STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — As kickoff approaches here in Happy Valley, people are talking about the tradition of the Penn State Whiteout game and what is to come for Saturday evening.
"Every sing-a-long is that much better" at a Whiteout game, Penn State marketing manager PJ Mullen said. "Every defensive third down is that much better. Every firework that goes off is a little brighter and a little louder. It will be a lot of fun."
The Whiteout began in 2004, but only the student section took part in it. It wasn't until 2007 that it became a full-stadium experience. Penn State has won the last two Whiteouts against Ohio State (2016) and Michigan (2017).
"I would challenge anybody, not just college football but anybody, in any sport to find a [better] home-field advantage [than] when Penn State does a whiteout at night, and they're ranked up in the top 10 and play another top 10 opponent," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said. "To me, it's as good as there is in the country. I've never seen anything like it."
From a marketing perspective, Penn State has a team of five to seven full-time employees and 25 student interns who make the Whiteouts happen. This team collaborates with the video, creative services and strategic communications departments, and the ticket office. The process begins in late April and continues until the day of the game.
"Between social media, the way the tickets look, and graphics we are able to spread the word about actually wearing white and executing that," Mullen said. "We have it down at Penn State. We have come to a point where people expect it every year, and everyone has the right gear in place."
Before the game, Penn State will have a concert outside the stadium. The band will perform leading up to the team's arrival, and the players will make their way off the busses through a sea of blue and white and into the stadium.
"We have some other tricks up our sleeves at the team's arrival," Mullen said. "We are keeping them hush-hush for now in order to excite people."
As if the Whiteout wasn't big enough for Penn State fans, ESPN's College GameDay also made a trip to Happy Valley this weekend. The crew built the set on the lawn of Old Main and kicked off the show with a short segment Friday afternoon. Live airing of GameDay began at 9 a.m. on Saturday and concluded with Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, and Keegan-Michael Key picking the Nittany Lions to upset the Buckeyes.