Coaches Caravan Registration
Photo Gallery: Lancaster | Photo Gallery: Harrisburg
CAMP HILL, Pa. - The Coaches Caravan capped off the first leg of the 12-stop tour with visits to Lancaster and Harrisburg on Thursday.
A capacity crowd of 330 fans greeted head coaches Bill O'Brien, Cael Sanderson and Russ Rose for a luncheon at Penn Square in Lancaster. The bus then loaded up for a 50-minute drive to Camp Hill for the week's final stop before nearly 550 enthusiastic attendees. In total, more than 2,100 fans and alums took part in Caravan stops during week one. Take a look through some highlights on day three at two visits to the heart of Nittany Nation.
Stop V - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)
A sold out crowd of 330 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums greeted all three coaches on the docket for Thursday's lunch stop with a warm, standing ovation reception. Five-time NCAA champion women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose joined the Caravan for the final day of the initial leg.
Sanderson kicked off the panel of speakers with high praise of the other two leaders on stage with him. The wrestling offices are just down the hall from the women's volleyball offices inside Rec Hall, and Sanderson told the crowd that when he sees Rose and how he runs his program, he uses it as motivation for leading the wrestling program.
"Coach Rose is a tremendous asset for Penn State," Sanderson said.
"What he (Coach O'Brien) has done for the University is unbelievable," Sanderson went on to say.
Nestled in the heart of wrestling country, Sanderson took the opportunity to tell the fans to take advantage of the opportunity to see talents like David Taylor and Ed Ruth wrestle during their senior seasons. Sanderson said that elite athletes like those two do not come around too often.
Rose took the microphone second and echoed Sanderson's remarks about the cast of coaches on stage at the Caravan stops on Thursday. He joked that his team's 109-match winning streak during the program's unprecedented string of four-straight NCAA titles pales is just a number alongside Sanderson's 159-0 mark as a collegiate wrestler.
The Nittany Lion women's volleyball team will kick off a European tour on Saturday. Rose said he is looking forward to how his team works during the offseason. The Lions kick off the trip in the Czech Republic and cap things off in Italy.
One of the great things about the Caravan is seeing how the coaches interact with one another. All three leaders were truly genuine in their remarks directed at one another. Sanderson and Rose both praised O'Brien for his leadership of the program during the past 15 months. O'Brien's feelings are mutual for the other two coaches. He and Sanderson shared stories and exchanged coaching philosophies throughout the bus travel on Thursday.
"It's very humbling to share the stage with Russ Rose and Cael Sanderson," O'Brien said as he opened his speech.
The trio of coaches in Lancaster was among the seven Penn State leaders who earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during the 2012-13 season.
"[Penn State] is a great place to be. Our coaching staffs are really strong in a lot of areas," Rose said.
VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson
Stop VI: Harrisburg (Radisson Camp Hill)
Following a luncheon before a capacity crowd, the Caravan rolled into the Harrisburg area for an evening program in Camp Hill. Nearly 550 guests congregated inside the Grand Ballroom at the Radisson to hear O'Brien, Sanderson and Rose address the crowd on Thursday night.
The first week of the Caravan ended with a night fun night of entertainment for the fans in Harrisburg. The largest crowd of the week was a lively, engaged group from start to finish during the speeches and Q&A, largely thanks to another sterling performance from leadoff man Cael Sanderson to kick-start the program.
After drawing a huge crowd and shaking countless hands during the pre-event reception, Sanderson had the audience in stiches with one-liner after one-liner during his speech. Among many quick-witted moments, he got the crowd into a standing ovation contest, as he called it, to see how many times he could get the crowd to give O'Brien a standing ovation during his own speech.
All three coaches fed off of one another at both stops on Thursday, but Sanderson and O'Brien were a comical matchup on stage throughout the evening in Harrisburg. O'Brien answered Sanderson's stand-up act later during his speech by ribbing the wrestling legend for losing a grand total of three matches from high school through college (He was a combined 286-3 in high school and college.)
"Come on, Cael. You could have done better than that (laughter)," O'Brien said.
With the crowd roaring, Rose took the microphone and said," Cael's on fire!" The Nittany Lion women's volleyball head coach went on to tell the crowd that the individuals in the room understood what the true meaning is behind being a Penn Stater. The 34-year veteran also knows a thing or two about what Penn State is all about with its success on the field of play and in the classroom.
"I've been there a long time, and I love being there," Rose said. "I'm not going anywhere."
"When you talk about Penn State around the country, you just want people to see what people are like in a room like this," O'Brien said.
The Penn State community is special to all three coaches. Without a doubt, they all had fun joking with one another on stage Thursday night, but there is no question how each coach feels about the place they call home and the people who support the Blue and White.
"If you have that support before the success that's how you get the success, and that's what we have at Penn State," Sanderson said.
"A roomful of energetic, passionate Penn Staters, this is what it's all about," O'Brien said.
VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson
Miles Covered on Day One - 203 miles
Miles Covered on Day Two - 147 miles
Miles Covered on Day Three - 254 miles
Caravan Total - 604 miles
The Caravan resumes on Tuesday with stops in Williamsport and Allentown.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony