UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. (WTAJ) — It’s the greatest show in college sports: the Penn State White Out. This year’s primetime matchup against Minnesota will be the 18th installment of the big game.
“The crowd’s revved up, team flies through the tunnel,” said Steve Jones, Penn State’s play-by play-announcer. “Fireworks during the national anthem. Fireworks when they run on the field. So, I mean, it’s really a show.”
Often imitated, but never replicated, the White Out is a spectacle like no other.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to even be here and get to do that because that’s like one of the top three things in college football,” said Hunter Nourzad, an offensive lineman.
The origins of the white out were actually more defensive than offensive. After Nebraska tried taking over Notre Dame Stadium with a sea of red in 2000, Penn State feared that same invasion of red that Saturday in 2002.
“So, we’re telling people, don’t sell your tickets, wear white to the game,” said Jones. “It wasn’t like, hey, ‘it’s a white out.’ Like, you know, wear white, they wear red, things like that. It was more loosely not official.”
Two years later, Penn State marketing consultant Guido D’Elia wanted to liven up the crowd for a home game against Purdue, so they asked the student section to wear all white.
“They were trying to create unity in this in the stadium, something that would be fun for the fans,” said Jones.
Then, in 2007 they asked all fans to join in for the White Out.
“You’re wondering the first time you do it, ‘will everybody do it?’ said Jones. “It’s a White Out. All right. Well, you get 60% of the people. No, what was neat about it is that they tried it and people did it.”
Since then Penn State’s White Out has become one of the most anticipated games in all of college football.
“You can feel the press box shake,” said Jones. “The atmosphere is one that’s cut above none. It’s different. It’s fun. College sports is meant to be fun. I think it has a great impact on the football team.”
All-time, Penn State is 9-8 in the White Out. But, they have won four of the last five, including the dramatic upset against Ohio State in 2016, which showed the home field advantage was very real.
“It’s the energy that the crowd brings,” said Daequan Hardy, a junior cornerback. “It’s an environment unlike any environment in college football, so I really enjoy the fans and the energy they bring.”
“You’re talking about 110,000 people and they are into every second of it,” said Jones. “I mean, my goodness, they go crazy and the coin toss.”
That electric atmosphere has been known to cause havoc for opponents. In 2019, Michigan had to call a timeout before their first play from scrimmage.
Minnesota makes their White Out debut on Saturday at 7:30 from Beaver Stadium.