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Coaches Caravan: Day VII - Altoona and Pittsburgh

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Photo Gallery - Altoona Caravan Stop

Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh Caravan Stop

ALTOONA and PITTSBURGH - The final leg of the 18-stop Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off on Monday with events in Altoona and downtown Pittsburgh.

More than 190 Penn State fans and alums filled the gymnasium on the Penn State Altoona campus at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast.  From there, the Fullington coach bus moved west to Pittsburgh for a stop in Allegheny County at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

Take a look through highlights of the first two stops on the final week of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop XIII - Altoona
For the third-straight week, the Penn State Coaches Caravan pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center at 6:30 a.m. Monday to begin a six-stop tour with head coach Bill O'Brien.  This week, men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik boarded the bus to join Coach O'Brien for three days on the road.

Penn State's Altoona campus played host to the 13th stop on the caravan with a morning breakfast inside the Adler Athletic Complex.  Upon arrival, Coach O'Brien made the rounds from table to table throughout the gymnasium shaking hands and signing autographs with Penn State fans in the room.

He approached a table with three young boys and their fathers and asked them why they weren't in school today.  As it turned out, Monday's breakfast with the Penn State coaches was just a stop on the way to elementary school.

One of the comical moments during Monday's breakfast came with Coach O'Brien during the Q&A portion of the program.  An enthusiastic fan stepped up and said, "What percentage of the total (offensive) package will be in for the Ohio game and the season moving forward?"

Coach O'Brien's response before the room erupted into laughter, "A very big percentage."

The leader of Penn State football said that meeting with the other traveling coaches on the bus is one of the best parts about the caravan travel.  He added that working with so many head coaches is one thing he loves about working in college athletics compared to working with just one team in the NFL.

Coaches Gadowsky and Pavlik also addressed the Altoona crowd.  Coach Pavlik hails from just down the road in Derry, Pa., a small town off of U.S. 22 between Altoona and Pittsburgh.

Coach Gadowsky informed the crowd of the men's hockey program's progress as it transitions into varsity status for the 2012-'13 season.  One year later, Penn State will be a part of the six-team Big Ten men's hockey conference, and Coach Gadowsky cannot wait.

"When you come to see (Big Ten) hockey at Penn State, you're going to see the best college hockey in the country," Coach Gadowsky said.

The bus loaded up after breakfast for a short drive west to the center of Pittsburgh for the evening session on Monday.

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VIDEO: Coaches Press Conference in Altoona
Head coaches Bill O'Brien Guy Gadowsky and Mark Pavlik talk about the Coaches Caravan with the media in Altoona on Monday morning.

Stop XIV: Pittsburgh
In an area rich in football history, Coach O'Brien repeated his desire to play Pitt on an annual basis to a group of media at the Omni William Penn Hotel on Monday afternoon.  Coach O'Brien also spoke at great length about the superb quality of high school football in Western Pennsylvania and the importance of recruiting the Pittsburgh area.

Men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky fielded several questions about the growth of the Nittany Lion program as it begins to countdown the days from its Division I opener.  One of the topics he discussed was the possibility of playing an outdoor game at Beaver Stadium one day.  Coach O'Brien gave the idea his blessing if the opportunity presents itself.

There are nearly 27,000 Penn State alums in Allegheny County, and Monday night's crowd was terrific inside the Grand Ballroom on the 17th floor in the Omni William Penn Hotel.  More than 400 enthusiastic fans and alums greeted four Penn State coaches.  The list included women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene, who joined the caravan for the first time.  Coach Brandwene, a Penn State alum himself, delivered a passionate speech to the Nittany Lion faithful.

Fellow hockey leader, Coach Gadowsky received a rousing cheer as he kicked off his speech by showing the room renderings of what Pegula Ice Arena will look like when it opens in the fall of 2013.

Coach O'Brien's initial reception was not quite the same.

He told the crowd the last time he was in Pittsburgh was during the fall when he coached against the Steelers as the offensive coordinator of the Patriots.  Jokingly, the Steeler Nation booed Coach O'Brien on stage.

Nevertheless, Coach O'Brien again did a superb job explaining his vision for the football program through an informative PowerPoint presentation.  One piece of football news Nittany Lion fans will be interested to hear about came out during Coach O'Brien's speech.  He said on Monday that the depth chart, including the quarterback position, will be out "soon".

Collectively, all four coaches on stage kept the great crowd engaged and entertained throughout the night.  Coaches Brandwene, Gadowsky, O'Brien and Pavlik are great ambassadors for Penn State Athletics.


Speaking about all three new head coaches on stage, Coach Pavlik ended his speech by telling the crowd that the athletic department is in very good hands.

"These guys are going to make you proud, Penn State proud," Coach Pavlik said.

VIDEO: Coach O'Brien Talks PA Football; Coach Gadowsky Talks Outdoor Hockey
Coach O'Brien talked about Pittsburgh football and recruiting in Western Pennsylvania during Monday's media session.  Coach Gadowsky shared his thoughts on an outdoor hockey game at Beaver Stadium.

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For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can call 1-800-648-8269 (1-800-NITTANY) weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or visit the Bryce Jordan Ticket Center.

Follow Media Specialist Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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