State College: What I Found Out Covering Sports in the Middle of
When UC Irvine was planned, I’m pretty sure the guys laying it out thought it would be in an area that had room for expansion—a place where the campus would evolve into the focus of the community.
Now, while I’m not here to talk trash on my beloved Irvine, I am here to educate those of you who haven’t visited our fellow colleges in the Midwest.
Put simply, UCI’s got nothin’ on Penn State.
Of course UCI is better academically, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about school spirit and athletics.
Allow me to paint a picture of Penn State. The New University was gracious enough to fly our photography editor, Daniel Jun, and myself out to cover the Men’s Volleyball Final Four, in which UCI was one of the participants. We flew into Pittsburgh, the nearest city with a major airport. The drive from Pittsburgh to State College (the town where Penn State’s main University Park campus is located) was two-and-a-half hours long, and that’s going at California speeds. So when I say Penn State is out in the middle of nowhere, I mean it. Not exactly what you’d expect from a campus that boasts one of the nation’s largest enrollments at its main University Park campus with around 40,000 students.
What makes State College so cool is that it’s completely self-contained. All people have to cheer for here are Penn State sports. There isn’t a pro sports team, let alone a major college athletics program, within 100 miles. This has fostered an environment of extreme dedication to, and dependency on, Penn State athletics as a major source of entertainment and pride for the surrounding community. The Nittany Lions are central and northern Pennsylvania’s only real way of satisfying their sports fix.
In contrast, there are at least 30 major colleges and professional sports franchises in the Southern California area.
Penn State also has the space to build a huge athletics complex, including the 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium, home to Joe Paterno and the Penn State football team. They also have the 15,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center, which is equivalent to the Bren. Our stadium, by the way, only seats roughly 5,000 people.
The volleyball national championship match that I witnessed featured a crowd of around 5,500 in the Rec Hall field house—and 5,400 of them were cheering for Penn State.
I know what you’ll think: ‘Penn State was playing in their own back yard for the national title so of course there were tons of people there.’ But these weren’t your normal fans. Nittany Lion fans have intense pride in their school, and cheered like they were at a gladiator match in ancient Rome and their team was Russell Crowe, fighting for his life before their very eyes. They knew every cheer like the back of their hands and chanted ‘We are, Penn State’ so loudly it gave me goose bumps.
What I’m trying to say is that while UCI may not be the sports capital of Southern California, it has certain intrinsic characteristics that make it impossible to ever amass the school spirit Penn State has.
Sure, UCLA and USC