Area Bars Dealing with No Bowl Game for Penn State Football
On Jan. 2, 2012, the Penn State football team was playing Houston in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. The game was being televised on ESPNU, which isn't included in some cable packages in and around Centre County.
Greg DuBois, owner of Damon's Grill in State College, remembers it well.
“We were packed,” DuBois said. “We filled up quickly. Any time that Penn State is in a bowl game, it's a big event.”
There was no bowl game this season, of course. As a part of the NCAA sanctions, Penn State was banned from postseason play for four seasons. The Nittany Lions finished with an 8-4 record, which would have likely propelled them into a New Year's Day bowl.
“It doesn't matter when they would've been playing … Jan. 1, 2 or 4, we would've had a crowd. If you're not watching Penn State at home, then you want to be in a crowd with fans. Not having Penn State in a bowl game really impacts us,” DuBois said.
Although there are bowl games on just about every night of the week beginning in late December, it doesn't make up for the fact that Penn State's season ended in late November with a thrilling 24-21 overtime win against Wisconsin.
“There's nothing that can make up for a Penn State bowl game,” DuBois said.
To make matters worse, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles did not make the NFL playoffs. It's Wildcard Weekend in the NFL, and a postseason appearance by either team would have brought fans through Damon's doors.
“That would have helped,” DuBois said. “We'll have some NFL fans (watching), but nothing like if the Steelers or Eagles were playing.”
Damon's is now hosting Penn State's weekly radio shows with football coach Bill O'Brien and men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers. According to DuBois, the football show really brought fans into the restaurant.
“The first couple of weeks, I don't think that people realized he was actually here,” DuBois explained. “But by Week 3, we were completely packed by 4 p.m. We had to turn people away.”
In downtown State College, Cafe 210 West is a popular destination for Penn State fans, students and alumni. In previous seasons, the bar would show Penn State's bowl game on its big HD screen. This year, however, the bar didn't even open its doors on New Year's Day. With the Nittany Lions bowl-less, there's no reason to be open, according to co-owner J.R. Mangan.
“If Penn State were playing, we'd be open,” Mangan said. “In the past, we've had a nice crowd the day of the game … we usually fill every table up.”
But this year is different.
With no bowl, fans made the most of the 8-4 regular season. According to Mangan, Cafe 210 West was busy every football weekend — home or away.
“The alumni, the students, they really stepped up,” Mangan explained. “We had big crowds every weekend.”