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Penn State and the Ghosts of Blue/White Past: 1982
One of my favorite “Penn State holidays”—Blue/White Weekend—is nearly upon us. After a long, cold and lonely Winter spent away from the company of your old college pals, extended tailgating family and 108,000 friendly acquaintances, it is nice to squeeze in this little reminder of what you miss so much from five months ago and eagerly await five months hence. The event has grown substantially over the years, becoming a rallying point for any number of campus and local groups, alumni reunions and student revelry (as if they need the excuse). For me, the most memorable moment at a Blue/White game came in 2007, shortly after the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, when some enterprising Penn State students organized fans wearing Tech’s colors into the game, clad in t-shirts sold to raise money for the victims.
Of course, the festivities are probably most valued as a satisfying football oasis in a desert of disposable, late-season NBA and NHL games and (perhaps even worse) early-season baseball. Since we are all about remembering and retelling the stories of the Nittany Valley, I thought it would be fun to go back in time and see what Penn Staters were saying and thinking about the football team in the Spring before one of its most memorable seasons…
Joe Paterno was already a legendary coach heading into the 1982 college football season, but one crucial, final validation eluded him – a championship. Spurned by voters in the late 60’s and early 70’s, despite a string of undefeated squads, and agonizingly stonewalled by Alabama’s goalline defense in ’79, the man who would go on to rewrite his profession’s record books still sought the cache of winning the national title. With that backdrop, let’s take a look at what they were saying about the Lions back in the Spring of ’82, only months away from the elation and relief of finishing number one at last.
This first of two articles from The Daily Collegian was published on April 30, 1982 (the Friday before the game). Some points that caught my eye:
- Joe Paterno was entering his 17th season as head coach. I bet it felt like he’d been around forever! I wonder how often he was asked about when he planned to retire (or answered, “I’ll go about four or five more years.”).
- The annual off-season hand-wringing that year revolved around the departure of two newly-minted, first-round NFL draft picks from the offensive line – Sean Farrell and Mike Munchak (NFL Hall of Famer and current Titans head coach).
- Love this quote from Joe: “If I had my way, we’d just go out there and practice without anybody around.”
- The crowd was expected at around 20,000 people (paltry by today’s standards), and you had to pay to get in!! Three bucks for adults, which I’m sure was a lot of money back then. But seriously, you had to pay to get into the Blue/White Game? Indeed, some traditions of the past are best left there.