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Penn State Football: Game in Ireland Would Cost Bowl-Starved Fans Some Green

by on June 03, 2013 1:30 AM

If Penn State plays Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland to open next season -- possibly the only bowl-like atmosphere for Nittany Lions players and fans until 2016 – it won’t be cheap.

Based on tour package prices to the Notre Dame-Navy regular-season game in Dublin last season, the trip could cost $3,000 to $4,000 per person. And maybe higher.

But with Penn State unable to play in the postseason in 2013, 2014 and 2015, due to NCAA sanctions, it may be worth it.

By next season, Nittany Lion fans will be starved for a quality away contest – even if they have to travel 3,297 miles from University Park, Pa., to get it.

Outside of bowl games and the accumulated monotony of two decades-worth of Big Ten Conference road games, over the past six seasons PSU fans have had a choice of five non-conference away games: Virginia, Alabama, Syracuse and Temple (twice). (However, Nebraska in 2012 was a great conference addition.)

The last big-time bowl game Penn State played in was the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009, a 38-24 loss to Southern Cal. Second-tier bowl games followed (2010 Capital One, 2011 Outback Bowl). The last bowl Penn State went to was the Jan. 1, 2012, TicketCity Bowl in Dallas during the height of the Sandusky scandal. The performance (a 30-14 loss to Houston), the crowd (46,817) and the atmosphere (Purdue road game, mid-November) were desultory, to say the most.

Overall, here’s a rundown of Penn State bowl game appearances since the 1997 Fiesta Bowl: Outback (3), Alamo (2), Capital One (2), Orange, Rose, Citrus and TicketCity. That’s a pretty steady diet of bloomin' onions, budget rental cars and big APR credit cards. Add that pent-up demand to their irate demeanor, and Penn State fans just may have their Irish up about traveling – no matter what the cost.

Give Bill O’Brien credit:

As has been the case since last July, he’s been trying to make lobster and caviar out of corned beef and potatoes. And he may very well do it again. On Friday, he said Penn State is “really close” to closing the deal on the regular-season game between PSU and UCF, expected to be played on Aug. 30, 2014.

Right now, Penn State is slated to play Temple at home on that date, while Central Florida is scheduled to host Florida International. This fall, Penn State and UCF will meet on Sept. 14 in Beaver Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff. O’Brien was an assistant coach under UCF head coach George O’Leary while both were at Georgia Tech in 1998-2002.

“I hope it happens,” O’Leary told the Orlando Sentinel last week. “…It should be a great game… There are heavy discussions for that game, but nothing released yet. Hopefully it happens and we can open the 2014 season there.”

If Penn State and UCF do meet in the 2014 season-opener, the game would likely be played in the 82,300-seat Croke Park stadium, the nearly 100-year-old home to the Gaelic Games. It would be a home contest for Central Florida and, as such, four UCF officials traveled to Ireland last week to do “due diligence,” the Sentinel reported. The UCF administrators also visited Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, the site of the Notre Dame game in 2012. That stadium seats just 51,700.

The 2014 contest would give O’Brien the bowl-like atmosphere he has been promising his recruits and the Croke Park locale would bring in new money not normally spent by Penn State and UCF fans. Together the two schools have more than 750,000 living alumni – three-quarters of them Penn Staters.

Putting together travel packages that appeal to those fans and determining the split for ticket sales are the final hurdles to announcing the deal, the Sentinel reported.

We are talking about a considerable amount of money. For the Fighting Irish-Midshipman Emerald Classic last season, New Jersey-based Scully Travel offered a $1,399 package that included a game ticket, four meals, transportation and three nights of lodging. A seven-night package from a different vendor that included lodging, 13 meals, a game ticket, a few tours and transportation cost $1,999.

Now add in airfare of $1,309 round-trip from State College, some meals, souvenirs, several pints and some time on the links, and you could be looking at as much as $4,000 per person. (Airfares for August 2014 aren’t yet posted, so I used August 2013 rates instead.)

The pay-off for Notre Dame fans was big. In Dublin in 2012, Notre Dame easily defeated Navy 50-10 before an announced crowd of 48,820. The Fighting Irish were fighting off jet lag the next week, however, and barely beat Purdue, 20-17.

For its part, Navy had the week off upon returning from Dublin, then faced PSU in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 15 – a contest won 34-7 by the Nittany Lions, for O’Brien’s first win as Penn State’s head coach.



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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