Who says rabid interest in spring football is limited to just the SEC and Deep South?
With a spring game slate featuring a whopping nine schools from the 12-team (for now) conference, Penn State stood head and shoulders above every other Big Ten program as slightly more than 72,000 fans took in the Nittany Lions’ spring closer. The school came within a few thousand of breaking the program’s spring-game record of 76,500, set in 2009.
A big reason behind the turnout is the enthusiasm generated by new head coach James Franklin and his PSU coaching staff. After just a handful of months on the job after replacing Bill O’Brien, Franklin and his staff have already been credited with “breathing new life into a program still in recovery mode” from the you-know-who scandal. Recruiting has picked up to a very brisk pace and, as evidenced by the turnout Saturday, enthusiasm from the fan base appears to be growing at roughly the same clip.
Yes, it’s the spring, but the energy Franklin has brought to Happy Valley is refreshing to see — and well-deserved for a community that’s been doubled over the last couple of years by the one-two hook of the scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions.
In other Big Ten attendance news, both Nebraska and Ohio State saw crowds in excess of 61,000 for their respective spring games. The former had an exact total of 61,772 — 61,773 if you count the cat — while the latter was announced at just over the 61,000-fan mark. The total for the Buckeyes may be a bit of a disappointment to head coach Urban Meyer, who had been hoping to see 85,000-plus pack the Horseshoe and put on a show for recruits; OSU didn’t help that cause by initially charging $20 for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified practice session with referees.
While the school ultimately dropped the price to $5 a head, it was seemingly too little, too late to get to the number for which Meyer had hoped.