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Jan. 17, 2012
By Chardonnai Johnson, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It all started on a lazy summer day two years ago. Senior and Nittany Nation Vice President Paul Hook was spending his summer at Penn State instead of in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. He was enrolled in a class, working a part time job, and spending his down time doing some pretty intense thinking about student sections and Nittany Nation.
"I was trying to come up with a way to have some sort of competition between the student sections," said Hook, who would jot down new ideas for Nittany Nation in a notebook stuffed under his bed.
His brainstorming eventually led him to free throws, the basis of what would become the Home Court Challenge.
"I thought of the only place where it's truly fans versus the other team," said Hook. "Everything else is the team. The free throw line is where the student section can really have an effect."
Once the idea came to him, Hook didn't just take it and run. He did a lot of investigating before presenting the idea to his fellow Nittany Nation-ers.
"I ended up doing a bunch of research and making excel graphs," said Hook laughing in remembrance. "I wanted to see how we'd compare and if it was even possible."
Hook compared a few Big Ten schools in his research resulting in a pretty good percentage that he said would make for a good competition.
"I found that most of it was around 60 to 65 percent which is fairly close," said Hook. "It was pretty much even so I said alright let me start getting this together."
With Nittany Nation then president, Hook wrote a proposal for the challenge and passed it on to the athletic department.
"Our vision was to send it on to the Big Ten Network," said Hook. "I wanted to get sponsorship from them and go on from there."
Now, two years later, the Home Court Challenge is making its big debut.
Presented by the Big Ten Network, the challenge evaluates the effect of Big Ten Schools' student sections on free throw percentages.
Each team's student section partners with a charity sponsored by the BTN and must distract the opponents during free throws. Nittany Nation's chosen charity was the Four Diamonds Fund.
"When we originally thought of it being for charity, we wanted to do them," said Hook. "It just happened to work out that the Four Diamonds was one of the BTN's charities."
Combining school spirit with charity work, the challenge says that the team with the lowest total opponent free throw percentage will win a hefty donation for their partnered charity and be declared the winner.
"It's all just straight up for charity," said Hook. "They get $5,000 and there's going to be a traveling trophy for the student sections."
The 'traveling trophy' will have a nameplate updated each year for the winners.
The trophy and the donation will be awarded to the student section officers and charity representatives at the Big Ten Tournament in March.
With Hook's idea making headlines, he's still adjusting to the attention he's been receiving lately. One thing he found particularly awesome was the "brainchild thing".
"I've come up with a lot of crazy ideas and a lot of them haven't happened," said Hook. "So seeing brainchild was pretty cool. I feel like it [the Home Court Challenge] is one of my really good ideas."
When Hook shared the news with his parents, he wasn't expecting such a powerful reaction. He was proud, but to him it was not that big of a deal he said.
"I showed my Mom and Dad because we were still at home," said Hook. "My mom started crying and saying 'Oh, you're doing such great things'."
Hook's vision is now a reality, but he still has some more high hopes for the challenge.
"I hope that it grows in popularity a little a bit," said Hook. "My hope is that it becomes a school-wide thing, a tradition at all the schools."
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