8 PENN STATE

April 27, 1997

VARSITY TEAMS: 29 INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 16
FAMOUS ALUMNI: MARY ELLEN CLARK, KERRY COLLINS, FRANCO HARRIS
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: CLASSIC FOOTBALL UNIFORMS

Never mind the 93,967-seat football cathedral or the basketball
arena replete with skyboxes. If Penn State recruiters really
wanted to lure prospective athletes to Nittany Valley, they
would take them on a tour of the gift shops and bookstores that
dot College Avenue in State College. It is there that one gets a
blast of school spirit that assaults all five senses. Aside from
viewing the massive inventory of school-logoed T-shirts and
tchotchkes, petting thousands of stuffed Nittany lions and, on
football game days, hearing tapes of the school marching band
blared over loudspeakers, one can sample (no joke) Penn State
Extra Chunky Salsa and even get a whiff of Nittany Lion Cologne
($19.95 a bottle).

A tad excessive, this commercialism? "Naw, that stuff is all in
good fun," says Joe Paterno, the venerable football coach, whose
own life-sized cardboard cutout sells for $39.99. "It just goes
to show how caught up folks are in the athletic program.
Besides, I'd rather see our boosters buying hot sauce than
buying players."

Once a school whose athletic profile was visible only on fall
Saturdays, when the football team played, among others, then
fellow independents like Miami, Notre Dame and Pitt, Penn State
underwent a sports face-lift in 1990 when it became the 11th
member of the Big Ten. Football remains king, and though the old
rivals have been supplanted by the likes of Michigan and Ohio
State, hordes of alumni still converge on Beaver Stadium on game
day from as far away as Hawaii, creating traffic jams miles long
on single-lane Route 322. So is Joe Pa still the most, well,
lionized figure on campus, the eponym of Peachy Paterno ice
cream at Penn State's renowned creamery and the Joegie hoagie
(capocollo ham, Genoa salami and provolone on an Italian roll)
served in the dining halls.

But the Nittany Lions' entrance into the Big Ten has improved
their entire athletic program. By taking on stronger competition
and reaping the fruits of conferencewide revenue sharing, Penn
State has become a force in volleyball, women's basketball and
other sports. Moreover, as a condition for joining the Big Ten,
the Lions had to retire some outdated facilities, including Rec
Hall, the rickety field house that had been used for
intercollegiate basketball since 1928 and was already scheduled
to be replaced. In its stead the athletic department built the
$55 million Bryce Jordan Center, a glossy all-purpose arena that
just celebrated its first birthday.

The emphasis on sports isn't limited to the varsity teams.
Undergrads must take at least three credits in a recreational
pursuit, such as fly-fishing, golf or power skating. The school
also offers academic courses related to sports, among them The
Modern Olympic Games (page 84). And the College of Health and
Human Development boasts a nationally renowned kinesiology
department.

With a sprawling, pastoral campus perched in the heart of the
Allegheny Mountains, Penn State has more than enough playing
fields (80 acres), swimming pools (four), golf courses (two) and
other facilities to accommodate a student body of nearly 40,000,
some 58% of whom participate in intramurals. The school has 57
recreation and sports clubs, including an outdoors organization
whose 1,300 members do everything from kayak in Lake Perez, 17
miles from campus, to ski at Tussey Mountain, just four miles
away.

Simple geography helps explain Penn State's rabid devotion to
its teams. Happy Valley is equally inaccessible from all points
on the map. This means that once students get to campus, they
tend not to leave, forgoing road trips and instead catching,
say, women's hoops on campus. Those with some semblance of a
valid I.D. showing them to be 21 or older gravitate to Damon's
Clubhouse or Champs Sports Grill to catch the Nittany Lions on
the big screen and scarf Philly steaks laden with more cheese
than Jerry Maguire's mission statement.

"The students are a captive audience who are always around for
games, and they then become loyal alumni who love to come back
to campus," says Bruce Parkhill, a former men's basketball coach
who's now an administrator in the athletic department. "This
place is second to none in fan support." Indeed, like the
school's fragrance, the fervor in Happy Valley resembles
Obsession.

--JON WERTHEIM

COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL L. PALMIERI STUDENTS LOVE A CUP--OR A CONE--OF JOE [Cartons of Peachy Paterno ice cream]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)