Former Co-Captain Stays Connected to Penn State Football Program
Bob White never really left Penn State.
White, co-captain on the 1986 national championship team, has worked for Penn State in a variety of roles for the last two decades, including one season as an assistant coach at the suggestion of Joe Paterno.
Now, he’s responsible for marketing and operations for suites and club seats at Beaver Stadium, having joined the development staff in 2001.
CENTRE COUNTY GAZETTE: You hear the term off-season a lot for sports teams, but is there ever really an off-season for you at the stadium?
BOBBY WHITE: No. Given to where things have moved to and have grown into, given my duties as it relates to the premium seats — suites and club seats — part of that is the stadium-private events. The stadium-private event piece is just an ongoing cycle that really is never-ending. The only time throughout the entire year when things literally cease to move is that stretch between Christmas break and New Year’s. The rest of the year, whether it’s spring, summer or fall, between football and dealing with our premium-seat customers and handling all the private events, there really isn’t any down time.
CCG: For the stadium events, what is it about Beaver Stadium and the Mount Nittany Club that makes it a popular destination for weddings, receptions, etc.?
BW: I think the primary thing is you’re dealing with Penn State alums, many of who have spent a lot of their college years tailgating and hanging out with friends around football. Oftentimes, a lot of those events that take place around the stadium are going to be either in the category of Penn Staters who want to come back with their friends and relive some memories here around a wedding reception, or it’s going to be one of the departmental units that’s doing something over here, a conference or something along those lines.
CCG: During a game, what’s the atmosphere like in the suites and in the Mount Nittany Club?
BW: With the ability — which is a very nice feature of the suites — to open the windows, you can be a part of what’s going on outside, and I think that helps a lot, in terms of bringing the game atmosphere to that area.
CCG: With the video board construction and new technology, what’s your perspective on how the game atmosphere has changed over the years, compared to what it was like when you were a player to now.
BW: I think because we’re living in a society and in a world where people crave perpetual stimulation, I think a lot of that has crept in, because now it’s become more than just about the main event. In the old days, the reason you left your home and left your landlines was to get away and watch a ballgame. Well now, people bring all those things with them to the main event, so it’s not just about football anymore. It’s about the fireworks, it’s about the cheerleaders, it’s about the mascot, it’s about the loud music, and it’s about all these other little asides that people have grown up with now. They need that constant stimulation.
CCG: In talking with alumni as often as you do, what is it about this area and the Penn State football program that keeps them coming back for games and renewing their season tickets?
BW: It’s memories, fond memories of hanging out with friends and family, and tradition. I think a lot of it is just fond memories of their time here as students, and you always come back to those places where you have the fondest memories.
CCG: You have an eclectic background, how did your previous experiences help prepare you for your current role and building relationships with alumni?
BW: I think I’ve always been focused, and I think I’ve always had a real good sense of who I was, and what I wanted, and I think I’ve always enjoyed people. I think a combination of all those different pieces has led me down this path to where I am today.
CCG: How often do you think about your playing days?
BW: Not as much as you might think. I think a lot about the relationships I formed with the guys I played with, but the actual playing days, while I do focus on those from time to time, they’re not really at the forefront as much as the relationships are.
CCG: What’s special about those relationships?
BW: Those formative years as a player and just remembering how special it is in life when you can actually meet other people with different backgrounds from your own and that you can actually come together and form a commitment to a particular idea and see that through is an incredible thing. When you think about all the different teams across the country that are knocking themselves out to be champions, it’s amazing what it takes to make that happen. It’s not just about ability, but there’s a chemistry that has to take place, and to think that it took place the way it did multiple times with that group speaks volumes about those relationships, and I think that was at the forefront to winning championships.
CCG: Speaking of relationships, how often did you talk to former equipment manager Brad “Spider” Caldwell (who recently retired) over the years, and did you have much interaction with him?
BW: In my current role, not a lot, but my relationship with Brad, going back to my playing years, was strong enough that we could go weeks without talking, but if he needed something or if I needed something, we could call and just pick up right where we left off and move forward. He’s one of those unique individuals who was a part of that whole football operations in the championship years, and he was an integral part of that.
CCG: To follow on that, what about Spider stood out to you and made him special, because a lot of people read his name and see the stories, but you experienced his impact first-hand.
BW: He was trustworthy and dependable, he was always positive. He was one of those guys during two-a-days when everybody was tired of each other, and sore and tired and had enough, he was able to make us all laugh. If you needed to know anything, Spider seemed to have a good feel of what was going on, he was a good information source about a lot of things. When you think about winning championships, Spider was one of those quiet individuals in the background that was a big, big part of making that happen. You came off of that field during a series of plays and he would find you and he would make sure you had water and you were hydrated for the next series. He would make sure your cleats were clean so you were getting good footing out on the field. If your facemask was broken, he would jump on it right away and fix it. He had you ready for that next series, he got you through those contests and it’s guys like Spider who go unnoticed week-by-week, game-by-game, but it’s people like him who makes it happen.
CCG: I’m not sure if many people know this, but you’re a board member and vice-chairperson for the Penn State Federal Credit Union. What else do you like to do in your free time?
BW: I think it’s very important for anybody to maintain physical and emotional health and to have balance and to have other interests. That’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do over the years, so I have other things that I’m interested in and that I like to do. I still train, I love to garden, I love history, I love to read about history, in particular, history as it pertains to my own heritage. I love reading and understanding as much as I can about the Civil War. I love to collect antiques; I like old furniture, so there are a lot of things like that that I’m into.