When the Penn State Nittany Lions were handed sanctions by the NCAA, many felt those sanctions would damage the program for years to come, keeping top talent away from Happy Valley and causing a drastic drop in attendance. Things looked bleak not so long ago, even I thought that it would take a few years for the program to rebound. And while attendance did drop over the past two seasons, under new head coach James Franklin, there’s a better-than-good chance that fans begin flocking to Beaver Stadium once again in 2014.
Franklin expressed in his opening press conference as head coach that he expects Penn State to sell out every game, starting with the annual Blue-White Game on April 12. Of course, expecting 107,000 to show up to a scrimmage isn’t exactly reasonable, so he is now calling for a minimum of 80,000 fans in attendance.
We have done our research, the Farmers Almanac forecast: Penn State will have Blue Skies, 78 degrees & 80k at the spring game on 4/12.
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) March 15, 2014
While Franklin’s statement about selling out every game sounded like a brash statement at the time just to make a good impression, he hasn’t backed off of it. He continues to encourage fans to fill Beaver Stadium this season. One of his favorite hashtags he likes to use on Twitter is #107kStrong.
Based on the excitement I’ve noticed around the program already, there’s no reason to believe that the stadium won’t be filled this season. Franklin was able to not only keep the talent that was already in place, he’s also worked hard to add to it. He added some notable recruits at the end of the 2014 period and already has the Nittany Lions ranked in the top-5 for 2015 recruiting. Fans will take notice to that and understand that showing up to games will also help with recruiting the best players to come play in Happy Valley.
Don’t forget that just a few short years ago, Penn State easily saw over 100,000 come through the gates during a home football game. Finding a seat in Beaver Stadium was not an easy task, and they could soon be the case again.
Although this season is probably going to be the toughest numbers wise due to the lack of scholarships on the depth chart, that shouldn’t matter. The core of the team is still loaded with talent, starting with the Big Ten Freshman of the Year from 2013, quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Despite the difficult circumstances, the Nittany Lions have won 15 games of the past two seasons.
Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo recently expressed that there could be a chance the NCAA decides to lift the bowl ban that the Nittany Lions are currently under.
BTN Spring Practice Tour #PennState I believe the NCAA will allow PSU to go bowling this year. We’ll know in August.
— Gerry DiNardo (@gerrydinardo) March 22, 2014
If that were to happen, there would be even more excitement surrounding the program, and likely more people would want to come to Beaver Stadium in support of the team.
Asking for a sellout for every game this season may be a bit much, but I won’t be surprised to see the attendance soar in 2014, thanks in large part to the effort that Franklin has already put forth.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter