Kicking off the fall sports season

Junior defensive midfielder Devon Olive attempts a shot on goal during the Penn State women’s soccer match against La Salle on Aug. 22 at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions won 4-0 to improve to 2-0 on the season, following up their victory the previous Thursday, the first Penn State Athletics sporting event of the fall semester. Photo credit: John Patishnock

And just like that, we’ve launched off the starting block.

“We’ve” in this case is referring to the Penn State Athletic varsity programs, though even broader, it also applies to the entire State College and surrounding community. After 18 months of watching the Nittany Lions sports teams on TV and live streams, alumni and fans once again soaked in the sights in person, with the Penn State women’s soccer team getting everything started last Thursday with a 3-1 win over UMass at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions followed that up with a 4-0 blanking of La Salle on Sunday, also at Jeffrey.

Head coach Erica Dambach has achieved so much success that such victories are commonplace (though should always be appreciated), and also noteworthy was the tangible start to what can, and hopefully will be, a mostly healthy fall sports season at Penn State.

Penn State VP for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour mentioned Dambach’s team’s opening match in her welcome remarks with the media during a conference call last Saturday, saying:

“So, we’re off and running, and it really is about looking forward, but forward is always informed by the past. Certainly, it’s been a challenging and difficult year and a half, but as an optimist, I think you look at it as how much we’ve learned, and we’ve learned a lot.”

Barbour said it’d be “a huge mistake” not to bring lessons learned into this new sports season at Penn State, mentioning health and safety standards and other things that she and her colleagues have learned about themselves and each other and society.

Keeping with the soccer theme, I used my question to ask Barbour about Dambach, and what Barbour sees from her behind the scenes and away from the field that leads to so much success for the national champion (2015) and two-time Olympic medalist (2008 Beijing, gold; 2020 Toyko, bronze).

You can watch Barbour’s entire press conference on our YouTube channel. My Q&A with Barbour begins around the 36:05 mark.

Dambach’s squad is back in action Sunday at Jeffrey Field, with a 5 p.m. start time against Hofstra. You can view all the sports schedule’s at All you need to do is hover over the “Teams” tab at the top and all the varsity sports programs’ links for schedule and roster will appear.

For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

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Cotton Bowl Sights and Sounds


Alumni and fans kicked off the Penn State Bowl Tour with a reception at The Rustic, in Dallas. The Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, Lionettes, and special guests welcomed Penn Staters, who enjoyed a relaxing evening ahead of the Cotton Bowl. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel.

Texas didn’t disappoint.

Not that we’re surprised (we’re not).

The chances are incredibly high that you’ll have a good time anytime you gather with a bunch of Penn Staters, and that was exactly the scene that played out this evening about 15 miles from AT&T Stadium, site of this year’s Cotton Bowl. The Penn State Bowl Tour kicked off with a welcome reception, and the ambience was just what folks were craving.

A few hundred Nittany Lion supporters gathered tonight at The Rustic, a down-home restaurant that offered what most folks are craving after a long day of traveling: good food, cold drinks, memorable views, and most importantly, an opportunity to gather with fellow Penn Staters and enjoy performances from the Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes.


Cool moment: Penn State President Eric Barron sported some gear from Saquon Barkley’s line of Nike clothing, as he and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour spoke with alumni and fans. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel.

Penn State President Eric Barron and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour also attended, sharing insight on how the University and athletic department strive to be one of the leading educational institutions in the nation.

Both Barron and Barbour stressed how our student-athletes are excelling in the classroom while surpassing the competition in the athletic arena, with Barbour touting the student-athletes’ upcoming Academic Progress Rate (APR). You can learn more about the APR on the NCAA website.

Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford and President Randy Houston, meanwhile, welcomed travelers and spoke to the power that our alumni network flexes when thousands alumni travel every year to the bowl game. You can check out our archived live stream of Clifford and Houston on our Facebook page, in addition to a host of videos on our Twitter feed.

Stay tuned all week, as we’ll update the blog and our social channels and share how Penn Staters are bringing the roar to Texas.


For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Sandy Barbour Meets the Fans

SandyB Caravan

We’re back on the bus for the Penn State Coaches Caravan, the fourth year of this very cool road trip, and the second with James Franklin leading the way. And it is about the coaches, of course—this week, Franklin is joined by women’s golf coach Denise St. Pierre and men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, while Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, and Patrick Chambers are set to join in Week 2. But this year, the Caravan is a chance for one former coach to share the spotlight.

Sandy Barbour was a field hockey and lacrosse assistant Continue reading

Exclusive Q+A: James Franklin

CJF Croke Park

In the midst of his second spring practice, James Franklin reflects on the progress the Nittany Lions have made since his arrival, and ponders how much farther they still have to go.

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It was an overcast day in Dublin, a few hours before kickoff, and James Franklin had the lush green surface of Croke Park almost to himself. Clad in a navy suit and royal blue tie, he walked the field inside the historic Irish stadium, soaking up the relative quiet, stopping now and again to appreciate the view. A few noisy, frantic hours later, on this very same turf, he would celebrate his first victory as Penn State head coach.

Seven wins and seven months later, Franklin is in his Lasch Building office early on a Monday morning, starting with coffee and conversation before diving into another busy day. Spring practice is underway, and Continue reading