Penn State's Coaches Caravan kicked off on Monday making it's first stop in Philadelphia, with a subsequent suburban stop in Drexel Hill. The Caravan then headed south to Baltimore and Washington.
Although the tour headliner is Bill O'Brien who is scheduled to make all 18 stops, it also includes 11 other PSU coaches, including men's basketball coach Pat Chambers, women's basketball coach Coquese Washington, women's volleyball coch Russ Rose and men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky.
In order to give PSU fans a collective look at the events we went to fellow Nittany Lion fans who have had the opportunity to experience the Coaches Caravan first hand. Here is a snapshot of their experiences.
Monday, April 30: Philadelphia, Pa
The Philadelphia event crowd was estimated between 250 and 300 attendees. Here are some fan comments:
76StateGrad: "Bill O'Brien was great. One thing that really stood out to me with O'B was were his comments on game management and making in-game adjustments. He said by the end of the first quarter a good coach should have a firm grasp on what is executing well and what is not on both sides of the ball.
"He also said that making major adjustments at the half is too late and you need to proactively manage adjustments from the sidelines not the locker room. I personalyl think the program is in great hands with him."
dandylion: "Chambers is incredibly charismatic and really got the crowd fired up. He talked about having the "best backcourt in the country" with Frazier and Newbill.
He also talked about importance of Philly to recruiting and how it is a great sports town. Also how he was happy to be "back home."
O'Brien said he sees "sunny skies" at PSU and said he finds Penn State impressive on a daily basis. He talks about his approach of a fast, physical style of play."
Monday, April 30: Drexel Hill, Pa
The Drexel Hill event crowd was estimated between 300 and 400 attendees. Here are some fan comments:
PSUengineer: "BOB (bill O'Brien)was asked about the QB's. His response was that he will be meeting with the assistants in late May / early July (once they get back from JR. Recruiting) and have staff meetings to discuss each position. At that point, he would like to get down to 2 and then have a 1st and 2nd string defined as quickly as possible, so that they can get the appropriate reps. Said it wasn't fair to all 3 guys to split the reps, because then noone is getting the attention/reps they need to succeed.
"Someone asked PC (Pat Chambers) how we as alumni could help change the perception of PSU being a football school to being a football and basketball school. PC flat out said that the biggest thing is they need to win games. He made no bones about the fact that if they win games, that will go a long way in changing that perception and make it more enticing for alumni to travel 3 hours to attend a Basketball game. Said it will not happen overnight, but the team is moving in the right direction and the work ethic is there.
"Someone asked BOB about scheduling natural rivals. He said he really doesn't have any input at this point since the schedule is set through 2015. He said he will work to have good schedules in the future and incorporate some of those rivalries. I forget the exact wording, but he also pointed out that the scheduling what also be what is good for the team. He said it more eloquently than that, but I can't remember exactly how. I didn't take it to mean that he wants to schedule FCS opponents, but also that we are not going to see 4 Alabamas in the NC schedule.
dbm144: "Bob O. posed for a lot of pictures and was signing numerous autographs. Woman's field hockey coach "Char" was first up and a high energy & passionate speaker for what opportunity Penn State has afforded her...starting with the time that they gave her a hocky scholarship back in the mid 1970's. Pat Chambers was next and is a great motivational speaker. He understands that they need to win games, but asked for support from the alumni & students in attending games. His wants to recruit Philly & NYC...and then Washington/Maryland, but he will recruit the best player in the country that he can get...whether PA or FL or TX. Both Char & Pat came from the Philly suburbs, so both were happy to be back home. They did a great job getting the crowd fired up.
"B.O'B then gave his philosophy of football. Says assistant coaches teach basics and X & O's. His job is basically to set framework for the football team. His is big on every player & coach knowing what their role is. He held 1 on 1 meetings with all players after the Blue/White game, where he told them what their role was: (i.e. "You are the 2nd string Z TE"), what they were doing right & what they had to improve on to move up (...or keep their job.)"
Jittany Classic: "O'Brien was asked about which (if any) Big Ten coaches reached out to him when he landed the PSU job. He mentioned that due to his connections with Brian Ferentz on the Pats' staff, his father Kirk Ferentz obviously made a point to contact O'Brien. He also mentioned that Pat Fitzgerald reached out to him to wish him well and welcome him. O'Brien then deadpanned a "And that was it" comment that was met with some laughs and harrumphs from the crowd.
"You can tell that Chambers has a marketing and sales background, and it really shows through when he speaks about the "ATTITUDE" that he's bringing to the program. Even in a setting like this, you can tell that his people skills, personality, and ability to relate to people will help with recruiting. There's a certain energy about him that is infectious."
Tuesday, May 1: Baltimore, Md
The Baltimore event crowd was estimated between 200 and 250 attendees. Here are some fan comments:
underscoreTom: All the coaches gave good talks. O'Brien's intro speech still pushing the message that it's time to move on from what happened last year.
He wants to open up the football training facilities to other sports. He talked about the types of student-athlete he wanted. He said he knew he couldn't get a team full of valedictorians (some laughter here) but wanted to know just as much that the student will succeed with college academics just moreso than how they did in high school. He wants to do some sort of JVP patch type tribute next year (helmet, jersey, etc) but the decision isn't up to him (hmmm...)."
leesburgron: I expected O'Brien and Chambers to be impressive and they were. The women coaches present were icing on the cake. Denise St. Pierre, head women's golf coach, and Beth Alford-Sullivan, head track and field coach for men and women, were exceptionally good in describing their programs. These four coaches all seem to be great leaders."
Tuesday, May 1: Washington, D.C.
The Washington event crowd was estimated between 250 and 300 attendees. Here are some fan comments:
Truth1855: "Denise St Pierre, the women's golf coach, was the first speaker. She was great and everything flowed easy for her, she didnt have any notes or anything she was reading off of. BOB was the only coach who had some notes that he brought up with him in addition to his power point. St Pierre talked about the nice golf building they have and how she got as many of the head coaches across PSU athletics together to meet in that building when BOB was hired. This was a common theme of the night, that PSU athletics as a whole is "one team".
"Next was Chambers, and I already knew he would be awesome. From a PR and enthusiasm stand point this has to be the greatest hire of all time. He must have been incredible at whatever he sold before he became a basketball coach. Other posters have mentioned how he was hoping for good recruiting news this week and he also asked people to come out and support the team at the BJC. BOB also said that if 108,000 can fill Beaver, 18,000 should be able to fill the BJC. Mentioned Frazier, Newbill, Taylor, Graham, Sasha, Marshall. Specifically pointed out how Frazier and Newbill are awesome and that he hopes BOB doesnt take Taylor from him.
"Beth-Alford Sullivan was also a very fluid and enthusiastic speaker. I liked how she highlighted that track&field/cross country/indoor track span pretty much the whole year. She also highlighted how we have placed in the top 3 in the Big Ten in outdoor overall track the past 10 years running which I was impressed by. Clearly we dominate in every sport.
"BOB was last and had the lengthiest presentation. Talked about how there was no way he was telling the Redskins fans in the room what he said to Brady during the Skins/Pats game last year. Gave his due respect to Joepa early and often. He was very impressive in dealing with the Sandusky issue, though never mentioning his name, he frequently mentioned helping children abuse charities and talked about understanding what has happened and moving forward. His first bullet point was academics which was great but he lingered too long in talking about how he wasnt beating Ohio State with "National Merit Scholars, Valedictorians, etc.". Not that I didnt like that point, I just thought he lingered too long on it. Everything else was great, the pillars of the program, as are now laid out literally in pillars in the weight room, are all perfect for PSU. I came away having no fear about him upholding PSU's unique tradition of on the field and off the field success."
jaypea99: "It felt great to be among friends again. The Blue White game was one thing, but being at home was terrific. Chambers got a big cheer when he spoke about OOC scheduling and trying to get some DC area teams like Maryland, Georgetown, George Mason and others.
"One audience member asked about lack of Big Ten QBs in the NFL Draft. O'Brien said he's not interested in getting players drafted, he's interested in his own football team."
Wednesday, May 2: Richmond, Va
The Richmond event crowd was estimated between 150 and 200 attendees. Here are some fan comments:
VALion82: "Attended the Richmond Virginia breakfast this morning featuring O'Brien with Beth-Alford Sullivan. There was a great crowd for an early morning event and crowd was enthusiastic. Got to meet Bill in the hallway as he was making his way to ballroom. He was taking his time with everyone as far as pictures and quick introductions. Our table started a very vocal "We Are" chant prior to the speaking getting started.
"Beth kicked the coaches speaking session off and delivered a very nice 15 min or so overview of her program and recent team success. She received several questions in the Q&A and handled everything very well.
"Bill spoke without the PowerPoint presentation he has apparently been using, but covered most of the same ground, so I'll just add a few things that may have a bit different that I have seen described in the other stops to date.
He used Michael Robinson (who played HS football at Varina just outside of Richmond), as the example of the type of player he wants to recruit in terms of talent, dedication to both football and academics (made point MRob graduated with two degrees), and a being a class act.
"Bill received more than one very heartfelt expression of appreciation and recognition for how well he had handled himself through aftermath of events, since late last year.
"At one point the alumni representative, travelling with Bill indicated that the local alumni group is projecting at least 10,000 PSU fans to attend the UVA game weekend (there will be a special alumni event the night before). After that Bill said he would like to see at least 15,000 because he thought playing at UVA would be a tough environment at home."
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