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Penn State schedule could be tested by economy

June 21, 2008
By BEN BRIGANDI, bbrigandi@sungazette.com
Four-hundred bucks membership in the Nittany Lion Club for the privilege of buying four Penn State football season tickets.

At least half that much per game for the tickets themselves.

Throw in about 16 bucks of gas at $4 a gallon if you’re making the 130-mile round trip from Williamsport, twice as much if you use an RV or SUV, plus at least 10 bucks parking.

All to watch Youngstown State and Temple again?

While Penn State touted its future home dates with Michigan and Ohio State when releasing the 2010-12 football schedules with a new Big Ten bye earlier this week, the rest of the schedule sticks out as well. Like gas prices, the release of the schedule reminded that the entertainment value of Penn State football season tickets won’t improve anytime soon.

Take 2008, which may well be Joe Paterno’s last as coach, given this being the final year of the 81-year old’s contract.

No doubt, the Oct. 18 game vs. Michigan is the season highlight. There’s the chance to end an 11-year losing streak to the Wolverines, who feature new coach Rich Rodriguez after his messy exit from West Virginia. There’s also a primetime game against an improving Illinois program Sept. 27 to start the Big Ten slate.

But the other two Big Ten games to close the season on Nov. 15 and 22 – vs. Indiana and Michigan State programs that have never won in Beaver Stadium since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten – may only be of real interest if they’re indeed Paterno’s final games, unless the Lions surprise and improve upon back-to-back 9-4 records.

September games against Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, and Temple? You tell me, what’s the draw in paying to see all three?

There’s a good chance those games will wind up on the Big Ten Network, now available this fall to Comcast customers in the Williamsport area. But that’s the extent of the gifts for many Nittany Lion fans.

The 2009 schedule is no better with Syracuse the lone non-conference draw. The Orange, coming off a 2-10 finish last year and in search of their first winning season since 2001, are joined in that non-conference slate by Temple, Eastern Illinois, and a likely cupcake to be named later.

But at least buying a package to include those games gives you the right to Ohio State tickets Nov. 7, as well as Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana again.

Youngstown State, Kent State, and Temple visit in 2010. That ballyhooed return of Alabama (and maybe Nick Saban) doesn’t happen until 2011, with two other likely non-BCS conference schools joining a game at Temple that year.

No additional BCS conference schools are slated yet for Beaver Stadium in 2012, as that non-conference schedule has a trip to Virginia, a home game with Temple, and two slots to fill.

In case you’re counting, that’s three Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) schools down for Happy Valley the next five seasons, and three BCS conference schools.

Penn State’s not alone nationally in the weak scheduling, often motivated with a seventh home game to fund non-revenue sports or the hope a softer schedule increases the odds of an unbeaten season and shot at the BCS title game. Still, the new 12-game schedule gives teams an extra chance to prepare themselves for conference play. The Nittany Lions could use it, given their 6-6 Big Ten road record the last three years.

A rough outlay for a four-seat season package this fall runs at least $2,000, counting the above expenses, plus food and beverages inside and outside the stadium. Divide that by seven home games, and it’s at least a solid $300 to take a family or gang of four to Happy Valley.

Perhaps it’s a better deal to just buy that Michigan ticket off a friend or scalper or resale Web site — some on-line services were at $300 and counting per seat this weekend — and ignore the rest.

Of course, many season ticket holders are wealthy enough to withstand the current downturn, and many others will continue to sell off a game or two to cushion their costs.

But I can’t help but wonder if the hassle of the whole deal isn’t going to take its toll in the coming post-Paterno years. Penn State won’t be alone, as about half the BCS conference schools fill schedules similar to the Nittany Lions.

I can’t imagine Michigan fans will line up eagerly in years to come to watch Appalachian State invade the Big House.

Well, they might for that one, if it’s ever scheduled. But it may be the exception that proves the rule.

Fact Box

Penn State football schedules
2008
Aug. 30 COASTAL CAROLINA
Sep. 6 OREGON STATE
Sep. 13 at Syracuse
Sep. 20 TEMPLE
Sep. 27 ILLINOIS (1), 8:00 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Purdue
Oct. 11 at Wisconsin, 8:00 p.m.
Oct. 18 MICHIGAN (HC) 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Ohio State
Nov. 8 at Iowa
Nov. 15 INDIANA
Nov. 22 MICHIGAN STATE
2009
Sep. 5 TBA
Sep. 12 SYRACUSE
Sep. 19 TEMPLE
Sep. 26 IOWA
Oct. 3 at Illinois
Oct. 10 EASTERN ILLINOIS
Oct. 17 MINNESOTA
Oct. 24 at Michigan
Oct. 31 at Northwestern
Nov. 7 OHIO STATE
Nov. 14 INDIANA
Nov. 21 at Michigan State
2010
Sep. 4 YOUNGSTOWN ST.
Sep. 11 at Alabama
Sep. 18 KENT STATE
Sep. 25 TEMPLE
Oct. 2 at Iowa
Oct. 9 ILLINOIS
Oct. 16 bye
Oct. 23 at Minnesota
Oct. 30 MICHIGAN
Nov. 6 NORTHWESTERN
Nov. 13 at Ohio State
Nov. 20 at Indiana
Nov. 27 MICHIGAN STATE
2011
Sep. 3 TBA
Sep. 10 ALABAMA
Sep. 17 at Temple
Sep. 24 TBA
Oct. 1 at Illinois
Oct. 8 OHIO STATE
Oct. 15 IOWA
Oct. 22 at Northwestern
Oct. 29 PURDUE
Nov. 5 bye
Nov. 12 WISCONSIN
Nov. 19 at Minnesota
Nov. 26 at Michigan State
2012
Sep. 1 TBA
Sep. 8 at Virginia
Sep. 15 TEMPLE
Sep. 22 TBA
Sep. 29 ILLINOIS
Oct. 6 at Ohio State
Oct. 13 at Iowa
Oct. 20 NORTHWESTERN
Oct. 27 at Purdue
Nov. 3 bye
Nov. 10 at Wisconsin
Nov. 17 MINNESOTA
Nov. 24 MICHIGAN STATE
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

 
 

 

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