Monday, October 8, 2012

Penn State Football: First Ever Homecoming Game - Guest Blog by Kelly Burns

 I am pleased to introduce you to Kelly Burns, a former student who is a passionate football fan.  Here is her perspective on her first Homecoming game after graduating in May with an MBA from Smeal College of Business.  She is also a good photographer, and shares her new perspective from the Club Seats at Beaver Stadium. Enjoy!  Carolyn Todd

This past weekend marked my first Penn State Homecoming Weekend as a ‘full-time’ alumnus. After completing my undergraduate degree at PSU in May 2010, I jumped right into the MBA Program that August and spent an additional two years as a graduate student in Happy Valley.


I interned with Penn State Football (PSF) Marketing and Promotions from May 2009 through April 2012, which was a large chunk of my time as a student. This also included three unpaid summer internships with Penn State Football.

With my MBA graduation in May 2012, I officially became a two-time PSU alumnus. I have since moved home to Maryland, and I am continuing the job hunt for a marketing position in the MD/DC area.
I arrived in Happy Valley on Thursday for the Homecoming Weekend, both excited and nervous for Saturday’s game against Northwestern. Most of Friday was spent walking around the shops downtown. Numerous groups had claimed their parade seating by lunchtime, with the usual territorial chalk markings and small circles of students seated along College Ave.

I also stopped by the Hintz Alumni Center on Friday afternoon for their alumni ice cream social, which also included performances by alumni Blue Band members and appearances by the Homecoming Court, the Nittany Lion mascot, and Blue Sapphire.

That evening I attended the Homecoming Parade and I was glad to see many of the same groups from previous years, such as one of the Kentucky alumni chapters that has a guy dress up as KFC’s Colonel Sanders. 

I was also very happy to see a tremendous showing of support for Coach Paterno by alumni in the parade, in the form of t-shirts and signs.

Last year I walked in the Homecoming Parade with the (former) Great Show Squad Football Marketing group and the Blue Bus (which we had decorated with blue and white balloons, stand-ups of former players, and various banners, including ‘The Great Show with Joe Paterno’). Things have certainly changed since last year for all Penn Staters.

#47 Jordan Hill - where's the name on his jersey? 
There were students walking with the Blue Bus again this year, but the bus had different adornments – a picture of Bill O’Brien with the phrase ‘We Are’ on one side of the bus and pictures of several current players on the other side of the bus. 

From speaking with one of the current Athletics Marketing interns, I learned that the pictures on the bus were meant to represent the players and coaches in the parade since they could not be there themselves.  

Saturday morning, gray clouds covered the sky and a blustery wind blew through the tailgates outside Beaver Stadium. I was surprised by all of the empty parking spots outside the stadium, and I wondered just how many alums had really made the trek to PSU for Homecoming after everything that had happened over the past 11 months.

My parents are club seat ticket holders and had purchased club tickets for me and my boyfriend, Chris, for three of the games this season: Ohio University, Northwestern, and Ohio State. The OU season opener on September 1 also happened to coincide with my birthday, and it also marked the first game I attended as a non-student, non-Football intern since 2007. Needless to say, I felt a lot of different emotions that day, and it was a very painful loss.

I hoped attending the Northwestern game would be slightly more enjoyable, but I still had no idea what to expect. The game held a lot of meaning for me because the last time we played Northwestern in Beaver Stadium was in 2010 and I had assisted with the post-game celebration of Coach Paterno’s 400th win as part of my role as an intern.

There was a solid show of support for Joe Paterno throughout the weekend
While the NCAA has erased that win and over 100 others from the record books, it is still included on my resume, along with the post-game celebration of his 409th win in 2011 and numerous other game day promotions we held over the past few seasons.

I took my seat in the stands a little after 11am and watched the team do their warm-ups. The alumni Blue Band did their annual Homecoming pre-game performance, which is always fun to see. There were a handful of former cheerleaders and Lionettes on the sidelines as well, as per tradition.

At 11:30am, the student section was less than half full and there were a lot of empty seats throughout the stadium, including the majority of the row in front of us and the seats to our left.

Penn State Olympians are recognized during the game.
Apparently the students didn’t hear Coach O’Brien’s message at the pep rally the night before, when he told students to be in their seats by 11:30.

Eventually the student section filled up a bit, but not until around 1pm or so, and it never filled entirely. The game attendance was never announced on Saturday, but the newspapers on Sunday said that attendance was 95,769 – a disappointment given that the game was Homecoming, which was usually sold out in the past.

The Nittany Lion floats up the student section as they celebrate another PSU touchdown.
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing causing the lowered attendance because there are so many different factors, such as the weather, the time of the game, the STEP plan with ticket prices, and the continued fallout from the Sandusky Scandal.

I was impressed that the fans didn’t make a mass exodus following Northwestern’s punt return touchdown run when they took the lead 28-17. I like to think that this gave the PSU players the support they needed to make such an impressive comeback to win 39-28. Our fans continue to show their unrelenting support for our Football team.

These players are the ones who make me proud to still be a Penn Stater because they do not quit when confronted with adversity. They truly embody one of my favorite quotes, which is by Dr. Robert H. Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

When I left Beaver Stadium after our victory on Saturday, I took a few lessons with me. For one, I don’t think I will ever have the same Penn State Football game day experiences as I did prior to November 2011, but this is just a reminder that nothing ever stays the same.

Life is about learning, adapting, improving, and never giving up. However, it’s about more than not giving up on ourselves; it’s about not giving up on others as well. 

Our fans have not given up on our team because our team has not given up on us. Together we are all going to make it through these hard times, win or lose. Together We Are, and always will be, Penn State.

The players and coaches sang the alma mater with the students (and alumni) after their 39-28 victory over Northwestern.

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