Neil Diamond probably never guessed his hit song would be cause for so much unabashed pandemonium.
But thousands of fans roared Saturday when his “Sweet Caroline” blared through Beaver Stadium for the first time since the end of the 2011 football season. The university said in August 2012 it would cease playing the song, but said the reason was simply that it was being rotated out of the playlist.
Meanwhile, Nittany Lions fans speculated the reason for the song’s hiatus was in response to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case. Leading into the song’s chorus, one of the most famous lines is “touching me, touching you.”
Sandusky, 69, is currently serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for molesting 10 boys in and around the Penn State campus and in his State College home.
Whatever the reason for its disappearance, “Sweet Caroline” is back for more than just a game.
Penn State football spokesman Jeff Nelson said based on crowd response Saturday, the 1969 single will likely be played again this season, but not necessarily at every home game.
The week of the Eastern Michigan game, Nelson said, athletics launched the Gameday Music Crew which allows fans to vote on specific songs they want to hear at home games, whether they be recorded music or songs the Blue Band takes on. Sweet Caroline was consistently coming in as a write-in fan favorite, therefore, it was resurrected.
But Penn State trustee Ted Brown said “hallway conversations” have been in the works for months between several trustees and athletic director Dave Joyner regarding bringing the song back into the stadium lineup, but the topic was not discussed during Thursday and Friday’s board meetings.
Brown said he was told by Joyner that the song would be played during or prior to the Michigan game on October 12.
“I was surprised and delighted,” Brown said, “and the crowd reaction was just what I expected it would be.”
Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who was one of the trustees involved in talks to bring back “Sweet Caroline,” said he’s “sure” the song was brought back by popular demand, but remains unconvinced as to why it was taken off the stadium playlist in the first place.
Anna Orso can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.