About two decades ago, Penn State picked up a signature win against then-ranked Minnesota on Jan. 16, 1994.
In the 11-point victory over the Golden Gophers, not only did the Nittany Lions show they could play with the big boys of the conference, but the fans who filled Rec Hall that night proved they could hold their own with rival student sections.
With a 7,306 standing room crowd on hand, former Minnesota center Randy Carter said after the game the students were some of the “wildest” fans in the Big Ten.
That feeling has been relatively absent since 1996 when the men’s and women’s basketball teams moved from Rec Hall to the much bigger Bryce Jordan Center.
However, Lions coach Patrick Chambers said he wouldn’t mind playing a game or two in the near future in Rec Hall.
“I would never say never. I'm sure we would love to [play in Rec Hall]. There's a lot of logistics that go into it, but I would love the opportunity to get a packed house in Rec Hall,” Chambers said.
“I think my first job is to win and get a packed house at the BJC. That would be nice. But I think it would be cool for our alums and for our students and obviously our players. It would be a little throwback.”
While Chambers has been at the helm as Lions head coach for less than two seasons, he remembers the days when Rec Hall was filled for basketball and recognizes the atmosphere that still exists for other sports today.
“I was there back in the day. I used to go to games with my sisters and my brothers. It's an amazing venue,” Chambers said. “It’s definitely a home-court advantage. I mean I've been to women's volleyball games and the place is packed, I know wrestling was packed the other day so it's a great venue.”
While Rec Hall provided an obviously supportive environment to basketball then and currently to the same sports Chambers mentioned, the Bryce Jordan Center has fallen short of matching that kind of intensity.
The Bryce Jordan Center — built in 1996 as a multi-purpose facility, not solely basketball — seats 15,261 for hoops games.
So far this season, men’s basketball has come relatively close to that max capacity only once (11,212 attendees for the Coaches vs. Cancer game against Ohio State).
On the season, Penn State ranks second-to-last in attendance in the Big Ten with 6,999 patrons witnessing the Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center per game. Penn State and Northwestern are the only two Big Ten teams that average less than 10,000 people per home contest.
Excluding the Ohio State game, Penn State averages a 7,707-person crowd for Big Ten contests in 2013 — pretty close to the standing room attendance at the Minnesota game in 1994.
Not only is the venue just more than half-filled for basketball games, but the immensity of the Bryce Jordan Center allows little atmosphere to be created by the fans if it’s not full.
With that considered, assistant coach Eugene Burroughs said that a crowd of that magnitude would breathe life to Penn State basketball games.
“Because it's more of an old school, box-type gym I think the energy would be terrific. If you could get 7,000 people in there I could imagine it being one of the loudest places in the country because of the dynamics of the gym,” Burroughs said.
Senior captain Nick Colella won’t have any eligibility after this season, but said he’d love to see a game or two in Rec Hall work out in the near future.
“I think it would be cool to get back to where Penn State basketball started,” Colella said. “I think Rec Hall is a neat gym, brings back a lot of memories and it would be cool to come back a few years down the road and see Penn State play a game there.
“Just seeing all those fans packed in there and how close everybody is to the court would make it a really loud atmosphere and give us an advantage.”