UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It may now be called Nittanyville, but Penn State players have still stopped by the tent encampment outside of Beaver Stadium as frequently as they did when it was Paternoville.
Following a difficult offseason, the Nittany Lions open their 2012 season against Ohio here Saturday. And keeping with tradition, PSU students are camping out near the southeast corner of the massive stadium.
The area was called Paternoville until July. But when the university-sponsored Freeh Report into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal said late Hall of Fame PSU coach Joe Paterno was among those who attempted to conceal information related to the scandal, the student group that organizes the encampment moved quickly to disassociate itself with Paterno.
The name change took much flak, and was viewed by many as a kneejerk reaction to the Freeh Report. However, Nittanyville president Troy Weller said the decision was well thought out and that the group considering a name change even before the Freeh Report was released.
We talked about it for a while, and it wasn't something we just decided to do, Weller said. We kicked around some ideas, but felt Nittanyville was the best one, so that's what we went with.
Weller said camper (more than 250 as of Thursday night) and tent numbers were both up from last season's opener, when the Paterno-led Nittany Lions took on heavy underdog Indiana State of the FCS. He added that the level of enthusiasm has not changed.
It's exactly like last year, he said. There's a name change but none of that will change what it's like. There's still a ton of energy and anticipation for kickoff.
In the meantime, Penn State players are stopping by frequently to show their support for the campers. On Wednesday night, defensive back Adrian Amos, defensive end Deion Barnes, running back Bill Belton and tackle Donovan Smith were among those who showed up to see the Blue Band drum line performance at Nittanyville.
The drum line in question is actually a row of trashcans. Band members bang out beats on the lids and lead the student throng in songs.
They interacted with us and came out to watch the drum line, and then went on their way, Nittanyville graduate adviser Chris Grassi said of the players.
Thursday night, quarterback Matt McGloin and several teammates were on hand to continue the tradition of trashcan football, where players and student fans attempt to toss balls into trashcans.
Among those joining McGloin were tight end Garry Gilliam, guard Eric Shrive and center Matt Stankiewitch.
We're doing this for them and we are out here to support the team, Grassi said. So for them to take time out of their extremely busy schedule to interact with us, it's awesome and we love that.