Every week, nearly 110,000 fans pack Beaver Stadium to cheer on the Penn State football team. It's a raucous atmosphere, for sure, but when winter arrives and pigskin gets put on hold, the fandom of most students and alumni goes into hibernation.
What many seem to forget is that there's a 15,000-seat arena across the street that's itching for some affection, too.
The Bryce Jordan Center will be the site of the opening game of the 2008-2009 season for the Penn State men's basketball team tomorrow night. Following a four-game exhibition trip to Canada in the summer and another tune-up victory over Bloomsburg on Sunday, the Nittany Lions will finally take the floor against William & Mary in hopes of erasing a string of disappointing years.
There's no shortage of college sports fans on campus, but despite the hoops fever that exists among a select few, there are even more students who simply choose to ignore the basketball team.
The BJC could be a great college basketball venue, but it will take more support from the students to reach that goal.
When the Lions defeated a then top-10 Michigan State team last season, a jubilant crowd rushed on to the floor to celebrate with the players. The atmosphere was on par with college basketball's finest. The potential is there to produce more moments like that this year, and you as students have a chance to be a part of them.
If you're looking for a good reason to believe this year after so many letdowns, consider this: Penn State returns most of its core group from the second half of last season. After finally adjusting to the loss of senior swingman Geary Claxton to injury, the young team looked promising, before eventually losing to Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on a heartbreaking, last-second bucket.
Now a year older, sophomores Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, D.J. Jackson and Andrew Jones --- all major contributors on last season's team -- will look to propel the Lions even further in a mostly mediocre Big Ten. Senior leaders Jamelle Cornley and Danny Morrissey return, as well, and will anchor a group that includes last year's youngsters and a batch of fresh faces highlighted by athletic freshmen guards Cammeron Woodyard and Chris Babb.
In college sports, fans can truly change a team. The energy in the BJC compels the players to work even harder. It can also convince recruits to come to Penn State, helping to build for the future. If the Lions are going to take the next step toward success, they need the students to be with them along the way.
So give it a chance this year. As the basketball team has been promoting at Beaver Stadium during football games this year, "take it inside" and walk across the street to the BJC.