefully we get back to in the fall.

“For the guys that were out there last fall, that was a tough situation, playing in a 107,000-seat stadium with nobody in it.”

The university’s decision to invite just this year’s freshmen was met with a ton of backlash. But we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t exciting to see a new class of Penn Staters get indoctrinated into Beaver Stadium traditions. Classic crowd renditions of “Livin’ On A Prayer,” “Sweet Caroline,” and, of course, the Alma Mater was an awesome return to what we all missed so much this past season.

Along with that, visits from former Penn State football stars such as KJ Hamler, Marcus Allen, and Miles Sanders, among others, were a perfect touch to get everyone in attendance pumped for the coming season this fall.

As it turns out, seniors will also get a chance to watch a spring practice in Beaver Stadium on Friday, April 23. While that decision has also received its fair share of criticism, and it won’t be that same football atmosphere we all miss, it’s important to remember it’ll serve as one last student memory at Beaver Stadium for members of the Class of 2022.

Penn State hasn’t nailed its decision-making in getting students back into Beaver Stadium. That much is obvious. However, many of those frustrations might disappear for many folks once they get back into the bleachers — back home, if you will.

Take it from Franklin. Let’s keep a positive mindset for these next few months, and hopefully, we’ll all be able to pack Beaver Stadium for big games this coming fall.

“Being back in that stadium was great. I can’t imagine what it would be to get back to what we were averaging the two years before the pandemic,” Franklin said. “Whatever we have to do, to get that stadium back full…Anybody that’s comfortable getting a vaccine. Let’s get the vaccine so we can get as many people in the stadium as we possibly can, and try to get back to normal.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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