Players and coaches paced the sidelines during Lycoming's football scrimmage on Thursday wiping the sweat from their foreheads. They'd pass one another with that raised eyebrow, tilted-head look as if to say, "sure is hot, isn't it?"
Late-August heat is just a byproduct of starting the football season. But this wasn't just a late-August heating beating down on the shoulders of a Warriors team preparing for its season. They were being attacked from the North and South.
A cloudless blue sky allowed the sun to beat down on the sidelines with reckless abandon. And under their feet, the newly installed turf at David Person Field provided no relief.
"This turf sure is hot," offensive line assistant coach Pat Vollman said. "It'll feel nice in October."
It might be the lone drawback to the gorgeous facility Lycoming College has built since the start of a fundraising drive in January. Smiles as wide as the field pop up on the players and coaches as they talk about what the first few weeks of practice on the field have been like.
"It's a nice, new atmosphere here," defensive end Dillin Rudloff said. "I think it's going to attract a lot of fans which will be nice. It could be one of the nicest fields we have in the MAC."
The weather a year ago was one of the deciding factors that it was time to bring turf to Lycoming College. The field adjacent to Person field already has turf for soccer and lacrosse to be played. And when it rained, the football team would often have to rearrange its schedule in order to be able to practice on a dry surface.
The only other options when it did rain was to play on a sloppy practice field located just behind the outfield of the softball field at the athletic complex, or move practice inside Lamade Gymnasium. Neither option is particularly conducive to productive football practices.
"I don't think we'll have any flooding issued with this like we did with the other practice field," quarterback Zach Klinger said. "Part of the problem with rain games is the mud, and hopefully we won't have that problem this year."
"In terms of practice, it rained (last week) but not only did we not have to worry about our footing during practice, but there's no impact on the condition of the field for the next day," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "We can also get a new sideline camera in here now. Usually we rent a lift and you could only get certain angles at practice. Now, the amount of film you get, you can coach everything and everyone can see what they need to see. It just makes everything significantly better."
And then there's the recruiting aspect. Lycoming was one of just two schools in the MAC that had no yet switched to turf on its football field before it was installed this summer.
It creates an entire facility that could help attract players to a program.
"I'm a purist, but I think instantly when you see it, it looks great, which has to help us with recruiting," Clark said. "We already have a great locker room. Now you have a field that when you come up and look at it, there's only football lines on it and the end zones really pop. We already had a good weight room. So facilities-wise, I think we have one of the best facilities in the league."
When receiver Matt Atkinson was asked about the turf, he couldn't even begin to hold back a smile. Skill position players tend to love turf because it speeds up the game.
The better footing makes it easier to come out of their breaks, and the minuscule, black, rubber pellets that fill in the blades of grass provide enough give that there's no extra danger of injuries like the old, thin carpets that used to line places like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
"I love it," Atkinson said. "It's going to be fun. I've never played on turf as a home field, before. But turf is awesome and this is so awesome."
About the only surprise for Clark is that the turf is already done and installed. The fund-raising project the school spear-headed began in just January.
"When the plans were announced, I wasn't sure if we'd have it. But if you tell (assistant head coach and defensive coordinator) Steve Wiser he can't do something, he's going to find a way to do," Clark said. "I don't want to say I was skeptical, I was never against the project. I think it's a great idea, but I'd be lying if I said in January that I envisioned this. It's pretty remarkable."