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Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."


"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."


Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.

 


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day VI - New Jersey & New York

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NEW YORK - Leg two of the Coaches Caravan wrapped up on Thursday with a lunch stop in Northern New Jersey and an evening reception in New York City.

New Jersey and New York City are two pivotal areas for Penn State teams when it comes to recruiting.  Additionally, the Nittany Lion fan bases in New Jersey and the New York Metro area are among the largest outside of Pennsylvania.  Take a look through the final day of week two on the Coaches Caravan, which featured James Franklin, Cael Sanderson and Erica Walsh.


Stop No. 11 - Northern New Jersey (Hanover Marriott)


 
New Jersey is home to more than 27,000 Penn State alums, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  More than 225 loyal supporters visited the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey on Thursday for the Caravan's lunch in the Garden State.

In addition to being home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters, New Jersey is a critical recruiting area for the vast majority of Penn State teams.  Women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh opened her remarks on Thursday with a story about All-American Maya Hayes, who recently graduated from the program as one of its all-time best.  Hayes is from West Orange, N.J.

"We've had tremendous success in this area," Walsh said.  "I'm thrilled to be back.  And I've spent a lot of time recruiting in this area."

nj_1.jpgThe same is true for football program.  There are currently 16 student-athletes on the football roster from New Jersey, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  Penn State has had a long line of storied success in attracting the top talent from New Jersey, and Coach Franklin wants that tradition to continue.

Franklin informed the media during the pre-event press conference that the time and resources put into recruiting New Jersey make it as if it is part of Pennsylvania.  Four members of the 2014 recruiting class are from New Jersey.

As Rutgers transitions into the Big Ten this summer, New Jersey will carry even more importance for Penn State Athletics.  The fans and alums in the local area will now have the opportunity to watch Penn State teams compete in the state on an annual basis.

"This place is very special, and it means a lot to our program," Sanderson said.

"We are really excited about the Big Ten expanding east," Walsh said.

A special group of Nittany Lion football lettermen paid a visit to the New Jersey Caravan stop on Thursday.  Members of the 1959 Liberty Bowl team had a 55th reunion table.  Head coach Rip Engle led the Nittany Lions to victory against Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 7-0 on Dec. 19, 1959, marking Penn State's first Liberty Bowl victory.

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Stop No. 12 - New York City (Marriott New York Downtown)



The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visit to the Big Apple on Thursday evening to wrap up leg two.  The Caravan bus drove through the Holland Tunnel into the southern tip of Manhattan shortly before 3 p.m.  Situated just a block from One World Trade Center, head coach James Franklin and members of the Caravan staff took a walk around the new Freedom Tower structure towering over the New York City skyline.

The final event of the week took place before 300 enthusiastic, loud Penn State fans inside the Marriott New York Downtown.  The evening marked the end of Walsh's two-week stint on the Caravan.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer was superb each time she spoke to the crowd.  Her visualization story of a recruiting visit touched everyone in the room, and her delivery was superb.

"It's just been a thrill to be a part of this, and I am honored to be here with two of the greatest coaches that you will find," Walsh said.

After receiving another standing ovation on Thursday, a member of the crowd yelled to the stage as she sat down.

"New York loves you, Erica!"

Sanderson also finished his stint on the Caravan bus with another comical speech in New York.  While he is a terrific complement to Walsh and Franklin, Sanderson has the capability to send a large group erupting into laughter every time he brings up a new topic.  Nonetheless, his respect and appreciation of the fan base and its support speaks volumes about his enthusiasm of being a part of the Penn State family.

"You see that passion these two have, and it is unbelievable," Sanderson said.

"It has been great spending time with these two coaches," Franklin said.

The Q&A portion of the night prompted a discussion with Sanderson about the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will take place in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.  The Nittany Lions and the loyal fan base will have that date circled, and Sanderson is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle in front of so many Penn State alums.

nyc_2.jpgA large portion of Coach Franklin's Caravan speech stresses the importance of academic success for the football program.  He wants to see the team achieve its highest grade point average in history, in addition to its highest graduation rate.  Thursday night's location was a living example of what a Penn State degree can do for a student-athlete.  Nearly 10 football letterwinners currently work just a few blocks from the Marriott Downtown on Wall Street.  As Franklin says, Penn State provides a powerful degree for life beyond football or any sport.

With two weeks down, the Coaches Caravan resumes on Tuesday with a lunch stop in Williamsport on the campus of Penn College of Technology.  Additionally the Caravan will pay a visit to Wilkes-Barre for an evening event on Tuesday, lunch in East Stroudsburg and an evening in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and an evening event in Erie on Thursday.

Thank you to the fans for making the first two weeks of the Coaches Caravan a resounding success.


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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles

Total - 1,369 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day V - Philadelphia & Scranton

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PECKVILLE, Pa. -  The second day of leg two on the road with the Penn State Coaches Caravan featured a trip through downtown Philadelphia and a packed house in Scranton on Wednesday.

Philly natives James Franklin, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh highlighted Wednesday's lunch stop.  Additionally, four-time defending NCAA wrestling champion head coach Cael Sanderson joined the cast of coaches for Wednesday's event.  Take a look at some highlights.
    


Stop No. 9 - Philadelphia (The Rittenhouse Hotel)


 
Wednesday's lunch took place in the heart of downtown Philadelphia at The Rittenhouse Hotel.  More than 250 fans filled the ballroom to greet the four coaches during an excellent lunch event.  Franklin, Morett and Walsh had a little extra bounce in their step after the Philly natives took a drive down Broad Street en route to Center City for the lunch.

Wednesday's crowd was superb, and the group gave all four coaches a standing ovation after they spoke.  Like the gathering in King of Prussia on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia supporters of Penn State Athletics are a diehard group of fans.

Walsh has been a tough act to follow during her two weeks on the Caravan.  Her campus tour speech is filled with details and beaming with pride.  Whether it was Bob Warming, Morett or Sanderson, every coach who has stepped to the podium following Walsh has remarked about her tremendous description of the Penn State campus.  Sanderson had his first crack at following the leader of Penn State women's soccer for the first time on Wednesday.

"That's tough to follow.  I just want to have lunch," Sanderson joked.

caravan_philly_1.jpgFresh off the program's fourth-straight NCAA title, Sanderson has an endless supply of things to talk about.  But that's not his style.  Sanderson deflects the attention off of himself to talk about the positive energy surrounding the football program and how the football program serves as the engine for the health of the athletic department.

"They have the vision, the passion and the pride.  We are in very good hands," Sanderson said of Franklin and the football staff.

He went on to urge the crowd to buy football season tickets now.

"Get your tickets now because when they get going, you're not going to be able to get them in a few years," Sanderson said.

Franklin talks about the state of pride in Penn State each time he addresses a caravan crowd.  That could not be more apparent during the first nine stops during the past couple weeks.  The fan base is excited for what's ahead.  And the fellow coaches in the department are just as excited.

"There are so many things to be excited about," Morett said.

Morett finished off her stint on the Coaches Caravan in Philly.  She will now hit the recruiting trail.  From Philly, the Fullington bus rolled north towards Scranton.



Stop No. 10 - Scranton (Fiorelli Catering)



Day two of the second week wrapped up in front of the Caravan's largest crowd in Peckville, Pa. (Outside of Scranton).  Nearly 900 Penn State fans crammed into the ballroom at Fiorelli Catering to welcome a great group from the Penn State Athletics family during the local alumni chapter's 36th annual event.  The list of attendees included Northeast Pennsylvania products and current Nittany Lions Eugene Lewis, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten and Brian Tomasetti and the voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.

Prior to dinner, Coach Franklin met a throng of fans that lined up more than 90 minutes prior to when the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Fan after fan walked up to Franklin for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos for nearly an hour.  Some offered advice.  Some told stories. Some even offered gifts.

Walsh and Sanderson both spoke prior to Franklin, energizing the room packed with Nittany Lion supporters.  But it was Franklin who got the room buzzing during an informal auction for game tickets to select Nittany Lion games in the fall and season tickets.  Franklin triggered a bidding war with the microphone that led to two fans battling up to $8,000 for a pair of season tickets.  When the final bid was announced as the winner, the room erupted with approval and rose to its feet.

scranton_1.jpg"In this room, I feel like I'm already in Beaver Stadium.  You can't move for all of the people," Sanderson said when describing the atmosphere.

Franklin's remarks were passionate and filled with energy as he closed out the evening's lineup of speakers.  While highlighting his vision for the football program, Franklin reminded the Scranton crowd of what is important in the quest to become the top program.

"Success is about doing all of the little things better than everybody else in the country," Franklin said.

Throughout all three speeches, the crowd of nearly 900 was glued to the speaker at the podium.  Walsh, Sanderson and Franklin all deserve a great deal of credit for their delivery on Wednesday night.

Simply put, the Scranton crowd was again tremendous for the third-straight year during the Caravan.

Before boarding the bus bound for the next stop in New Jersey, the Coaches Caravan crew paid a visit to 2012 Nittany Lion alum Eric Shrive's new restaurant - The Vault Tap Room & Restaurant - located in West Scranton.

Thursday's events will take place in Northern New Jersey and New York City before the Caravan heads back to State College.
    

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles


Total - 1,102 miles
    

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IV - King of Prussia

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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Leg two of the 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday evening with a stop outside of Philadelphia.

The eighth stop of the 17-event caravan featured James Franklin, four-time defending NCAA national champion wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh.  More than 700 Penn State enthusiasts greeted the coaches inside the event room at Valley Forge Casino Resort.  Take a look at some highlights from Tuesday's event.


Stop No. 8 - King of Prussia (Valley Forge Casino Resort)




More than 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and three of the four coaches on stage treated Tuesday night's Coaches Caravan event as a homecoming.  Hailing from Montgomery County, Walsh was just minutes where she grew up in Huntingdon Valley.

"I tried to get the whole caravan moved to the Phillies game (tonight)," Walsh joked.

Morett, who is on the Caravan for the Philly swing, is a proud product of Delaware County.  Like Walsh, she was thrilled to be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.

"I'm just a Philly girl coming back home," Morett said.

Morett spent a portion of her speech giving Walsh a hard time for not attending Penn State.  Walsh has spent the past two weeks on the Coaches Caravan delivering a superb visualization speech of the University Park campus.  Morett's response?

"After listening to your speech, how did you not go to Penn State?"

As a 27-year veteran as a head coach of the Nittany Lion field hockey program and Penn State alum, Morett is among the most passionate individuals you will find when it comes to her love for the University.  She genuinely appreciates the support fans and alums give to the school that means so much to her, and it's always evident when she speaks in front of a crowd.

The third Philly product in King of Prussia on Tuesday evening was the headliner of the event.  Franklin grew up in Langhorne, Pa., which is roughly 30 miles from the site of the stop.  As he has said from day one, Franklin is a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions, and he could not have been happier to be close to home.

"It's unbelievable to be here tonight," Franklin said.  "...The sense of pride in Penn State is unbelievable."

kop_1.jpg Joining the trio of Philly natives this week on the Caravan is the leader of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling program.  Always entertaining, Sanderson has a knack for keeping the crowd light every time he speaks in front of a group.  He was clad in a "Dominate The State" T-shirt under his suit jacket to show his support of Coach Franklin.

Sanderson's introduction included a small snippet of his unmatched wrestling and coaching career.  After receiving a standing ovation following the introduction, Sanderson stepped to the microphone and noted that the intro had left off his fourth-grade all-star baseball achievement.  The room erupted in laughter.

Sanderson likes to have fun with the crowd, but when it comes to his appreciation for the position he holds, his feelings are clear.

"It's an awesome opportunity to be a part of Penn State, and it's because of you guys," Sanderson said.

The Coaches Caravan travels downtown Philadelphia for a lunch stop on Wednesday before moving north to Scranton for a dinner event.

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles


Total - 857 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day III - Uniontown and Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH - The 2014 Coaches Caravan capped off its first full week on the road with two stops in the western half of Pennsylvania.

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus played host to the final lunch stop of the week.  From there, the modified bus rolled north to Station Square in Pittsburgh for an evening reception.  Take a look through highlights from the third day on the road for the 2014 Coaches Caravan.


Stop No. 6 - Uniontown (Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus)


 
The Coaches Caravan bus departed Washington, D.C., just before 7 a.m. on Thursday for a scenic trek through the Appalachian Mountains en route to Uniontown for the sixth stop on the 17-event tour during May.  Thursday's stop at the Penn State Fayette campus was the first for the Coaches Caravan in its three-year existence.  The scenic campus is situated in a place with superb views in every direction.

"This is my first trip here, and this place is absolutely beautiful," women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh said.

Walsh, along with men's soccer head coach Bob Warming and football coach James Franklin again headlined the final day of the first week.  Walsh captivated the audience with another rendition of her visualization story of taking a prospective student-athlete on a recruiting visit.

Coaches Walsh and Warming have spent portions of the bus rides from event to event educating him on college and professional soccer.  Warming used it as a lighthearted joke with Penn State Fayette crowd.

"It has been so great to be on the bus to educate Coach Franklin about the most popular sport in the world - soccer," Warming said.

caravan_uniontown_1.jpg Having now been on the road for three days on the Coaches Caravan, Coach Franklin has gotten an opportunity to meet fans and supporters from several areas in Pennsylvania and surrounding region.  Since the day he arrived in Happy Valley, the support has stood out to him.  He is passionate towards the fan base and wants to meet as many folks as possible.

"It's great to get out around the state and connect with as many people as possible," Franklin said.  "The support has been the most impressive thing for me.  We need your support."

With two more weeks ahead, Franklin is eager to meet as many fans as possible.  The tone of his message has been constant over the first week of the Caravan.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of Penn State, and he wants to make the fan base proud of the football program.


Stop No. 7 - Pittsburgh (Sheraton Station Square)



The Caravan's first week on the road wrapped up in front of 450 fans in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.  Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters.  The room was filled with energy from the moment the doors opened prior to the reception at 6 p.m., and  all three head coaches received a warm reception during their speeches.

Additionally, Pittsburgh area natives and assistant coaches Bob Shoop and Terry Smith joined Franklin, Walsh and Warming for the evening event.  Shoop (Oakmont) and Smith (Aliquippa) recruited in the area during the day before shaking hands with countless Nittany Lion fans at the evening event.  Nittany Lion great and former NFL quarterback Chuck Fusina was among the Pittsburgh area lettermen inside the Sheraton Station Square saying hello to Coach Franklin, as well.

caravan_pittsburgh_1.jpg All six stops this week featured passionate Penn State fans.  The individuals sitting in the rooms listening to the coaches speak are among the undying supporters the University's athletic department has.  However, Pittsburgh's rich history as a sports town, especially when it comes to football, always makes it an exciting evening event on the Coaches Caravan.  Thursday's event was no exception.

The NIttany Lions will begin a four-game series with rival Pitt beginning in 2016 (Sept. 10) when the two teams meet at Heinz Field.  The Penn State fan base in Pittsburgh is fired up for the team's return to the city, and it was clear on Thursday how excited the group is for the new era of the football program under the direction of Coach Franklin.

"This is your football program, not mine," Franklin said.  "I am so proud to be your head coach."

Thursday was the final day for Coach Warming to be on the Caravan.  The leader of the men's soccer program was terrific all week long.  He was candid, lighthearted and passionate when it came to delivering a message to illustrate how much he loves Penn State and how much he enjoys the support of Nittany Nation.

The Coaches Caravan returns to the road on Tuesday for a stop in King of Prussia.  Week two also includes a lunch stop in Philadelphia, dinner in Scranton, lunch in Northern New Jersey and an evening in New York City.

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles

Total - 682 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


2014 Coaches Caravan Day II - Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The Coaches Caravan bus rolled south for day two of the first travel leg on Wednesday morning for stops at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

A sold out crowd of more than 230 enthusiastic fans greeted a cast of Penn State coaches, which included James Franklin, Erica Walsh and Bob Warming, in Baltimore.  Take a look through highlights from the second full day on the road for the 2014 Coaches Caravan.
    


Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Marriott Inner Harbor)


Wednesday's lunch stop in Baltimore marked the third-straight sold out crowd during the initial leg of the 2014 Coaches Caravan.  On the heels of Tuesday's announcement that the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is headed to the area (Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.) in 2017, the Penn State fans in the room were excited about what is ahead as the conference's footprint extends to the East Coast.

"It's so great to be in your area," Walsh said.

The 2014-'15 athletic season marks the first with Maryland as a member of the Big Ten.  That being said, the 12,000 Penn State alums in the Baltimore area are thrilled to have Penn State's teams competing in Maryland on an annual basis.  The Nittany Lion football team is slated to return to Baltimore on Oct. 24, 2015 when it will take on Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach Franklin lived on and off in Maryland for eight years, a place he calls home.

"It's awesome to be back," Franklin said.

caravan_baltimore_1.jpgIn all, 10 players currently on the football roster or 2014 signees are from Maryland.  For the men's and women's soccer programs, the story is much of the same.  Walsh highlighted former Nittany Lion great and U.S. National Team standout Ali Krieger and former All-American and current National Women's Soccer League member Christine Nairn, who are both from the local area.  Warming's men's soccer team has three members from Maryland on it.

Like day one on the Caravan, each coach explained how the loyal supporters of Penn State play such an instrumental role in the success of the athletic programs.  Without the unrivaled support of the fan base, Penn State Athletics would not be what it is today.  That's what makes the Coaches Caravan a special three weeks.  It gives the coaches a chance to say thank you and provide some insight on what makes the programs tick.

"Penn State is a remarkable place for learning as a student," Warming said.  "And it's a remarkable place to learn as a coach."

"Success is about being able to do the little things better than anyone else," Franklin said.

caravan_baltimore_2.jpg The day ended with a lighthearted question for all three coaches on the stage.  A fan asked which flavor of ice cream at Berkey Creamery is their favorite.  Coach Walsh said that she likes to stick with vanilla.  Coach Warming likes strawberry.  Coach Franklin's answer was a bit different.

"My mission is to taste every flavor," Franklin said.
    


Stop No. 5 - Washington, D.C. (Marriott Wardman Park)


A crowd of more than 425 fans greeted the Penn State coaches in the nation's capital on Wednesday night.  The Washington, D.C., metro area is home to more than 25,000 alums.  Like the Baltimore event, the individuals in attendance were fired up to see Penn State teams making annual trips to the area with Maryland joining the Big Ten.

Coach Walsh opened the evening speeches with her great visualization story of a recruiting visit.  Before getting into the step-by-step process of recruiting, she had a joke for the attentive D.C. crowd.

"They usually put the key note speaker last, but we are switching things up on the Caravan," Walsh said.

Warming followed a standing ovation for Walsh with a speech to highlight his passion for Penn State and appreciation of the fans.  Additionally, he informed the crowd of the exponential growth of soccer around the country.  The leader of Penn State soccer spent much of the one-hour reception before the program began talking with fans about the sport.

caravan_DC_1.jpg "I love this crowd.  I've talked more soccer at this stop than any other we've been to," Warming said.

Warming, who was a member of the search committee to hire the new football coach in January, introduced Coach Franklin as one of the finest men that he has ever met.  Franklin then took the microphone in front of the room to a rousing cheer.

Franklin told the crowd how excited he is about the direction things are headed, largely because of the high-quality human beings that are on the team right now.  Following the individual meetings with every player on the roster in the past two weeks, Franklin said he has been incredibly impressed with the student-athletes since he took the job.

"We are in a really good place right now," Franklin said.  "They are really excited about the direction we are heading in."

As the fourth program drew to a close, Coach Franklin encouraged the group to return each Saturday in the fall.  He was genuinely happy to be in Maryland and D.C. on Wednesday to meet another group of passionate fans.

"I include Maryland and D.C. as part of our state in the Penn State family," Franklin said.

The Caravan heads to Penn State Fayette in Uniontown and Pittsburgh on Thursday to wrap up week one of the traveling events.
    



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles

Total - 295 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


2014 Coaches Caravan Day I - York and Hershey

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HERSHEY, Pa. - The 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of sold out stops in York and Hershey to kick off the first full week of events.

The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 8:15 a.m. en route to the Penn State York campus.  Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 2 - York (Penn State York)

 
Head coaches James Franklin, Erica Walsh, Bob Warming and Coquese Washington headlined the first stop of the road tour on Tuesday.  After a media session, the coaches took the stage for a lunch program before a sold out crowd of more than 225 enthusiastic Penn State fans on the University's York campus.

Walsh, who will enter her eighth season as head coach of the women's soccer team in the fall, opened the panel of speakers.

"It's amazing to see so many people wearing Blue and White," Walsh said.

york_blog_1.jpgWalsh proceeded to take the fans through a vivid story of what a recruiting trip is like for a prospective student-athlete.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer guided the crowd through a recruiting visit weekend with every minute detail of what a trip to the campus is like.  From the academic buildings the soccer program takes recruits inside to a gameday experience in Beaver Stadium, Walsh painted a remarkable picture of what campus would look like for the first time as a 17-year-old prospective student-athlete.

"That is one example of many," Walsh said at the end of her speech.  "That (camaraderie on campus) is why we have won more national titles than anyone (tied with USC) since 2007."

Nittany Lion men's soccer coach Bob Warming addressed the crowd after Walsh.  Warming opened his speech by introducing Bob Little, a member of Penn State men's soccer's 1954 national championship team, who was in the York crowd on Tuesday afternoon.

york_blog_3.jpgWarming went on to joke with the attendees that he was thrilled to see a capacity crowd so excited to see Penn State's two soccer coaches.

"We know all of you came here to see Erica and I since soccer is the most popular sport in the world," Warming said with a laugh.

Lady Lion basketball head coach Coquese Washington kicked of the first of her two stops on the Caravan with a direct message to the loyal supporters in York.

"The fans, the alums, with how much all of you support us, it trickles down," Washington said.  "The student-athletes have such an unbelievable experience.  And your support is what lets provide that for them...You are part of our team."

Franklin stepped to the microphone as the featured speaker of the afternoon.  He first joked with the crowd that after listening to Coach Walsh's description of campus that he needs to get out of his office more and see the sights of what University Park has to offer.  After all, he has been living inside his office for more than month.

york_blog_2.jpgThe new leader of Penn State Football provided an update on the team, coaching staff and recruiting as he talked about the direction of the program.  He told the crowd that he met each player on the roster for 20-25 minutes individually before the spring semester ended.  The student-athletes will return to campus for the first of two summer academic sessions on May 18.

"I've been blown away by these kids since I've been here," Franklin said.  "They are an amazing group of young men."

In addition to winning football games on the field, Franklin wants to achieve new heights in all phases of the program, including highs in team GPA, graduation rates and activity in the community.

"We came to Penn State to make a positive impact in the community," Franklin said.


Stop No. 3 - Hershey (Hershey Lodge)


Tuesday night's evening event inside the Hershey Lodge was all about the fans.  Central Pennsylvania is filled with members of Nittany Nation, and the sold out crowd in Hershey gave the four head coaches a warm welcome to cap off a great first day on the road.

More than 750 Penn State fans filled the ballroom inside Hershey Lodge with great energy and enthusiasm.  The Penn State coaches all talked about how important the fan support is for the success of the sports programs in Happy Valley.

"What you guys can embrace is that we are truly a family of coaches and take the responsibility of representing you very seriously," said Washington.

caravan_hershey.jpgThe fan support, coupled with the strong relationships between the head coaches on campus, is what makes Penn State such a unique place. 

"I'm around such successful people who are at the top of their craft," Warming said.

Coach Franklin opened his evening speech by apologizing in advance that if the phone rang during the event, he was going to walk off the stage and take the call.  True to his word, Franklin stood up and walked to his right, off the stage while answering a phone call during the Q&A portion of the show.

Mid-way through the call, he turned to the crowd and led a rousing "We Are!" chant before getting back on the phone and returning to his seat on stage.

caravan_hershey_1.jpgThe overwhelming excitement from the fans in Hershey about the direction Penn State's teams are headed made it a great evening event.  The coaches are proud to represent the University, and the fans are proud to support the teams.

"I can't begin to tell you what it's been like to come back home and be your football coach," Franklin said.

The Caravan rolls south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
    


Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 165 miles


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Lions Grateful for Dominican Republic Experience

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may be the offseason for the Penn State women's soccer team, but that doesn't mean that head coach Erica Walsh and her players haven't had plenty on their plates.


Apart from the usual training and recruiting that come every spring, the Nittany Lions participated in a different type of exercise recently when they traveled to the Dominican Republic over spring break.

Spending their time off from class far from State College, the Penn State players were able to scrimmage with the Dominican Republic U20 team while holding classes and soccer clinics for the nation's children.

"It was an incredible experience to spend six days with these people in that environment," Walsh said. "To watch the Dominican players respond to (the Nittany Lions) and see how excited they got to have our team there was a win-win for everyone."

Although the trip included plenty of soccer, Walsh took the trip as an opportunity to spend less time analyzing her player's performances, and more time observing the relationships between them.

Not only was it the first time the Nittany Lions had traveled together where the focus wasn't to win at all cost, the cultural differences and the lack of technology forged a bond between the players that Walsh hadn't previously seen.


"It was arguably the best bonding experience that I've been a part of," Walsh said. "Without the use of technology it's amazing how that changes how people interact. I saw relationships being built between people that I've rarely seen together."

Having spent most of their time since their season ended in November participating in a rigorous weight training and condition regime, the trip gave the Nittany Lions the chance to get back on the field and see game action against the Dominican's best young players, even if the contests were just for fun.

When they weren't spending time with each other or practicing with the U20 team, the Nittany Lions were keeping busy with perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip, giving back to the Dominican community.

For the Blue and White, this meant not only holding soccer clinics for Dominican children in the seventh and eighth grade, but also taking the time to visit their schools and teach them English.

"I think (the classroom) was where the win-win was felt the most," Walsh said. "Watching the way our players responded to the smiles in the room and the opportunity to share."

One player who had a unique perspective of the trip and teaching the children was sophomore forward and Costa Rica native Raquel Rodriguez, who had the chance to be back in an environment similar to the one she grew up with.

Not only did Rodriguez's fluency with Spanish help her communicate with the Dominican children, she also enjoyed being able to let her teammates see a different side of her.

Generally one of the more soft-spoken players on the team, Rodriguez took the trip as an opportunity to grow as a leader on and off the field, as she felt more accustomed with the Dominican lifestyle than the rest of the Nittany Lions.

"I think (my teammates) saw a part of me that they didn't know because the environment stimulated things that I can't show (at Penn State)," Rodriguez said. "It was cool to see how they reacted to a different culture."

Over the course of the week, the Nittany Lions enjoyed being able to explore the country's sights such as the Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes) cave and get back into the flow of playing soccer, but their favorite memories of the trip will be the moments they spent with the Dominican junior high school students. 

To be able to take time to benefit kids who are less fortunate then they are both in the classroom and on the soccer field is something that the Nittany Lions won't soon forget.

"We held a couple of soccer clinics and we could see the looks on the kids faces and tell they were having fun," Rodriguez said. "In other countries the resources aren't available the way they are in the United States and impacting those kids was really cool."

If anything, the trip caused Rodriguez and her teammates to take a moment to think about how lucky they are to have the opportunities that they have at Penn State.

Not every school has student athletes that are able to go on a trip like the one the Nittany Lions just went on, and players could not be more thankful to their families and friends who made it possible.

"It made me have so much more pride for my team and my school," junior midfielder Kindrah Kohne said. "It shows what a great opportunity Penn State can give us."

From Walsh's standpoint, seeing her players take full advantage of the trip made her even more proud of them, and reaffirmed her belief in the attitude of her team moving forward.

"The players are very fortunate but they recognized how special this was and that's what was so neat about it," Walsh said. "Watching them soak up every moment of it was amazing." 

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Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

A record 711 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer.  THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014.  To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.


Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit THON.org.


Friday Coverage:

3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story


6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.

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11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor
GoPSUsports.com talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.


Saturday Coverage:

3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.

More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year.  The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event



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5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday.  Take a look.




9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally.  In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2014 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally



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Team Dances
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance


11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30
GoPSUsports.com talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.



Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014

Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon.  Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.



 
4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014.  Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.

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VIDEO: Women's Soccer THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch members of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.




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