PITTSBURGH - The Penn State Coaches Caravan rolled out of Happy Valley Wednesday afternoon headed straight to Pittsburgh for its fifth event on the four-day, seven stop tour.
Alongside head coach James Franklin and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, Nittany Lion coaches Erica Dambach (women's soccer) and Tim Murphy (swimming and diving) boarded the bus for a new lineup for the second to last evening program this week.
Stop 5: Pittsburgh (Omni Hotel
As those in attendance have seen at nearly every stop so far, top priorities in the first five years of the facilities master plan include significant updates for both men's and women's soccer as well as swimming and diving facilities.
"I'm ready to get out there and start digging the hole," Murphy said, drawing laughs from the crowd regarding the impact that the proposed new natatorium would have on the program.
Making his first appearance on the Coaches Caravan, Murphy is in his fourth season at the helm of the Nittany Lion men's and women's swimming and diving programs. Since his days as a member of the swimming and diving team at his alma mater West Chester University, Murphy has embedded into his coaching career the mentality that no matter the ability of the individual, with a dedicated work ethic every member of the team can serve an important role.
"I was the worst swimmer on the team, but I was also a captain on the team my senior year," Murphy said.
Dambach also spoke to the impact that proposed facilities upgrades would have, while also diving into a few examples of a continued quest for student-athlete excellence in a variety of areas that have served as a reflection of the foundation of the program.
Dambach shared the story of Nittany Lion goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom, who transformed her body and elevated her game all through years of hard work and dedication, eventually earning a draft selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, as the first keeper picked on the day.
On a totally different note, Franklin closed out the coach remarks welcoming the newest Nittany Lion to the 2029 signing class, introducing the packed crowd to Carter Netport, age six.
Catching up with assistant head
coach and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith:
A Nittany Lion alum and Aliquippa native, Smith attended the Pittsburgh Coaches Caravan stop with his parents Marian and Harvey Jr., who is also a Penn State alum.
"I'll tell you, there's a lot of energy here there's a lot of excitement," Smith said. "I love Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has always been good to me and my family and it's always been good to Penn State."
For Smith, the opportunity to gather with football lettermen to share stories and reflect on a proud past and current success is all part of what makes Penn State so special.
"It's a unique group," Smith said. "We recruit all over the country and you run into coaches from the SEC, ACC and all over the country and Penn Staters are unique in their brand of how we stick together, how we help each other. We understand the bond of the locker room and that's for life."
Outside of football lettermen though, the opportunity to meet and engage with so many passionate Penn State alumni and fans only adds to the deep sense of community that has been palpable across all five stops this week.
"Those are the ones who really make us up," Smith said. "When you're sitting there and you have 107,000 people in the stands for a game and then the millions who watch the game on Saturday's, those are the people who support us and give us our energy, our juice."
- Sandy Barbour
University Park to Pittsburgh: 138 miles
Day 3 Total:
Coaches Caravan Total: 520 miles