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Penn State History Lesson: The Blue-White Game

This weekend marks 71 years since the Penn State’s Blue-White spring football game first took place in 1951. Even today, the annual scrimmage is the perfect opportunity for Penn Staters to get one last fill of football before the school year ends. And, if they’re lucky, they’ll leave with a sense of hope for the football season to come in the fall.

The Blue-White Game originated under the leadership of former Penn State head coach Rip Engle, who the Nittany Lions hired from Brown in 1950 following a year without a head coach. During his second season at the program’s helm, Engle agreed for his team to play a scrimmage sponsored by Penn State’s Alumni Association. But rather than involving another school — a typical scrimmage tactic back in those days — this one was kept within the Nittany Lions.

Coach Rip Engle (Image: La Vie 1952, Penn State archives)

The new intrasquad scrimmage split Penn State’s players into two teams: Blue and White. The 1951 Blue-White Game, as it was consequently named, was played on the newly grown grass of State College High School’s Memorial Field in honor of Penn State’s general scholarship fund. The scrimmage served as the final spring practice for the 1951 team rather than a scrimmage against another team. 

According to Penn State sports historian Lou Prato, tickets to the first scrimmage were just one dollar apiece, and students paid half-price. Yes, you heard that right. You can’t even buy solo cups with that money nowadays!

About 500 people attended the first game in 1951 to watch their team compete with itself for a water bucket used as a prestigious trophy. Engle announced his support in favor of the Blue team, and he was right to be. The Blue team won that first intrasquad scrimmage and would later claim victories in three more contests without interruption.

In 1955, the White team finally won a game over the Blue team, snapping a losing streak with a 24-12 victory. Assisting the White team’s coaching staff was Joe Paterno, who was once a promising Engle assistant who went on to piece together perhaps the greatest coaching career in college football.

Over those years, the game itself would grow, too. Recent Blue-White games have drawn in upwards of 50,000 fans to Beaver Stadium. And although it took a few years to win over the attention of most Penn Staters, who previously found themselves more captivated with spring sports like baseball and lacrosse, the Blue-White Game became the fan-favorite event we know today.

Penn State’s 2022 Blue-White Game will kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 23. The annual spring game hasn’t graced Beaver Stadium since 2019.

Check out our preview to learn more about plenty of family-friendly events available across Happy Valley over Blue-White Weekend.

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About the Author

Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is a senior majoring in English and an associate editor at Onward State. She loves making music, consuming the maximum daily amount of coffee recommended by the FDA, and overanalyzing Taylor Swift lyrics. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @meganedougherty and forward any (free) The Eras Tour tickets to her email, [email protected]

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