HARRISBURG, Pa. - Penn State hit the road bright and early for day two of the of the Coaches Caravan, traveling to Hazleton and Harrisburg to arrive at the midway point in the four-day tour before heading back to Happy Valley this evening.
The Coaches Caravan bus pulled out of the Valley Forge Casino Resort at 8:45 a.m. en route to another pair of Commonwealth campuses located in the heart of Pennsylvania.
Stop 3: Hazleton (Penn State
Winding through the northeast part of the state, the bus arrived at the Penn State Hazleton campus just in time for a few media opportunities before an afternoon program.
Home to Penn State Alumni Association Chief Executive Officer Paul Clifford, who grew up in the area, he returned for a bit of a homecoming alongside the group, greeted by another sold out crowd.
During the Photo Booth session prior to the program, Penn State head coach James Franklin met 12-year-old Connor Schamany, who, through family connections has actually grown up to be a Notre Dame football fan.
In an effort to convert Schamany to a Penn State fan, Franklin brought him on stage for a quick snapshot with the Big Ten Championship trophy, delivering a message to those in attendance.
"I'm going to need everyone's help with Connor," Franklin said. "I need everybody in this community to help me recruit Connor, a really nice kid, a really good kid, but he's confused. Notre Dame is a good school but I need you guys to recruit him, bring him to games, buy him Penn State gear and help him get on board with us," Franklin said drawing a rousing applause from he audience.
Lady Lion hoops head coach Coquese Washington also joined in at the Hazleton stop, marking her third appearance on the Coaches Caravan.
For Washington, being a Lady Lion is a big deal and something that's integral in preparation to all the pride that goes into supporting Penn State.
"I think it's really, really cool to get out around the state and be able to connect with some of the fans who we don't get to connect with on a daily or weekly basis," Washington said. "Being in State College, Penn State alums and Penn State fans are such staunch supporters of the University, so to be able to get out and mingle with them and hear their stories of how Penn State Athletics has impacted them and to hear those stories is really cool."
On the heels of a 21-11 season that saw the Lady Lions reach the third round of the WNIT, Washington met questions about expectations for the future with great excitement for what's ahead.
"I think the next step in the process is that we want to return to participation in the NCAA Tournament and I think we have the leadership amongst our players and I think we have the experience," Washington said. "They got great experience this year playing some tough games. Playing in the WNIT, in a lot of ways it mirrors playing in the NCAA Tournament. I'm really excited about the future and I think that's the next step and we'll work with our team to get there."
Stop 4: Harrisburg (Penn State
Boarding back on the Coaches Caravan, Penn State cruised down Interstate 81, arriving at its third Commonwealth campus this week, Penn State Harrisburg. More than 350 attended the final evening program.
Part of each stop so far has featured a special presentation from Barbour, detailing the Penn State facilities master plan. Although aspiration in nature, Barbour is quick to point out that any piece of the plan plays an integral part in helping to bolster the impact that Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes are able to make.
"Everything we do is to make you proud, whether it's in competition, in the classroom or in the community," Barbour said.
Another piece of Barbour's presentation included a proud note regarding the more than 6,000 hours of community service performed by Penn State coaches and student-athletes. A component of the program that Franklin takes very seriously, he noted that Penn State football is regularly among the yearly program leaders in the category, taking great pride in being able to give back to the community.
"You can get everything that you want in life when you give to others," Franklin said.
King of Prussia to Hazleton: 95.6 miles
Hazleton to Harrisburg: 881. miles
Day 2 Total: 183.7 miles
Coaches Caravan Total: 382 miles