Posts tagged ‘Nittany Lion Club’

Mr. O’Brien Goes to Washington

He signed 21 autographs. He posed for 68 photos. He shook 101 hands.

That was the tally—part of it, anyway—for Bill O’Brien Tuesday night in Washington D.C., on the fourth stop of the Penn State Coaches Caravan. For about 40 minutes—from the time he entered the ballroom at the Washington Hilton until the time he excused himself to make his way up to the stage—I watched O’Brien stand at the front an impromptu receiving line and greet Penn State alumni and fans. For those 40 minutes, I tracked every interaction O’Brien had.

Washington seemed the right place to document the most campaign-like aspect of the caravan, and O’Brien’s role in it. I joked before I stepped onto the bus Monday morning that I felt a bit like a reporter embedding with a presidential candidate; seeing O’Brien address the handshake line for the fourth time in two days—knowing how many more hands he’ll shake, pictures he’ll take, and autographs he’ll sign in the coming days and weeks—only reinforced the analogy. (more…)

May 2, 2012 at 2:24 am 2 comments

Watching Bill O’Brien

I’m doing double-duty of sorts on this Penn State Coaches Caravan bus trip, which left State College bright and early Monday morning and continues on tonight in Drexel Hill, Pa. I’m doing this, obviously—blogging and tweeting when the WiFi cooperates to share the scene as Bill O’Brien and the other coaches on the trip get out and meet Penn Staters. But I’m also mindful of the O’Brien profile I’m working on for the July/August issue of The Penn Stater.

In watching him at a handful of press conferences, interviewing him one-on-one in his office a few weeks back, spending a few days with him this week on the bus, and in at least one other unlikely interaction I’ll share at some point, I’ve gotten a pretty good picture of how Bill O’Brien comes across. He is blunt, but he also can be very funny. He’s heard enough of the same questions dozens of times over the past few months, and you can tell which ones he doesn’t mind answering, and which he’d probably rather not hear again. But as me made clear at lunch Monday in Philly, he sees the value in answering them all.

He met with reporters for 15 minutes before the lunchtime gathering at the Doubletree on Broad Street, then took most of the questions (Char Morett and Patrick Chambers joined him onstage) from alumni after lunch. Throughout, O’Brien was on message—and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. His is not the sort of job in which one can focus only on one thing, and certainly recruiting and keeping tabs on his current team keep him busy enough. But he is clearly and impressively focused right now on converting the masses of Penn Staters to his cause. He insisted, as he will again and again, that academics matter. That integrity and respect will be words associated with the program as long as he’s in charge of it. And while he made no promises, he certainly talked about winning football games.

Bill O’Brien has been making a great first impression for four months now, and he looks likely to keep that up for the next couple of weeks. The games will come in the fall and results will largely determine how he’s received; for now, he’s doing all he can to show Penn Staters, in his always blunt, occasionally funny way, that he’s one of us. “I’m no longer an outsider,” he said Monday, talking about the welcome he and his family have received in Happy Valley. “I feel like a Penn Stater now.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

April 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm 5 comments

Bill O’Brien Hits the Road

The arrival of our May/June issue means we’re well into work on our July/August edition. Among the features we’re working on is a profile of Bill O’Brien, who just wrapped up his first spring practice. I’m in the midst of reporting that one, a task that so far has included a 6:30 a.m. interview with O’Brien in his office; anyone who knows me knows the scheduled time must’ve been his idea.

Busy as he’s been, O’Brien has found time to do plenty of interviews. He’s spoken repeatedly since his hiring about the importance to reaching out to Penn State alumni and fans, and making himself available to reporters is only part of that plan. Starting next week, he’ll take his show on the road.

On Monday, O’Brien will lead the Penn State Coaches Caravan on a nine-day, 18-city tour throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states. I’m fortunate to have a spot on the bus for the first leg of the caravan, which starts next week with a Monday lunch gathering in Philadelphia and includes stops in Drexel Hill, Pa., Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, Va., and Harrisburg. And that’s just the first three days; the next two weeks will include stops in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Ohio, and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

I’ll be blogging from early stops on the caravan, which will feature O’Brien at every stop and appearances from additional Penn State coaches. If you’re not already signed up for one of the stops, you can register and find more information here. A few are at capacity, but tickets are still available for most of the events.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

April 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Beaver Stadium Reseating Under the Microscope

We’ve been getting lots of letters on the subject of the Nittany Lion Club’s Seat Transfer & Equity Plan, aka STEP, the overhaul of the Beaver Stadium seating plan aimed at generating more revenue for the University’s self-sustaining athletic department. Most of the letters come from long-time football season ticket holders, and their letters are pretty critical. As a season-ticket holder myself, I understand why those fans — many of whom face the possibility of moving from their long-held seats, or paying substantially more to keep them — are upset. But as someone who’s covered major college athletics for most of my career, I also understand the economic realities faced by a department that expects to compete at a national level in dozens of sports without taking a penny from the University’s budget.

The STEP announcement produced quite a bit of a media coverage, too much of which was knee-jerk reaction, and too little of which was balanced explanation of the fans’ gripes and the reasoning behind Penn State’s decision. Thankfully, some of that was provided in this piece by Jeff Rice ’03 in Sunday’s Centre Daily Times. The story (which might require free registration to access) is reasonable and informative. If you’re one of those fans, I hope you’ll check it out.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm 1 comment

Joe Paterno in New York

Every spring, the Alumni Association and Nittany Lion Club take Joe Paterno on the road to speak to alumni in a few different parts of the country. This year it’s the East Coast’s turn, and Joe made the first of three “Evening with Joe” appearances last night, this one in New York City. His visit there attracted a few members of the news media, who met with him before the event—check out the stories that USA Today and got from talking to him.

I went to an “Evening with Joe” event some years back and got a column for the magazine out of it. It’s quite an event. People line up to get him to sign autographs (they bring him all kinds of stuff to sign—photos, football helmets, even a breadbox-sized replica of Beaver Stadium), he poses endlessly for photos, and then he gets up on stage and talks about next season and whatever else is on his mind.

Tickets are still available for Joe’s other two appearances this spring: May 5 in Arlington, Va., and May 17 in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.

Tina Hay, editor

May 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm 1 comment

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