Penn State Nittany Lions: Ireland

Seeing green with the PSU-UCF game

September, 14, 2013
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Dan Rooney hoped to see Ireland host an NFL game, but the Pittsburgh Steelers' chairman -- and former ambassador to Ireland -- said he was pleased to see Penn State and Central Florida agree to face each other in Dublin next August.

"I really tried to get the NFL to play the games, but they're now sort of committed to London and continue to a play a number of games there," Rooney said. "But as far as the athletes and the games themselves, I think it will be very successful there."

An official from the Gaelic Athletic Association expected Croke Park sell out its 68,000-seat stadium for the 2014 PSU-UCF contest, known as the Croke Park Classic. He also said Penn State was his first choice and that the Irish watched quite a few Penn State games on ESPN last season.

Ask an Irishman about a U.S. college, Director General Paraic Duffy said, and either Notre Dame or Penn State are bound to come up in conversation.

"You'd be surprised at the brand awareness there is of Penn State in Ireland," Duffy said. "It goes back a long way. I'm not quite sure why."

Duffy also said the New England Patriots are the NFL team most followed by the Irish -- likely because of the Irish heritage in Boston -- but that the Steelers are also well-known.

Penn State announced on July 14 that it would open the 2014 season in Dublin, Ireland, in the Nittany Lions' first international game in the program's 127-year history. The game will take place at 1:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. ET) on Aug. 30, 2014.

Officials were on hand on Saturday afternoon in preparation for the Nittany Lions' contest against UCF, which will kick off at 6 p.m.

"It's different," Duffy said when asked how the college atmosphere compared to the NFL. "You can see what it means. The relationship between the football team here and the supporters is incredible."

The winner of next year's Croke Park Classic will also receive the Dan Rooney Trophy, which is a football-shaped trophy constructed of 4,200-year-old bog yew and steel from the old Three Rivers Stadium.

Rooney said he initially told officials he didn't deserve the honor -- and to pick an Irishman. But they insisted, and the former ambassador eventually relented.

"It means an awful lot now," Rooney said.

NittanyNation: Week in review

July, 22, 2013
NittanyNation takes a look at the past week's Penn State football news and what you might have missed:
  • ESPN Junior 300 DE/TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. has moved around more often than an Army brat -- but the next move is up to him. He's considering PSU and all schools, except really for two. "No Ohio State or Michigan State," he said. "... My dad would have a heart attack if I committed there."

Bill O'Brien hemmed and hawed Friday morning when asked whether Penn State would ask the NCAA to consider reducing the sanctions. The head coach, fresh off a vacation, initially said he'd have to defer to his bosses on that.

When pressed about his thoughts on the matter, however, he opened up a bit.

"I'm not going to get in the specifics of it," he said. "But I believe that this football program is being run the right way. I believe that we have great kids here, and I think we work very, very diligently to stay in compliance. ... And, again, we make our mistakes, but we admit them right away -- whether it's like a text message or something like that we shouldn't have sent.

"So I think we're in compliance. And hopefully at some point, the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, looks at that, and they can meet us halfway."

O'Brien addressed the Board of Trustees for more than an hour last week, according to The Centre Daily Times, and presented a slideshow regarding the reduction of sanctions. One of the slides included the words, "Individual lawsuits do not help us!"

ESPN's coach of the year, who was on the conference call to discuss the Ireland game, acknowledged he attended the meeting. And O'Brien insisted he didn't mind word leaking out to the press.

"I was invited down to the Board of Trustees to present to them the sanctions and my thoughts on the sanctions," he said. "I've been asked many, many questions over the last 19 months I've been on the job, and so I accepted the invitation, and I went down there. I don't have anything to hide, you know what I mean?

"I just want to do what's right for these kids and this football program. So, no, I'm not upset about anything. I'm just really excited about starting training camp."

Athletic Director Dave Joyner addressed the media for about 15 minutes before O'Brien took over. He joked to the head coach that he warmed up the crowd, but Joyner was also mum about possible requests to the NCAA.

"We're not planning on anything happening," Joyner added.

Ireland game: Even without a postseason ban, Joyner said the Ireland game was something Penn State still might have pursued.

Although discussions of other venues didn't advance far, destinations such as Hawaii and California were discussed. Once Ireland became a possibility, however, that became the focus.

"I think our fans are excited about it, and I think it's a great way to give our football team and our university sort of a marquee place to play," Joyner said.

Added O'Brien: "From a personal aspect, I'm excited about going over there. ... I was over there I think when I was about 15, 16 years old with my dad, and that was a great trip -- but that was a long time ago."

Quarterback "controversy": Juco signal-caller Tyler Ferguson is still not on campus, but O'Brien emphasized he'll return in time for camp.

He's currently home in California, with a mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Rumors initially swirled about a potential transfer, but that was quickly dismissed.

"I'm not sure what the big deal is with that," O'Brien said. "He's not back at school; summer's voluntary. I don't know how we got this ball rolling. Summer workouts -- summer school -- is voluntary, and so Tyler has gone home. His mom is sick.

"He's got a great mom, he's gone home, and he'll be back to training camp. We made a mountain out of a mole hill on that one."

Mailbag: DE Bars, run-ons & scheduling 

July, 19, 2013
Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer in-depth this week.

Jim Murphy writes: How will Brad Bars' injury impact depth for the Lions this season? Was he poised for significant playing time?

Josh Moyer: He had high expectations back in February. I last talked to a smiling Bars during Thon weekend, when he volunteered to show host families around the football building. He said this at the time: "I feel like this is the season I'm going to take my game to another level. My expectations have risen a lot. ... I expect to be a key player on the team this year."

NittanyNation: Week in review

July, 15, 2013
NittanyNation takes a look at the past week's Penn State football news and what you might have missed:
  • Three-star LB Zayd Issah faces another felony charge after an incident early Saturday morning in State College. Bill O'Brien told ESPN that, "If this is true, he certainly won't be part of the team."
  • In Friday's chat, we talked about the focus of the 2015 class, Christian Hackenberg's chances at starting now and more.
  • Ryan McGee, a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine, took a look at the five teams who are most likely to play the role of spoiler this season -- and PSU made an appearance Insider.