Chris Fowler: Penn State White Out ‘A Stroke Of Genius’
ESPN play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler is back calling this year’s White Out alongside Kirk Herbstreit for the sixth consecutive year.
The pair were on scene for Penn State’s massive upset over then-No. 2 Ohio State back in 2016, and they’ve returned to call the Nittany Lions’ biggest home game of the season every year since. ESPN’s College GameDay will also be back in our borough for their fifth-straight White Out.
Fowler actually spent part of his childhood in State College while his father taught at Penn State, so he’s no stranger to the tradition of football in Happy Valley. On top of getting to enjoy what he describes as his “favorite annual scene in college football,” the announcer also sees his return to Penn State as a bit of a homecoming.
“Even though Beaver Stadium has changed a lot since the years when I went there as a kid, I still get a special feeling going back in that place,” Fowler said. “The friendly ghosts of a lot of past decades come back to me, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.”
Fowler noted that he fondly remembers attending Penn State games back in the 1970s when season tickets were just $6. He explained that this is where his love for college football was truly born, although the spectacle of it in Happy Valley has only grown since then.
The almost 30-year college football veteran still remembers when the White Out first came about in 2004. Penn State Athletics’ former director of communications and branding Guido D’Elia pitched the idea to Joe Paterno ahead of that season. It started as just a student-section effort, but by 2007, a game against Notre Dame featured the first full-stadium White Out.
Fowler added that D’Elia is actually a dear friend of his, and gives him plenty of credit for the “inspired idea.”
“It’s a stroke of genius,” Fowler said. “I love the way that it kind of organically grew from a student-only thing, and then the full stadium. As the story goes, the fans sort of demanded it…They wanted to keep it special, and rare, and once per season.
“I think once you see it in person for the first time, then you can really appreciate it,” Fowler added.
There are several reasons ESPN keeps returning to the spectacle, but, as Fowler noted, one of the key points is that it looks phenomenal on TV.
“Our TV director is so excited because, as I call it, it’s the most telegenic experience in sports,” Fowler said. “It’s a night game and the stadium is lit up by everybody wearing white. The fireworks and the game ops, everything is just beautifully executed.”
While in recent years the Nittany Lions have faced Big Ten foes such as Michigan and Ohio State for the annual spectacle, an SEC squad such as Auburn may not have as much experience with it. As Fowler noted, the Tigers will have to adjust quickly to one of most electric crowds in all of sports.
“The Auburn players were talking about it. It’s new for them and it’s new for the coaches as well,” Fowler said. “It’s not just about the decibel level. It’s sort of about the sustained energy throughout. It’s just fun…It feels like a party and a celebration when we’re there calling the game.”
If you won’t be at the party in person, make sure to tune in to ABC at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with Fowler and Herbstreit for Penn State’s biggest home game of the season.
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