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Pat Kraft & James Franklin Fire Up THON 2024 Pep Rally Crowd

Penn State Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft and head football coach James Franklin kicked off THON 2024’s Pep Rally in style Saturday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The two university staples took center stage before several varsity athletic squads competed in a spirited dance competition for the distinction of pep rally champion.

“Wow, this is awesome,” Kraft said. “It is overwhelming when you walk into this building.”

Since taking over as the Nittany Lions’ athletic director in July 2022, THON 2024 marks Kraft’s second Pep Rally appearance as the leader of Penn State Athletics. 

Although he’s spent less than two years in the role, he’s quickly embraced the importance of THON and the event’s stronghold imprinted on the Happy Valley community. 

“The unconditional and selfless love that you have for those who can’t fight for themselves, and to do the thing that others need…makes you very, very special,” Kraft said. “That’s why Penn State is a special place. That’s why this is the best institution in the world.”

Saturday’s Pep Rally began at THON’s 26-hour mark, leaving just over 700 dancers with about 20 hours left on their feet. While it’s natural for dancers to feel fatigued, tired, or discouraged, Kraft reminded the full-capacity floor of the reason for their efforts. 

“Let’s make sure those little cubs in our community grow up to be strong, powerful Nittany Lions just like each and every one of you,” he said. 

Before the dance battle began, Kraft’s sentiment was shortly followed by Franklin, who graced the THON stage for a quick word of encouragement. 

However, Franklin’s welcome wasn’t as warm as Kraft’s. The decade-tenured program leader was faced with a flurry of audible boos heard throughout the Bryce Jordan Center’s confines. 

“This is year 11 for me,” Franklin said. “And this weekend, I’m blown away by what you guys do for the [Four Diamonds] families [and] for the Penn State community. This is what makes Penn State so special.”

Aside from gifting his gratitude for the community’s support not just from the football program, Franklin spoke on behalf of the entirety of Penn State’s 31 varsity squads.

“I want to let you know how much not only the football program, but the entire athletic department, is so appreciative of what you guys do,” Franklin continued. “This is what makes Penn State so special — always has, always will. Remember what we’re doing it for. It’s for the kids.”

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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