Far Afield

#beyondthegame #collegefootball

  • Behind the scenes of a Penn State football weekend.

Penn State journalism students found stories this fall beyond the games themselves.

Law & Order

~ by Korinn Harris

When a 100,000 football fans descend on University Park, public safety is a top priority. Dozens of police officers work with Penn State’s police force on game days. Some are responsible for keeping cars between the cones. Others are patrolling the tailgates and campus to make sure fans are obeying the laws.

This story follows Officer Adam Rawding, a 12 year veteran of Penn State football games, and his colleagues, as they work on Penn State football game days.

The Penn State police force strives for standards of safety and communication on game days. On all game days they achieve two of the three objectives. From keeping the traffic flowing, to parking lot directions and disputes between intoxicated couples, the tasks are treated with priority, and sometimes a little laughter.

Several police officers assist a fan.

Officer Michelle Beckenbaugh (left), a veteran of 80 Penn State football games, and her colleague assist a fan in front of Beaver Stadium Nov. 16. While they respond to many kinds of calls, excessive drinking is a constant problem. “The calls we get on public intoxication is more from adults than students on game days,” said Officer Beckenbaugh.

A police officer standing in the end zone of Beaver Stadium as the crowd leaves post-game.

Officer Adam Rawding patrols the Beaver Stadium field after Penn State's win against Pittsburgh. A veteran of 12 seasons of football, Rawding has never missed a game. "The money is good and the experience feels pretty normal now, but it's always neat to see the stadium like this," said Rawding.

A police officer eats a sandwich as post-game fireworks light up the sky outside.

Officer Adam Rawding enjoys his lunch and the fireworks at the Pegula Ice Arena across from the stadium during the Penn State game Nov. 16.

A tailgater asking several police officers for assistiance in locating her vehicle after a game.

A tailgater asks officers for help finding her car during the Nov. 16 home football game against Indiana. She firmly believed her seat number was her parking lot number. She didn’t find her car. “This is a common occurrence,” said Officer Spencer Lauver. “Sometimes you just can’t explain anything to them.”

Two police officers share a laugh in the end zone after a game at Beaver Stadium.

Officer Spencer Lauver, laughs with his colleague, officer Chris Bender, as a fan in the stands reacts awkwardly to the playing of Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want For Christmas." “Sometimes the chaos is fun during the football games,” Lauver said. “this is definitely a unique policing experience."

A police officer reprimanding two fans dressed in Penn State sweatshirts.

Officer Rawding reprimands two young men who defied his command to not cross the street while Rawding was directing traffic after the Michigan football game at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 19.

Reuse, Recycle, and Repeat

~ by Jordan Pietrafitta

Any time more than 100,000 football fans gather, there will always be some trash left behind.

At sunrise on the day after each home football game at Beaver Stadium, the Office of the Physical Plant (OPP) sends out Penn State employees to clean-up the parking lots and fields.

OPP employees collect blue recycling bags filled with bottles and cans, and transport them to the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority (CCRRA) where workers sort through and separate the football game recyclables.

A view of Beaver Stadium as the sunrises on the day after a game. Trash and recyclables litter the ground in the parking lot.

As the sun rises over Beaver Stadium on the morning of Nov. 20, OPP workers begin to clean trash and bags of recyclables from the parking lots. Teams of full-time, Penn State employees arrive at 6 am every Sunday morning after home football games to clean up what’s left by fans.

Inside photo at the local recycling center shows the sorting process that occurs after a game.

After every Saturday game, blue bags filled with items to be recycled are taken to the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority (CCRRA), located in Bellefonte, Pa. Workers at CCRRA sort through the bags as part of the recycling process.

Many bags litter the parking lots around Beaver Stadium.

Trash from a Saturday Penn State home game is picked up Sunday morning. Recyclables are processed at Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority beginning on Monday.

A worker throws a bag of recylables into the back of a white work truck.

Donna Ash tosses a bag of recyclables into a truck the morning of Nov. 20. George Irwin, another full-time Penn State employee, works beside her to help gather more of the blue bags.

A worker sorts recycling as it cruises by on a conveyor belt.

Employees at the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority sort through various recyclables that travel across the recycling plant conveyor belt on Monday after the Purdue game. The men working the conveyor belt separate the recyclables into plastic, glass, steel, and aluminum.

A pile of plastic containers is seen below a sorting chute.

The recyclables that get brought to the CCRRA get sorted into multiple categories and get tossed through chutes to land in containers underneath the belt.

And the Emmy goes to …

~ by Hannah Mears

What could an Emmy Award, a lucky shot and a family of five all have in common? The answer, a Penn State tailgate.

Gary Golaszewski has been tailgating at Penn State football games since the 1990s.

This is how much it means to him: Golaszewski eventually made the decision to move his wife, Ame, and their three kids from Philadelphia to State College to be closer to the gameday experience.

Since the move, the tailgate has only grown bigger and better. The three-space pregame event is located just behind Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, Penn State’s baseball field, with a giant white tent, a 20-foot flag and quite the display of food. But what makes the Golaszewski tailgate so special is the star power it attracts.

Shannon Furman, a Penn State alumna and award-winning producer and director for NFL Films, has been making appearances at Golaszewski tailgate since the early 2000s. She even donated one of her many Emmys to the tailgate as a prop so fans can take photos with it on gameday.

Fans taking photos and drinking beer at a tailgate.

Shannon Furman takes a photo at a tailgate before the Penn State vs Purdue football game on Oct. 5. ~ photo by Lindsey Toomer

“We are constantly looking for ways to enhance the fan experience,” Golaszewski said without a trace of irony.

Furman has also brought some former Penn State football greats by the tailgate to check out the scene.

“Shannon always tends to bring the star power to the tailgates,” Golaszewski said. “One time she brought former Penn State football player Michael Robinson (now an NFL Network analyst) which was very cool.”

Furman loves everything about the tailgate, calling it, “the greatest tailgate on earth.”

Fans clapping and waving at a blue school bus that transports the Penn State football team to the stadium.

Fans wave and cheer as the Penn State football team arrives at Beaver Stadium. ~ photo by Lindsey Toomer

The tradition of the toast before kickoff has to be her favorite part.

“It is something everyone looks forward to every week, they just expect it at this point,” she said.

The toast originated as the “Sam Ficken Shot,” named for former Penn State kicker, Sam Ficken, now with the New York Jets, who was struggling to make field goal attempts at the time in 2012.

“When we started passing out these shots at the tailgate, Sam immediately started doing better,” Furman said.

The name has now changed a couple of times to reflect the name of a person who everyone at the tailgate feels might need an extra boost of support during the game.

“We have called it ‘The Born Again Christian’ one year for Christian Hackenberg and we called it the ‘CJF’ for Coach James Franklin when he was on the hot seat in 2016 and it has always seemed to work,” bragged Golaszewski. “Whoever we have rallied behind seemed to have a great season.”

Tailgating Tradition

~ by D.J. Bauer

If you ask Wilbur Tice what makes his tailgate special, he’ll tell you “nothing.”

Many others would beg to differ.

Let’s start with the location. Out of the thousands of cars and trucks parked in and around campus on gameday, Tice’s RV is as close as physically possible the west-facing gates of Beaver Stadium.

Then, there’s how long Tice, of Lancaster, has been doing this: 31 years. Then there’s the accolade his tailgate won.

And then there’s this – he’s not even an alumnus of Penn State. A graduate from Lehigh University, Tice got hooked on tailgating because of his father-in-law, a Penn Stater through and through.

“When they were building Beaver Stadium, they allowed (my father-in-law) to stand on scaffolding and pick his seats right at the 50-yard line,” Tice said. “He was a big Penn State alum, and he was very close friends with Joe Paterno.”

Though Tice’s father-in-law has been gone for 12 years, Tice has carried on the decades-long tailgating tradition in the same parking spot that his father-in-law chose all those years ago. Of course, it wouldn’t be a tradition without all the friends that come along for the ride.

One of them is Mike Girouard, a State College resident.

“(My wife and I) have known Wilbur for over 30 years,” Girouard said. “I’m from this area, so a lot of times we have multiple tailgates, but this is the one we consider to be our home base.”

Another friend is Todd Speck, a 25-year Penn State football season ticket holder and seven-year visitor to Tice’s tailgates, who happened to meet Tice just by circumstance.

“Seven years ago, I stopped in (to tailgate) and got a spot right beside him,” Speck said. “At the time I had an RV that I’ve since sold, but when I pulled in, we hit it off right away.”

Others have, too. The Tice tailgate was selected as the best in State College in 2012 by the Big Ten Network’s “Tailgate 48,” a television program that showcased some of the best pregame festivities around the conference.

“When ‘Tailgate 48’ came to State College, they just happened to walk around the corner,” Tice said. “They really loved my sausage, peppers and onions.”

Clearly, the food is a selling point, and everyone seems to have a favorite. Tice himself likes the mac and cheese, Girouard favors the sausage, and Speck loves the meatball sliders.

“It’s essentially a mini cheeseburger,” Speck said. “There’s cheese and bacon in the sliders too. I go through a hundred myself every tailgate.”

The food’s not the only thing to rave about, though. According to Speck, the real highlight of Tice’s tailgates is the atmosphere.

“Coach Franklin talks about family reunions every Saturday, and that’s what Wilbur’s tailgate is,” Speck said. “Anyone can walk to this tailgate right here, sit down, eat and have a drink. It’s like one big family.”

A fan in gray sweatshirt and white Penn State baseball cap tosses a cornhole bag.

Tom Jarjisian plays outside the stadium before the Michigan game. ~ photo by Lindsey Toomer

Feast of the Week

~ by Josh Starr

It’s not often that Penn State fans decide to embrace the football team’s opponent, but the McWhirter family tailgate does just that.

Brothers Brian and Mark McWhirter have had a family tailgate for the last eight years. Every week, they pitch their white tent in their four Medlar Field parking lot spaces.

They look up the hill through a slew of trees at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. They watch Big Ten football on the television set up under the tent. Next to the TV stand tables of food, prepared for the day.

For the McWhirters, and many other tailgaters, food makes or breaks the tailgate and they always have a trick up their sleeves for their game day menu.

“We’ve got it all,” Brian said.

A tailgater prepares to throw a big bag of chicken wings into a deep fryer.

Joaquin Alvarez cooks chicken wings at a tailgate before Penn State football takes on Purdue. Brothers Mark and Brian McWhirter build the menu around the opposing team for every game. ~ photo by Lindsey Toomer

Each week, Brian and Mark think creatively about the Penn State football team’s opponent. While some fans spend their week coming up with creative insults and learning the players’ names so they can heckle the rival effectively, the McWhirters brainstorm about different types of food that pertain to that week’s opponent.

“For the away team, we always have a theme regarding them,” said Mark. “We’re very specific about that.”

The 2019 season got off to a tasty start, too. It kicked off with fresh-cut French fries made from Idaho potatoes.

The McWhirters added some kick to the Week Two tailgate with homemade Buffalo chicken dip, sliders and wings (for the University of Buffalo, of course).

A lot goes into preparing the tailgate for all the friends and family that stop by. The McWhirters cook up their game day buffet throughout the whole week.

“We’ll prep as much as we can before we get here, but there are some things we have to cook (on site),” Brian said.

Once a year, however, the brothers ignore the visiting team and have their most anticipated feast of the season.

Usually for the biggest game of the year, either Michigan or Ohio State, the McWhirter tailgate transforms from a finger-food heaven to a five-star tent. That week, the family chows down on steak and lobster. That’s the week the McWhirters look forward to most every year.

While many people stress out for other reasons on gameday, only one thing bothers Brian.

“The only headache is cleaning up,” Brian said, “but that’s a small price to pay for a good time.”

A young fan under a fleece Penn State blanket curls up in a camping chair for a quick nap during tailgating.

Amelia Rater naps at a tailgate outside Beaver Stadium before Penn State’s White Out game against Michigan. ~ photo by Lindsey Toomer

The White Bus

~ by Noah Chast

There’s the blue, Penn State school bus that drops the football team off every gameday morning at Beaver Stadium. Now, there’s a new school bus in State College that is quickly gaining ground as the next great Penn State bus. His name is Buster.

Buster is an out-of-service school bus that has been fully renovated to be a legal motor home and has become a new staple in the tailgate lots. The makeshift mobile home is owned by the Brian Soltis, now a North Carolina resident, and is used jointly with his parent’s RV to create the family’s up-and-coming tailgate scene.

Soltis graduated Penn State in 2014 and has had Buster up and functioning as the tailgate attraction for the past three years.

The bus is all white with “Penn State” painted on one side and the Penn State logo on the other. It can fit up to 18 people in it, though Brian’s sister, Katie Soltis, prefers to stay with her parents on game day.

“I sleep on the RV,” said Katie. “A lot of friends and pretty much most of the people here sleep on the bus.”

Several fans sitting on top of a white school bus with a big
Penn State logo on its side.

Brian Soltis converted an old school bus into a motorhome and has been tailgating with "Buster" at Penn State home games for the past three years. ~ photo by Noah Chast

The bus has gotten a lot of attention in the past three years, including be featured on a segment for ESPN’s “College GameDay.” In addition, the bus has its own Instagram page named “Buster the Bus” which has been used to try and attract big name visitors.

“We tried to get Joe Jonas to come to our tailgate,” Katie said. “He didn’t come, but his manager liked our Instagram post so the Joe bros support the bus.”

That was encouraging enough for the group who take a lot of pride in the work they have put in with Buster. While the big white bus is the main attraction, the Soltis tailgate has plenty more to offer.

Brian and Katie’s parents are both Penn State graduates who have been tailgating since their freshman year in 1980. They took a hiatus for a while before starting up again when Brian came to Penn State in 2010. The Pittsburgh natives now have their own RV they bring up to games and co-host the family tailgate.

The Soltis’ like to keep their pregame parties fresh and exciting by adding a theme to each one. For the game against Pittsburgh, they went with a luau, and provided all their guests with homemade hibachi.

“One thing a lot of people like is we have a pizza oven,” said father Shawn Soltis. “That would probably be our go-to.”

The themed tailgates add plenty of creativity to the dual RV set up, but sometimes the weather makes things a bit difficult.

During the 2018 season the group planned a “Game of Thrones” themed beer Olympics for the tailgate. However, rainy weather and muddy conditions closed the tailgate lots and forced a change of plans.

“Everyone took all the food and supplies from this tailgate and brought it to my house at Penn State,” said Katie who graduated last May. “So, we had to throw a make shift Game of Thrones tailgate.”

Brian, the brains behind Buster, plans to keep the bus coming as long as he runs.

Said Brian: “It will be here as long as it survives.”

Turf & White Lines

~ by Noah Riffe

Penn State's grounds supervisor talks to his team prior to a game.

George Peters, the supervisor of grounds, speaks to his team at the morning briefing on Oct. 4 at the Beaver Stadium grounds crew headquarters.

A groundskeeper in a blue hoodie and wearing protective coverings over his shoes uses a sprayer to paint yard lines on the Beaver Stadium grass.

Paul Curtis, lead groundskeeper, paints yard lines on Oct. 18th at Beaver Stadium.

A groundskeeper riding a red Toro lawnmower mows grass along the 10 yard line at Beaver Stadium.

Paul Curtis, lead groundskeeper, mows the Beaver Stadium grass on Oct 4.

The groundskeeping crew all settled around some tables for a meeting.

Thomas Goyne, coordinator of athletic facilities, speaks to his team at the morning briefing on Oct. 4 at the Beaver Stadium grounds crew headquarters.

A groundskeeper mows a soccer field with farming silos in the background.

Groundskeeper Chris Spotts mows the soccer practice field grass on Oct 4.

Several groundskeepers share a laugh on the field at Beaver Stadium.

Paul Curtis laughs with other members of his team after cutting the grass at Beaver Stadium.

Closeup of a paint sprayer putting down blue paint on the grass at Beaver Stadium.

Drew Yoder, a groundskeeper, paints the 30 yard marker on Oct. 18, at Beaver Stadium.

A groundskeeper yields a paint sprayer and puts down yard lines.

Drew Yoder, a groundskeeper, paints the 30 yard marker on Oct. 18, at Beaver Stadium.

The sun sets over the endzone at Beaver Stadium while a riding mower trims the grass.

Paul Curtis mows the Beaver Stadium grass on Oct 4.

Grandpa Blue Band

~ by Allison Rambler

Members of the Penn State Blue Band call Dave Cree “Grandpa.” Cree volunteered for the Blue Band for 28 years, and he is now a paid staff assistant.

Cree repairs and maintains instruments, facilitates rehearsals, and conducts on the field during the band’s pregame and halftime show performances. But it is his kindness and enthusiastic support of all band members that has made him a Blue Band favorite.

Cree is also a long-time musician and plays the saxophone, flute and clarinet in community bands in the State College area.

Dave Cree examines a broken flute while members of the brass section look over his shoulder.

Dave Cree, a staff assistant with the Penn State Blue Band, explains how he plans to fix a broken flute during the Penn State vs. Michigan game at Beaver Stadium.

Dave Cree crouches with a drummer as they examine a broken drum.

Cree helps to fix a broken tenor drum set during a rehearsal on Holuba Field on Penn State’s University Park Campus. Instrument repair and maintenance is one of Cree’s primary responsibilities with the band, and he carries a toolkit in order to solve any problems that arise.

Dave Cree and a former student share a hug before a game.

Cree hugs a former student before accompanying the band to Beaver Stadium. Cree has been a volunteer with the Blue Band for 28 years, and was once the band director in the Bellefonte Area School District.

Dave Cree with his hands in the air preps to release the Blue Band onto the field.

Cree prepares to release the band onto the football field before the Penn State vs. Michigan White Out game.

Dave Cree standing at the top of a ladder conducting the Blue Band during a game.

Cree conducts the band from the sidelines on the field during the Penn State vs. Michigan game.

Dave Cree standing at the top of a ladder conducting the Blue Band during a game.

Cree has been one of the band’s conductors for 28 years.

Dave Cree dressed in a white Penn State jacket and baseball hat pumps his fist to celebrate a touchdown.

Cree celebrates a Nittany Lion touchdown at the White Out football game. Cree sits with the band during each home game and conducts the group while they are on the field during the pre-game and halftime shows.

Dave Cree dressed in a white Penn State jacket adjusts his baseball hat.

Dave Cree prepares to sit in the stands with the band after their halftime performance.


~ by Elizabeth Palma

Nittanyville Campers are a committed group of Penn State students who have pledged their loyalty to the Nittany Lions’ football team. The student-run organization has formed a community of Penn State fans, who, in the middle of their busy school weeks, set up camp outside of Beaver Stadium’s Gate A. Days before kick-off, hot or cold, rain or shine, the students sleep in tents and engage in activities in advance of a home Penn State football game.

A bunch of tents lined up in front of Gate A at Beaver Stadium.

Nittanyville campers’ tents are up early in the week in anticipation of Penn State’s White Out game against Michigan on Oct. 15.

A fan in a blue Penn State hooded sweatshirt holds an Indiana license plate that reads zero wins at PSU

Nittanyville campers, Nathan Erb, left, and John Murphy, parade through a crowd of fans outside of Beaver Stadium during the football team’s arrival on Nov. 16. Murphy makes a customized license plate for every home game.

A couple sitting inside a tent in advance of a Penn State football game.

Nittanyville campers Kayla Gomez and Ethan Cook hang out in Gomez’s tent outside of gate A at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 15. Nittanyville had a lot of students participating in advance of Penn State’s White Out game.

A crowd of fans dressed in Penn State gear running into the stadium to get the best seats in the student section.

Campers at Nittanyville sprint into Beaver Stadium to get the best seats in the student section hours before kickoff against Indiana on Nov. 16.

Fans raise blue and white pom poms as they cheer on the Penn State football team.

Nittanyville couple Josh Kopasko and Kayla Gomez cheer on Penn State against Indiana in section SC of Beaver Stadium during the first quarter of the game on Nov. 16.

Clean & Refresh

~ by Amanda Thieu

It takes a large team off the field to accommodate the 107,000 fans who attend Penn State football games. Wade Robbins is an essential part of that team, but his name is one you probably won’t recognize. Robbins owns Robinson Septic Inc. and he has a contract with the university to maintain the portable toilets. Eight hours after Penn State’s kickoff, Wade’s crew begins to clean and refresh the toilets that can be found around the stadium grounds and parking lots.

The ownder of Robinson Septic Service drives a truck around Beaver Stadium as he maintains portable toilets.

Robinson Septic Service Inc. was founded by Wade's step-father Gib Robinson. Wade Robbins took over the company in 2003 and has been managing the company with his wife and three children.

A septic system worker restocks toilet paper in a portable toilet outside Beaver Stadium

Scott Cox is new to the septic business. He served as a corrections officer for 23 years and has been helping out Robinson Septic to make extra money during his retirement.

Podcast: Sidelines Stories

~ produced by Brittany Krugel

On football Saturdays as the Nittany Lions run onto the field with Coach James Franklin, more than 106,000 fans are on their feet. But not everyone involved takes the field or basks in applause. Hundreds of people behind the scenes work tirelessly to make Game Day great. These are their stories.